An Arizona woman is facing murder charges after her two young children were found dead in a vehicle in Superior on Monday night, authorities said.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said detectives were called to the area of Richard Avenue and Palo Verde Drive around 11:15 p.m. after a 10-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy were found dead in a car outside a home, Phoenix-area television station KNXV reported.
Both children were found strapped in their car seats when officials arrived.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Navideh Forghani said evidence at the scene indicated foul play.
The mother of the two children, 20-year-old Brittany Velasquez, has been arrested and is facing two counts of murder.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine how the children died. Authorities have not identified the children.
At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said there were no signs of knife or gunshot wounds, and that a toxicology report is pending.
Relatives told KSAZ, another Phoenix-area TV station, that they had called the state’s Department of Child Services on several occasions out of fear for the children’s safety, saying they thought Velasquez was mentally unstable.
According to Superior police Chief Christian Ensley, over the past two years, police have responded to Velasquez’s home on several occasions for various issues. In two incidents, the most recent on January 3, the Department of Child Services was contacted.
The Arizona Department of Children Safety released the following statement on Velasquez:
“In response to news reports involving Brittany Velasquez, the Department would like to confirm, clarify and correct some details made public by other sources.
DCS has two prior reports involving Brittany Velasquez and her children.
On October 6, 2016, the Department received a neglect report that alleged Ms. Velasquez would leave her child with the maternal grandmother. The report alleged that the grandmother was too old to properly care for the child.
A DCS investigation concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegations.
The child was seen on multiple occasions during the investigation. The DCS investigator concluded there were no indications the child was being abused or neglected and there were no legal grounds to remove the child.
Superior police responded to the grandmother’s home on an unrelated matter. Police reported that they had observed the child and the child appeared healthy.
The case was unsubstantiated and closed.
On January 5, 2018, the Department received a neglect report that alleged Ms. Velasquez left her children for extended periods of time with the maternal grandmother without adequate supplies to care for the children.
A DCS investigation revealed the mother was employed and was relying on the grandmother to help care for the children.
Ms. Velasquez did not reside with the grandmother. DCS observed Ms. Velasquez’s Mesa apartment and determined it contained all the supplies to properly care for the children.
Ms. Velazquez was participating in a home visitation program.
The children showed no visible signs of abuse or neglect. There were no legal grounds to remove the children from the parent’s custody. The Department provided daycare for the children at no cost to Ms. Velasquez so she did not have to leave her children with the grandmother.
The case was unsubstantiated and closed.
DCS had never taken custody of the children and did not place the children with the grandparents. In both reports, there was no evidence that the mother was abusing or neglecting her children.
While there were concerns raised regarding Ms. Velasquez’s previous mental health, no evidence was presented by anyone that indicated mental health issues were impeding Ms. Velasquez’s ability to parent.
We understand these types of tragic events evoke emotional reactions; we too feel pain when children suffer. However, we can only make decisions based on the available evidence and what the law allows.
The Department acted in good faith based on the information we received and exercised our due diligence during these prior investigations.”
A GoFundMe page has since been set up to cover the children’s funeral expenses.