9 On Your Side Investigates
Court records: mother arrested, acquitted for child abuse charges before
In 2009, older daughter had 3 different fractures on left leg
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – KGUN9 News has learned new disturbing details about how a one-year-old girl died as her mother sits in jail accused of child abuse: Baby Za’naya was emaciated and likely died of heart failure, according to court documents.
Futhermore, 9 On Your Side has confirmed that last Thursday was not the first time the mother of five children was arrested in connection with child abuse charges.
23-year-old Kiyana Higgins, is behind bars as police wait for autopsy results to see if the baby died because of child abuse. Tucson Police said Higgins’ 3-year-old son remains in serious condition at a local hospital, with similar signs of abuse.
Court documents show Kiyana Higgins was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of child abuse for one of her older daughters. An interim complain from November 2009 notes at the time: “The 4-year-old victim has sustained three different fractures on her left leg and are at different stages of healing.” An Initial Appearance Sheet from the Pima County Attorney’s Office noted that Higgins “choked and kicked the victim.” However, Higgins told officers that her daughter fell – or her sister fell on the daughter.
KGUN9 also obtained graphic images of bruises on the child’s body and face, as well as abrasions and abnormalities everywhere, which were used as evidence during the trial. However, a jury acquitted Higgins on all charges in May 2010.
Furthermore, documents show that CPS took custody of the children at one point, with one case worker who sought to end Higgins’ parental rights. However, the children were eventually returned to her.
Court documents also shed light on what baby Za’naya endured before her death. The search warrant states that doctors believe she likely died from heart failure.
The child’s emaciated body showed evidence of chronic abuse and there were numerous bruises on the child’s head, according to court records. Paramedics states that the baby’s body was cold to the touch and had an almost non-existent blood sugar level, meaning it has been a while since she has had food.
The search warrant also shows that the 3-year-old who is still on the hospital had bruising on his head genitals and other areas. The boy said in an interview what “his mother bites, beats him as well as the victim child routinely.”
Higgins was arrested in 2009 for driving into oncoming traffic and crashing into a wall, while under the influence.
KGUN9 News could not arrange an interview with Child Protective Services on Tuesday. A spokesperson told us they cannot address the specifics of this case, but agreed to discuss their general rules and procedures on Wednesday.
Funeral services for Za’naya will be held at 8:30 Thursday morning at Martinez Funeral Chapel, which is helping the family out for free. Burial services will be at 11:30am at Holy Hope cemetery. The family also welcomes the public to a gathering at 1pm near the Martinez Funeral Chapel.