Alberto Melendez-Baez and Susana Espriu Accused of Burning 9-Year-Old Girl, Locking Her in a Shed for Acting Up at Swap Meet

After the aunt of a 9-year-old Phoenix girl asked the girl's mother and stepfather a few weeks ago why the little girl had an infected burn on her hand, she was told the girl was burned while making tortillas.

Tortillas couldn't quite be blamed for the four other burns or scars across the little girl's body, nor could tortillas be blamed for why the little girl was allegedly hit in the mouth or locked in a shed overnight.

According to court documents obtained by New Times, the questions over the little girl's injuries came from the little girl's aunt, who was asking the girl's mother, 23-year-old Susana Espriu, and the girl's stepfather, 27-year-old Alberto Melendez-Baez, about the girl's swollen hand and the apparently infected burn on March 16.

The girl's aunt was told the girl was burned making tortillas, and she told the girl's parents that their daughter needed to go to a hospital for the infected burn.

The aunt called the family the next day to make sure they took the girl to the hospital -- which they didn't.

The woman came and picked up the little girl and took her to the hospital herself, where she was treated for the burn -- which was indeed infected.

A couple days later, the girl was staying at the aunt's place, when the aunt told Espriu over the phone that she was going to give the little girl a bath.

Espriu advised against giving the girl a bath, and the aunt found out why -- the other burn marks on the girl.

The woman asked her niece how she got the burns, and the girl said Espriu and Melendez-Baez were angry about an incident at the swap meet -- so when they got home, Espriu knocked her to the ground, and held her down while Melendez-Baez burned her with a spoon that had been heated up on the stove, according to court documents.

Child Protective Services got involved on Saturday, when the little girl told police what happened.

The girl said she got in trouble for knocking over her little brother at the swap meet, and she was told she'd be in trouble when she got home.

That "trouble," according to police, was knocking her down, and holding her there while Melendez-Baez applied the hot spoon to her hip, then locked her in the shed for the night.

The girl told investigators Melendez-Baez came out to the shed during the night and tried to scare her by making noises.

She also told investigators about prior incidents, which allegedly included more burnings-by-spoon starting when the girl was just 7, and Melendez-Baez hitting her in the mouth and making her bleed.

Police say scars on the little girl's foot and arm are consistent with the prior claims, as well as what appeared to be second-degree burns to her palm and finger joint, and additional burns on her wrist and right hip.

Police say Melendez-Baez admitted to burning the girl, and told police his wife had done some of the other burnings.

Melendez-Baez told police his stepdaughter moved while he was trying to burn her on her hand, so he had to burn her on her hip as well.

Melendez-Baez also admitted to hitting the girl in the mouth, and admitted to not seeking medical treatment for the girl, according to court documents.

Espriu refused to be interviewed by police.

Melendez-Baez was booked into jail on three counts of child abuse, one count of kidnapping, and one count of unlawful imprisonment. He's being held without bond.

Espriu was booked on four counts of child abuse, one count of kidnapping, and one count of unlawful imprisonment. Her bond was set at $75,000, and she allowed to have contact with her kids "at CPS discretion."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley