Pedro Manzo told his wife a few days ago that he wasn't sure whether he could handle both their own small kids and the two toddlers they were fostering for the state.
He knew himself too well.
On Monday, Manzo apparently lost control when the 1 1/2-year-old girl they were fostering kept throwing her sippy cup and spilling it. By his own telling, court records state, he choked the toddler to within an inch of her life.
Manzo had been having money problems in the past few years, resulting in a bankruptcy in early 2011. The year before, Manzo had lost a default judgment of $2,200 to a debt collector, and his wages were garnished. He is, or was, a sales associate at Dunn Edwards.
We can't help wondering whether that was the reason they took on two foster kids, which gets them state money, when they were overloaded financially with the two they already had.
On Monday evening, Manzo arrived home with his two biological children and the two foster kids, all under age 4. The booking sheet doesn't say where he was returning from. But a short while later, his wife came home from work to find Manzo bending over the unconscious toddler, attempting to perform CPR by breathing into her mouth.
The wife called 911 and paramedics took the kid to Phoenix Children's Hospital. Manzo reportedly told everyone at the time that he'd come out of the bathroom and seen the girl in distress, possibly because she'd swallowed a foreign object.
Doctors saw a different problem. She had bruises on her shoulders and ears. A bruise around her jaw was "consistent with finger impressions." The child, fortunately, had a few instances of vomiting at the hospital but otherwise was "alert and breathing on her own," records state. She was in stable condition as of early Tuesday.
Confronted with the evidence, Manzo met with a Child Protective Services investigator and a Goodyear police officer. At first, Manzo stuck with his story. Then he confessed how frustrated he'd been with the toddler when she threw her sippy cup. The girl was sitting by the couch on the floor, not listening to him.
"He said he used his hand to grab her under her jaw and demonstrated that he shook her in a side-to-side motion," records state. ""Pedro said he then laid her on his lap, face up, and believed he applied enough pressure at her jaw/throat that it caused her to pass out. Pedro said he then panicked and began doing CPR and rescue breathing . . . Pedro described that the child looked at him, as if she couldn't breath."
The child vomited and began to breathe, but haltingly. That's when his wife came home and called 911.
"Pedro said that several days ago, he told his wife that he felt it was too much for him to have four kids under the age of 4 and wanted CPS to find other placement for the two children they were fostering," records state. "He said his wife wanted to keep trying, and he blamed himself for not 'speaking up.'"
Manzo asked to tell his wife himself, and the officer led her into the conference room. When she came out, "she was crying and told me that she would have never believed her husband was capable of hurting a child if she hadn't heard it from him."
Manzo was booked into jail on suspicion of one count of intentional child abuse.
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