Saledad Mendoza and Ruben Moreno are charged with lethal murder in a horrific case of abuse and murder.
HUSTON – Melanie Mendoza was 8 years old when she did not respond to Fr. Houston Hospital in 2020, where doctors pronounced her dead. The hospital called Houston police because Melanie’s small body was covered in injuries and bruises, and she weighed just 29 pounds.
The autopsy showed that the little girl died from complications from a blunt blow and severe malnutrition, according to Houston Police Department.
During the investigation, twin sister Melanie told the emotional details of the physical and emotional abuse that the girls had experienced over a long period of time.
After a lengthy investigation that took away HPD detectives Spring branch office San AntonioMelanie’s mother, 29-year-old Saledad Mendoza, and her boyfriend, 29-year-old Ruben Moreno, were charged with murder in connection with Melanie’s death and two counts of inflicting bodily harm on a child and injuring a child as a result of inaction involving a surviving twin.
“The saddest thing is that it was more than once, it lasted for many years, and it happened under the roof of other siblings who were not injured,” said prosecutor Gilbert Sautel, who called it “a particularly disgusting case.”
Both suspects were arrested on Friday, May 20th. They appeared in court on Monday. Mendoza’s bond was set at $ 1 million for each charge. Moreno’s bond was set at $ 1 million for injuring a child. He currently has no bail on the death penalty charge.
WARNING: The rest of this story contains disturbing details about the horror that occurred behind closed doors in a couple’s apartment in West Houston.
The autopsy reveals evidence of prolonged beatings and torture
Harris County forensic expert’s report on Melanie’s death tells of years of abuse through torture, beatings and starvation.
The 8-year-old girl had an acute blunt trauma to the head, upper limbs, torso and lower limbs. She had acute and chronic rib fractures, including some that indicated “chest compression”. From the injury her adrenal gland was bleeding and her head and legs were covered in bruises.
She had scars from head to toe, ”Sautel said.
According to court documents, these injuries were inflicted by Mendoza and Moreno.
Police say Moreno, who weighs about 235 pounds, hit the 29-pound girl with blunt objects, beat her with shoes and belts and kicked her several times.
According to investigators, Mendoza also hit his daughter with blunt objects, kicked and kicked.
Died of starvation
Melanie’s weight alone indicates serious malnutrition. The average weight of a girl her age is about 57 pounds, which is almost twice as much as Melanie. The girls did not even register in the growth chart because they were still below the lower percentage, which is 44 pounds.
Melanie’s autopsy also showed a cessation of bone growth and brown fat in her adrenal glands, indicating that she was severely malnourished.
Detectives reviewed records of clinics in Houston and San Antonio where Melanie has been treated in the past. Doctors told Mendoza that the girl was “very small” and advised her mother that she needed to gain weight.
The twins were even denied school breakfasts and lunches at their mother’s request because she claimed they had received enough food at home, Bexar County court documents said.
“My mother is angry with me”
Melanie’s twin sister, who also weighed just 29 pounds, told investigators that she and her sister were starving and tortured.
The surviving twin said Mendoza put both girls in a closet or in garbage bags to punish them. When the interviewer asked the little girl why this happened, she said Mendoza told them, “Because you’re ugly and I don’t love you.”
The girl said she and Melanie would try to find food in the trash, but when they were caught eating something, they were kicked and beaten with a belt or shoes.
“These twins were isolated and targeted by the mother and the boy’s mother for these brutal tortures, which included not only blunt force injuries but also locking the girls in closets, tying them in garbage bags, kicking them for trying to get food,” Saul said.
When the forensic expert asked the child, “What happened to your sister?” She replied, “My mother killed her.”
At one point, she also interrupted the interviewer to say, “My mom is angry with me.”
Sawtelle said the girl could barely walk because she was very thin.
Soutel said the family moved to Houston shortly before the pandemic blockage began, which explains why the twins ’teachers and counselors did not report their condition to anyone.
The story of Mendoza and Moreno
At the time of Melanie’s death, Mendoza and Moreno were in the hospital as a newborn. The baby and his twin were born premature at 25 weeks, but the twin did not survive.
Moreno is not the father of Melanie and her twins, their older brother or younger sister. According to court documents, the two children “seemed to be in good health.”
Mendoza told investigators that she and Moreno have known each other since childhood, growing up in Mexico, but they started dating only about a year before Melanie’s death.
The couple and four children lived in an apartment at 1370 Afton St. in the Spring Branch area.
Moreno told police he considered Mendoza his wife.
Mendoza previously lived in the San Antonio area. Sawtelle said that while they lived there, the biological father of the children was also abused.
A difficult case
After Monday’s hearing, prosecutors were asked why the charges had been filed for so long since Melanie died before Christmas in 2020.
He said they had to work with investigators in San Antonio as well as in Houston.
“This is a very complex, protracted case of starvation and torture, involving not only the incidents in Harris County but also in Bexar County,” said prosecutor Gilbert Soutel.
They interviewed pediatricians in both cities and reviewed long-term medical records to rule out any disease that could have caused severe malnutrition.
Soutel said the CPS in San Antonio did indeed reprimand the girls for “inability to develop,” and they were temporarily removed from maternal care and cared for by UT Health until they gained weight.
The twins were released into custody by Mendoza in early 2020, and that’s about the time she moved her family to Houston and they disappeared from radar.
More information on child survivors
We checked the condition of the four surviving children and were told they were in foster care and “living well”.
According to Sautele, the twins are “much better.”
“By all accounts, she is in a safe and loving environment.”
However, the girl will suffer from constant developmental problems due to the severe malnutrition she has experienced. He said her growth has stopped because her body is using resources to stay alive rather than grow.