Exclusive photos reveal new insight into child abuse investigation

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 17 at 5:21 AM

CHANDLER, Ariz -- 3TV has obtained new details regarding a Chandler child abuse investigation and how the man accused of burning a baby with a cigarette ended up with a disorderly conduct conviction.

Behind the bruises and cigarette burn, Baby Josephine also had 14 broken bones when she arrived at Cardon Children's Medical Center in August 2011.

"We learned that the broken bones actually were in the healing process, which meant they had been in existence for at least a week," said Detective Dan Coons, the lead investigator in the case.

But when Chandler detectives first questioned the woman Child Protective Services approved to care for Baby Josephine, Angelica Jimenez told them, "I don't smoke but every once in a while I have a drag so I know it wasn't me."

While Jimenez claimed she didn't see the abuse, one of her children did.

"This was a very critical material witness," Coons said.

According to the police report, the child witnessed Jimenez's boyfriend, Steven Saldana, burn Josephine with a cigarette.

"We realized that Angelica was hiding something when we first started talking with her," Coons said.

Coons soon discovered why.

"Steven had made mention to her that she take responsibility for what happened to the baby because he already had a felony and he didn't want to go back to prison," Coons said.

So how did Josephine end up in a home with a convicted felon? Police say CPS knew Saldana was living part time in apartment 8. In fact, months before Josephine's abuse was discovered, a CPS staff member had recommended a criminal history check be conducted on Saldana, but that didn't happen.

What's worse, during a supervised visit on July 21, another CPS case worker failed to document bruising on the side of Josephine's chin or the bump near her hairline.

"We're up against the mercy of several agencies, several organizations," Coons said.

Coons submitted his case to the county attorney recommending Jimenez and Saldana be charged with child abuse and hindering prosecution.

"The family was working feverishly to try and find out what the child had told us," Coons said.

And then the case crumbled.

"The child was interviewed in court to see how competent the child was and at that point the story was completely changed," Coons explained.

So a plea deal was presented.

"Angelica did take a plea for child abuse and she's on probation for it, but this was her first felony conviction so that's why she got probation," Coons said. "He took a plea for disorderly conduct. It's the first time it's happened in my investigations. To go from child abuse to disorderly conduct."

Even though he couldn't change the plea, Coons still wanted to help Baby Josephine so he gave her a voice during Saldana's sentencing.

"The child is all I care about, that's all I want to make sure that they're getting a fair shake because they can't speak for themselves, they can't defend themselves," Coons said.

CPS did not accept our invitation for an on-camera interview but did provide the following statement:

"Without seeing what is in the police report or knowing how the information was collected and verified by the police, the Department is not in a position to adequately comment on this matter. The Department cannot provide case specific information unless the request involves a case of abuse or neglect resulting in a fatality or near fatality per ARS 8-807."

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