9 On Your Side Crime Watch
Mother of 5 arrested for child abuse after daughter dies
TPD: More charges pending autopsy results
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tucson Police say it’s a severe case of child abuse that may have caused the death of a one-year-old girl.
A 23-year-old Kiyana Higgins is behind bars as police wait for autopsy results to see if the baby died at the hands of her own mother. Detectives say her 3-year-old brother remains in serious condition at a local hospital, with similar signs of abuse.
Detectives are continuing the investigation as they interview the three other children – all under the age of 10 – as well as three adult family members who also live in the home.
A phone call from the 1800 block of S. Kitt Place Thursday morning alarmed Tucson Fire so much, they called Tucson Police. Medical personnel noticed signs of physical abuse on the one-year-old who had seizure-like behavior.
“They did what we like to call a scoop and run. They packed her into the ambulance and raced her to the hospital,” said Sgt. Matt Ronstadt, a TPD spokesperson.
All attempts to revive her failed; the baby girl died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Police then arrested Higgins for two counts of child abuse, class 2 felonies, connected to the suspected abuse of the two children. Ronstadt said detectives are still investigating whether the three other children were physically abused but would not elaborate on the signs or kind of physical abuse.
9 On Your Side asked if the three other adults in the home could also be charged.
“Detectives certainly haven’t ruled out the possibility that there may be somebody else involved,” Ronstadt said, adding that they could also be charged for knowing about the abuse and not reporting it.
Another concern is the long-term adverse impact on the children who may not have been physically abused, but have experienced trauma in the home.
Rosie Dyer, a Supervisor at Casa de los Niños, said the children will need counseling to learn how to trust adults again and there is a possibility the children may act out what they saw.
“It can be intergenerational and the parents of these children may have experienced that in their lives. So you know, you want to stop that cycle and get help,” Dyer said.
Dyer added that the three adults living in the home may have refrained from calling authorities about the abuse because it could be the norm for the family – and that others may also experience anger issues.
They children been temporarily placed with Child Protective Services for their safety.
The situation is still shocking to many people in the community, including Tomas Martinez. He called KGUN9 News to offer the family free funeral services at his chapel. He said it’s the least he can do to help out in such a tragic situation.
“My stomach sort of turned realizing this was an innocent child that could not complain to anybody, could not be heard,” Martinez said. “I feel tremendously for the other children. It’s a sad situation.”
Ronstadt said there may be more charges pending for the Higgins, depending on the outcome of the investigation and autopsy.