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Prosecutors: Mother's boyfriend to be charged in death of 5-year-old girl Sierra Patino

Prosecutors also say Santiago Esparza, a "known gang member," and Priscilla Torres took a trip to Galveston following the death of Sierra, Torres' daughter.

HOUSTON — Santiago Esparza, the boyfriend who Priscilla Torres blamed for her daughter’s death, will be charged in connection with the case, prosecutors confirmed Thursday.

Prosecutors say Esparza will be charged with tampering with a human corpse in 5-year-old Sierra Patino’s death. Torres faces the same charges.

Prosecutors say the couple acted together when they put 5-year-old Sierra Patino's body in closet. 

"There was obvious splash signs of chemical burns to her body, which we believe is some sort of chemical." HCDAO prosecutor Gilbert Sawtelle said at Torres' court appearance Thursday. "We're not sold it's toilet bowl cleaner."

Sawtelle said Sierra had her whole life ahead of her.

"She had a lot to live for. She started her first day of kindergarten. Her life was cut short because of the actions of her mom and also Santiago Esparza," he said. "That's all we know right now."

But Torres' attorney says prosecutors aren't telling the whole story.

"She's innocent until proven guilty. At this point, she's innocent," defense attorney Bryan Savoy said. "We do not litigate cases in the media. We litigate cases in the courtroom."

He says this mother was not responsible for her 5-year-old's death.

“We believe (Santiago Esparza) was in the apartment with Priscilla Torres and that they acted together put the body in the closet, and then left the scene for multiple days before Priscilla Torres reported this to police,” Sawtelle said.

Prosecutors believe the autopsy performed yesterday will show who is and that will help them decide what, if any, additional charges will be filed.

The judge Thursday denied Savoy's request to reduce Torres' $50,000 bond so she remains behind bars.

Prosecutors argued that Torres was a flight risk since she and Esparza took a trip to Galveston following the death of her daughter.

According to the terms of her bond, she is required to wear an ankle monitor and have no contact with Esparza.

They added Esparza is a known gang member who served as the maintenance man at the apartment complex where they live. 

Torres told police she and Sierra had moved into the Esparza's apartment on Aug. 23 and he offered to give the girl a bath. She says the bathroom door was closed.

Torres said she opened the door and saw chemical burns on Sierra’s skin and redness and bruising on her forehead.

That was the second version of her story, according to prosecutors.

Torres initially said she was the one who gave Sierra a bath. She said she left her daughter alone for a few minutes and when she came back, there was an empty bottle of toilet cleaner floating in the tub.

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Torres said she and Esparza agreed to put Sierra to bed that evening without calling 911.

Torres told police she never called for help because she feared CPS would take her child. She thought her daughter’s burns would heal without treatment.

She said Sierra died the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 27. She told police she wrapped Sierra’s body in a blanket and put her in a bedroom closet without calling police.

The 27-year-old claims she kept Sierra’s body in a closet because she couldn’t bear to let her go.

Six days after Sierra’s death, Torres and her mother, called 911 from the apartment where Sierra’s body was.

First responders arrived to a smell coming from the apartment unit. They then found Sierra’s body wrapped in blankets at the bottom of a closet.


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