Charity Calvert-Romero, 32, pleaded no contest on Feb. 7, in 5th District Court to charges of intentional abuse (without death or great bodily harm), a third-degree felony, and obstructing an investigation of child abuse, a misdemeanor.
The charges stem from an incident that took place on June 10, 2013, when deputies from the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office found a 5-year-old autistic child barricaded in her room. Deputies arrived at the West Hobson home around 7:45 p.m., after a reported domestic disturbance.
According to the affidavit of criminal complaint, both parents were so intoxicated they were unable to stand. Deputies saw the child crying through a window on the southwest side of the house. When officials attempted to check on the 5-year-old, Calvert blocked the door and had to be led away.
Sgt. Scott Ouilette entered the building and located the girl, who was trapped in a room where a series of child gates had been screwed over the opening to prevent her from leaving.
“She could not get out. We had to rip the cage down to get to her,” Chief Deputy Britt Snyder said.
In a previous interview, Snyder said she fell into Ouilette’s arms when she was released.
“The caging was a big concern. She had no way to escape in case of fire, no way to get water, no way to escape the heat, and it was hotter inside the home than outside.”
The court records report that the temperature inside the residence was 105 degrees and the child’s room had no ventilation. Title 8, Chapter 10 of the Children’s Code, Section 32A-4-2(B) NMSA 1978, defines an abused child as one “who has suffered or who is at risk of suffering serious harm because of the action or inaction of the child’s parent, guardian or custodian…. [or] whose parent, guardian or custodian has knowingly, intentionally or negligently placed the child in a situation that may endanger the child’s life or health; or whose parent, guardian or custodian has knowingly or intentionally … cruelly confined or cruelly punished the child.”
House Bill 411, proposed by Sen. John C. Ryan (R-District 10) in January, 2013, would have included the exposure to the inclemency of the weather, such as the heat found inside the home, as part of the charge. However, the bill was postponed indefinitely in February that same year.
Officials observed deplorable conditions inside the residence, filth, feces, cockroaches and dirty dishes scattered around the house and inside the room. Food was slid to the child through a slot in the system of gates. Snyder said then that a second door leading into the room had also been nailed shut, as was the closet door. The bedroom window was broken; it was covered with a board nailed up to the outside of the building.
Calvert defended the use of barricades “because (the girl) was autistic and doesn’t understand danger.”
On June 14, 2013, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office arrested both the mother and father, Edward Romero, 63. They were taken to Chaves County Detention Center, with a $500,000 cash or surety bond on each of them.
“She (Calvert) has been in jail since June of 2013,” said Snyder.
Calvert’s sentencing hearing will be held on Feb. 24. She may face three years in prison, plus a possible fine of $5,000, for the charge of child abuse (cruelly confined), a third- degree felony, another year for the misdemeanor charge of obstruction, or four years if the two sentences run consecutively.
Romero’s jury trial is scheduled for May 18.