Phoenix 8-Month-Old Dies After Being Burned with Lighter and "Violently" Shaken, Police Say

An 8-month-old child died Wednesday after being burned with a cigarette lighter and "violently shaken," according to Phoenix police.

Adrian Ponce, the fiancé of the child's mother, has been jailed on nine felony child-abuse charges, as police await the results of an autopsy on the child, Sabrina Santos-Vasquez.

Phoenix police and fire went to the couple's apartment, near 28th Street and Greenway Road, in response to a report of an infant not breathing.

Sabrina was brought to a nearby hospital but could not be revived.

At the hospital, doctors found at least eight separate burn marks on Sabrina's face, body, and hands, according to court documents obtained by New Times.

A scan also revealed head injuries suggesting that Sabrina has been shaken.

According to police, Sabrina had been in Ponce's care when she died. Ponce is not her biological father.

Ponce eventually admitted to police that he had been pushing Sabrina in a stroller through a park near their apartment earlier that day, around 2 p.m.

He admitted to burning her with the open flame of a cigarette lighter, according to court documents.

"Later that night, at the [apartment], the child was crying and unable to sleep presumably from the pain of the inflicted burns," a police probable-cause statement says. "Ponce admitted to violently shaking the baby in an attempt to quiet her.

According to court documents, this occurred around 3:15 a.m. Wednesday -- a little more than 20 minutes before police responded to the call about an infant not breathing.

Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes says an autopsy is scheduled, and the cause of death hasn't been determined at this point.

"This has been, and continues to be, a very in-depth investigation by Phoenix Police Homicide detectives," Holmes says in an e-mail. "There are many more questions to be answered. Further charges may be filed in the near future as a result of the on-going investigation."

Ponce's bond on the current charges has been set at $250,000.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley