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Woman Convicted of Torture and Abuse of Daughters, Son in Orange County

Woman Convicted of Torture and Abuse of Daughters, Son in Orange County

The Orange County Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 18, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

10/12/2023

Updated: 10/12/2023

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SANTA ANA, Calif.—A 34-year-old woman was convicted Oct. 11 of torturing and malnourishing her 10-year-old step-daughter and abusing three other children in her family.
Mayra Corina Chavez was convicted of one count of torture and two counts of child abuse, all felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of simple assault.
Jurors rejected a misdemeanor count of child abuse related to her 17-year-old son, opting instead for the lesser charge of assault.
Jurors also found true a sentencing enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury on the 10-year-old victim. Sentencing was set for Nov. 3.
Co-defendant Domingo Flores, Ms. Chavez’s husband, is set to go on trial separately.
A prosecutor argued Oct. 10 that Ms. Chavez abused and malnourished her 10-year-old step-daughter to such a degree that, when she was rushed to Children’s Hospital Orange County a year ago, she weighed about 50 pounds and the doctors and nurses at first assumed the girl was 6 or 7.
Mr. Flores was in a “tremendous custody battle” with his former wife, with the ex-spouse filing 35 custody violation reports, and she was granted a restraining order against Ms. Chavez, Deputy District Attorney Bethel Cope-Vega said in her closing argument of the trial.
At one point, two of Mr. Flores’s daughters said they did not want to go back to Ms. Chavez’s home, but authorities placed them back with the defendants, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
One of the girls told a social worker about her sister, who received the brunt of the abuse, having her glasses slapped off her face with such force they broke, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
But though the social worker felt “something was wrong,” she couldn’t act on her hunch, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
“Everything seemed too perfect,” the prosecutor added. But the social worker returned the girls back to the defendants and then the daughter “changed her story,” Ms. Cope-Vega said.
An expert testified how some children will do that because they’re frightened, the prosecutor said.
The daughter who drew the most ire would be forced to kneel on canned goods and hold weights over her head for lengthy periods, the prosecutor said.
When the defendants moved to Anaheim, “that’s when the torture really begins,” she argued.
The girl would also be zip-tied to her bed and then later tethered to a TV stand with a mattress and no pillow or blanket, Ms. Cope-Vega argued.
The Children's Hospital of Orange County, in Orange, Calif., on May 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Children's Hospital of Orange County, in Orange, Calif., on May 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The girl’s meals were reduced to just oatmeal, the prosecutor said. She would be forced to eat facing a wall while the others dined, the prosecutor argued.
The girl’s sisters would at times “spoon feed” the oatmeal to her because she was zip-tied and couldn’t feed herself, Ms. Cope-Vega argued.
They would “smell her mouth” to make sure the girl wasn’t taking any other food to eat, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
“She becomes a piece of furniture” in the family, Ms. Cope-Vega said, adding she was prohibited from speaking.
The siblings, who also suffered their own abuse, also had to deal with the “mental suffering” of being forced to participate in the abuse of their sister, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
Two of the siblings broke down during testimony, the prosecutor said.
“They will forever carry with them the look in their sister’s eyes,” Ms. Cope-Vega said. “They will also know they had to participate in her torture.”
The girl would be paddled in the groin and at times “peppers” were placed in her vagina, the prosecutor argued.
The children were taken out of school during the pandemic and homeschooled, the prosecutor said, arguing it allowed free rein to abuse the girl more.
In June 2022, when a police officer made a welfare check on the girl after a relative made a complaint, Ms. Chavez put on “award-winning theatrics,” Ms. Cope-Vega said.
“This is a master manipulator at her finest,” the prosecutor said. “She is covering it all up.”
At times the girl would be forced to put her chin on canned goods for hours to the point that she developed a pressure wound, the prosecutor said.
The girl was also subjected to cold showers and ice baths, the prosecutor said.
“If that doesn’t tell you about Flores’s and Ms. Chavez’s intent, then nothing will,” the prosecutor argued. “It was absolute humiliation and torture.”
When the girl was taken to the children’s hospital Aug. 24, 2022, she was “missing huge chunks of hair” and had bruising and wounds from “head to toe,” Ms. Cope-Vega said.
She was “severely malnourished,” and the photos of the patient “look like autopsy pictures,” Ms. Cope-Vega said. She also sustained a broken neck.
“I want you to think how did she break her own neck,” Ms. Cope-Vega said, referring to the defendant’s testimony that the girl was difficult to handle and would hurt herself.
The victim was in septic shock and experiencing heart failure, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
“She has an undersized brain because of that malnourishment,” the prosecutor said.
It took months for doctors to fix a dangerous blood clot and some time before she could feed normally.
“She finally got her Pizza Hut pizza” eventually, the prosecutor said.
She needed plastic surgery to fix some wounds to her face, and she was unable to walk for nine months, the prosecutor said.
“This was not a child, this was a crime scene,” the prosecutor said. “This is not something [the victim] did to herself as Ms. Chavez told you.”
The Children's Hospital of Orange County in Orange, Calif., on May 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Children's Hospital of Orange County in Orange, Calif., on May 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Three of the other siblings, including one son who was 17, would be hit hard and forced to kneel at times for discipline, the prosecutor said.
The defendant said she was experiencing anxiety and depression and went to an emergency room for help a couple of times, the prosecutor said.
“This is a grab, a reach,” Ms. Cope-Vega said. “This is what you argue when you don’t have much else.”
Ms. Chavez testified she was a victim of abuse in a traumatic childhood subjected to much of the same discipline, according to the prosecutor.
But her brother testified “how wrong it was” what the defendant did to the children, Ms. Cope-Vega said.
The prosecutor also scoffed at the defendant’s claim that the girl who received the brunt of the abuse was troublesome. All of the doctors and nurses who treated her testified “what a sweet” child she was and that all, “she wanted was to be hugged and loved.”
Chavez’s attorney, Tom Nocella of the Alternate Defender’s Office, argued that the jurors must unanimously agree that the alleged torture must have been done for extortion, persuasion, or a sadistic purpose and that the evidence failed to show that.
Mr. Nocella noted that one of the prosecution’s experts did not personally analyze the victims and could not diagnose them with “accommodation syndrome.”
“We can’t definitively say any of these children are in this syndrome,” Mr. Nocella said.
Mr. Nocella asked jurors to “remove emotion” in their analysis of the evidence.
“We have to be clinical and analyze,” he said. “We all agree the injuries are horrible.”
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