By Mike McPhee
The Denver Post
Days before custody talks, father learns child is dead
JOHNSTOWN — The father of a 7-year-old who died this month after allegedly being beaten by a half-sister and her boyfriend said he spent three years searching for the girl and was within days of contacting her when he learned of her death.
Police say Zoe Garcia, 7, died Dec. 6 after Heather Trujillo, 16, and Lamar Roberts, 17, kicked and crushed the girl until she stopped breathing during a real-life version of the video game "Mortal Kombat."
The Weld County medical examiner ruled Zoe died of "blunt force trauma" to her brain, which was bleeding and swollen. The autopsy also stated that Zoe's right wrist was broken, that she had more than 20 bruises on her body and that her neck muscles were damaged and bleeding.
Anthony Garcia, 28, of Sacramento, Calif., said his daughter had been taken by her mother, Dana Trujillo, 30, from his Socorro, N.M., home in 2004. The couple had lived together for five years and had two children, Garcia said. He received custody of Ariana, now 9, and the couple shared custody of Zoe, he said.
Trujillo left with Zoe, prompting the Socorro Police Department to issue a warrant for her on April 20, 2004, charging her with abandonment and abuse of a child. The warrant remains valid, police said.
Garcia said he had been searching futilely for Zoe in several states. He finally located Trujillo and the girl in Boulder. He said he and Trujillo were scheduled to have a telephone conference with Boulder courts Dec. 10 to discuss Zoe's custody.
He learned of his daughter's death Dec. 7 from the father of Trujillo's son, who also lives in Socorro, N.M.
Garcia flew to Greeley on Tuesday. He said Trujillo will not talk to him and is fighting him over the burial of Zoe.
"I want to have her buried in Long Beach, Calif., where I will be buried next to my mother, father and other siblings," he said as he sat in the Corral Bar where Trujillo works.
Trujillo could not be reached. Her sister, Erika Hoffman, said that the family has been shielding her from the media and that she moved out of her house in Johnstown on Wednesday. Twin daughters, age 3, have been taken from her by Weld County Social Services, Hoffman said.
"It's been one tragedy on top of another," she said. "She's been holding up, trying to be strong."
Neighbor Rhonda Simonetti said she babysat twice for Trujillo's youngest three kids, during which Zoe broke down crying and admitted that her bruises came from Roberts hitting her.
"I took a day off work and drove to Social Services in Greeley to file a complaint," Simonetti said. "I never heard anything back."
Other neighbors and acquaintances said they were concerned about the welfare of the children in the Trujillo home and had also contacted Social Services.
Gloria Romansik, child-care administrator for the department, declined to comment.
Neighbors said they saw police responding to the house on several occasions. No one at the Johnstown Police Department would comment, citing the open investigation.
Mike McPhee: 303-954-1409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Original Article- http://www.denverpost.com/technology/ci_7774010