Manuel Gonzalez Says His Nephew Drowned; Police Say Lack of Place to Drown and Injuries Like Rectal Tearing Say Otherwise

Manuel Antonio Gonzalez called 9-1-1 in Phoenix on Friday to report that his 22-month-old nephew had apparently drowned and was unresponsive.

That boy was pronounced dead shortly after that, and police say not only was there no water for the boy to drown in where he was, but the boy's other injuries -- like rectal tearing, a ruptured bowel, bruising, and fluid in his abdominal cavity -- aren't quite consistent with drowning in a puddle.

According to court documents obtained by New Times, Gonzalez reported the "drowning" from his house near 71st Avenue and Durango Street, and the boy was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Phoenix Children's Hospital -- where a doctor discovered the boy's injuries.

The boy's mother -- who left her son with Gonzalez for about 30 minutes -- as well as Gonzalez's wife said the boy was definitely not injured when they left the house.

Gonzalez told police that his nephew was supposed to be hanging out with Gonzalez's own two kids inside of the house when he heard something on the side of the house. He said he found the boy face-down in a puddle of water on the side of the house, and after he picked up the boy, he was gasping for air and vomiting water.

According to the court documents, the area where Gonzalez supposedly found his nephew face-down in a puddle is full of hard-packed dirt, and "does not provide an area for a puddle of any depth to build."

Police did find some wet dirt, but not a puddle. According to the documents, police also found wet clothing with mud and vomit on them inside the house, as well as a bloody towel in Gonzalez's bedroom. Gonzalez said he knew nothing about any of that.

Investigators confronted Gonzalez with all this, and he told police he lied about his story. Gonzalez said "the truth" was that he saw the boy playing with the hose on the side of the house, and added that it was his fault that he left the water on and his nephew drowned because of it.

Again, the injuries the boy sustained weren't due to drowning, according to police. Gonzalez didn't admit to any sexual contact with the boy, and denied hitting him at all, according to the documents.

"He had no explanation for how the injuries occurred, but affirmed that he was the only adult present, and that his two children were inside when [the boy] became injured," a probable-cause statement says.

Gonzalez faces charges of first-degree murder and child abuse, and is being held without bond because he's in the country illegally, according to court documents.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley