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Jessica G. v. Arizona Department of Economic Security

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

January 2, 2014

JESSICA G., Appellant,

Not for Publication – Rule 111(c), Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Nos. JD510076/ JS507247 The Honorable Brian K. Ishikawa, Judge

The Stavris Law Firm, PLLC, Scottsdale By Christopher Stavris Counsel for Appellant

Arizona Attorney General's Office, Mesa By Eric Devany Counsel for Appellees

Presiding Judge Peter B. Swann authored the decision of the Court, in which Judge Patricia K. Norris and Judge Jon W. Thompson joined.


SWANN, Judge

¶1 Jessica G. ("Mother") appeals the juvenile court's orders adjudicating G.S. ("Son")[1] dependent as to her and severing her parental rights to him. Mother contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the dependency finding and severance determination. Because reasonable evidence supports both orders, we affirm.


¶2 Mother and Gilbert S. ("Father")[3] are the biological parents of Son, born in February 2010, and A.G. ("Daughter"), born in March 2012. Daughter died on May 16, 2012, from homicidal blunt force trauma to her head. How two-month old Daughter suffered the injuries that ultimately caused her death remains undetermined, but the record reflects the following.

¶3 Daughter was born with an ischemic brain injury requiring life-long special care. Upon her release three weeks after birth, hospital personnel instructed Mother and Father in how to feed Daughter through a nasogastric tube, medicate her every three to four hours, and perform infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation ("CPR"). Mother and Father were their children's primary caregivers and the only household members who knew how to feed Daughter.

¶4 In the afternoon of May 15, 2012, Mother went to work and left Daughter under her grandmother's supervision. Father returned from work a few hours later, brought Daughter and Son into their shared bedroom, fed Daughter and put her down for a nap. As Father attempted to wake Daughter for her next feeding, he found her unresponsive. Using a stethoscope, Father determined that Daughter's heart was beating but believed she had stopped breathing. Father attempted CPR for approximately five minutes and then drove Daughter to the hospital. He called Mother at work and she immediately drove to the hospital.

¶5 Daughter arrived at the hospital pulseless and unresponsive. She was stabilized and transported to a children's hospital, where she was diagnosed with catastrophic head injury resulting in brain death. An evaluation revealed nine large bilateral skull fractures; multifocal intracranial bleeds; severe diffuse brain injury; severe retinal hemorrhages consistent with shaken-baby syndrome; multiple old and healing rib fractures; cranial vault swelling; an expanding hematoma behind her right ear consistent with blunt injury; multiple bruises on her chest, hands, arms, and legs; and elevated liver function and free fluid in her bowel potentially caused by direct injury to her abdomen. A consulting pediatrician deemed Daughter's injuries nonaccidental and noted the lack of an explanation for them. Child Protective Services ("CPS") removed Son from his parents' care the following morning, and Daughter's physicians took her off life-support that evening.

¶6 According to Mother, hospital personnel attended to Daughter three to four times a week between her post-birth release and death, yet had never reported any injuries or related concerns. Mother later testified that five days before Daughter's death, a group of specialists had told her that Daughter would not need any physical therapy because her parents "were doing fine with her." Four days before her death, Mother brought Daughter to the emergency room complaining of vomiting, but left against medical advice without being seen. Mother again brought Daughter to the hospital for vomiting concerns two days before her death, but no injuries were observed and Daughter was discharged.

¶7 During the ensuing police investigation, Father repeatedly denied causing Daughter any injuries, though he was unable to explain them. Mother likewise denied knowing how Daughter suffered her injuries but suggested that Son may have caused them as he had recently tried to kick Daughter. Eventually, however, Father admitted that when he found Daughter unresponsive, he panicked, squeezed and shook her hard enough to cause injuries, and "slammed" her down hard enough to hear a "thump" sound as her head struck the carpet-covered cement floor. Father also showed a police detective how he had placed an excessive amount of weight on Daughter's head as he attempted CPR. But Father adamantly maintained that he panicked after he ...

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