Aubriana Coke‘s injuries were not consistent with her mother and stepfather’s account of how the toddler sustained the fatal injuries, according to the state Medical Examiner.
Her mother, Victoria Pedraza, 21, and stepfather, Daniel Pedraza, 23, are both being held in the Drew County Detention Center on probable cause of capital murder and permitting abuse of a child. They say the toddler fell from a dock at Lake Monticello onto rocks Sunday morning, the day before she died, but Dr. Steve Erickson, the chief deputy medical examiner, suspects that a hard punch or similar concentrated blow to the abdomen caused the child’s small bowel to tear apart, according to the affidavits filed in the case.
According to arrest warrant affidavits, Victoria Pedraza called 911 at 8:39 a.m. Monday saying that her daughter wasn’t breathing. When ambulance arrived at the Pedraza mobile home on Old Highway 13 in Monticello, paramedics found the child lying in bed with no pulse and her eyes were fixed and dilated. She was transported to Drew Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Medical personnel suspected child abuse when they saw numerous bruises on Aubriana’s chest, abdomen, arm, leg and face.
Both the mother and stepfather reportedly told police that Aubriana fell from a dock at Lake Monticello onto some large rocks. They said the child had a cut on her lip but appeared to be OK, that she continued playing for the next four hours.
Sunday evening around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. they said Aubriana began to vomit and eventually went to sleep. The parents said they observed her until 4 a.m., according to the affidavit.
Monday morning around 8 a.m., they said she was having trouble breathing and that her “eyes were rolling back in her head.”
The Pedrazas reportedly told police they tried to heal Aubriana naturally, reciting prayers, sprinkling her with Holy water, and using an egg and a purple onion.
Describing to police how they disciplined their daughter, both parents, who are in the Arkansas National Guard, reportedly told police that they required her to stand at attention when she spoke to them, required her to do push-ups, and squat with her back against the wall as punishment, according to the affidavit.
Victoria reportedly told police she had held Aubriana down in the past in an attempt to calm her down and Daniel reportedly told police that he spanked her with a belt several days prior to her death, according to the affidavit.
During a search of the couple’s mobile home, police say they discovered a long piece of cord hanging from a rod in the master bedroom closet. The cord, which didn’t appear to have any legitimate use, extended from the closet into the master bedroom. There was a pillow on the floor of the closet and there was no clothing in the closet, according to the affidavit.
The parents’ explanation about the cord was not included the affidavit.
Victoria and Daniel Pedraza reportedly told police they wish they had sought medical attention for Aubriana sooner but were afraid to do so because there were previous allegations of abuse which were under investigation by the Arkansas Department of Human Services, according to the affidavit.
Dr. Erickson, the chief deputy medical examiner, listed Aubriana’s death as a homicide with multiple blunt force injuries.
He said her small bowel was “ripped apart” and it would have been very painful when the injury occurred and any reasonable person would have seen that the child needed medical care, according to the affidavit quoting Erickson.
Both Victoria and Daniel Pedraza are being held without bond on probable cause of capital murder and permitting abuse of a child.
Formal charges have not yet been filed.
Capital murder is a Class Y felony punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.