Mother of three arrested after police say she abandoned children in West Side park

One couple says the mother promised them food and money to look after her children but she never returned

SAN ANTONIO – A couple experiencing homelessness is hoping their good deed inspires people to help others in any circumstance.

This comes after they spent 12 hours watching over three young children who San Antonio police say were abandoned by their mother.

Police said on June 15, 2021, Maria Martinez, 36, allegedly left her 6-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son, and 1-year-old daughter at a West Side park near Leal Street.

Manuel Covarrubias and his girlfriend, Gloria Suarez, happened to be at the park around 10:00 a.m.

“We are homeless by choice,” Covarrubias said. “We were sleeping in that park but decided to stay there a little longer.”

He said that is when Martinez pulled up.

“She was arguing with someone about something and the next thing we know, she approached us,” Covarrubias said. “She told us, ‘I have to go see about a job, and when I come back, I will take care of you. Make sure you have something to eat and a little bit of money,’” he said. “I said, ‘Sure, what do we have to do?’ She said, ‘Look after my kids.’ I go, ‘Yeah, we love kids. Yeah, why not!’ It was like babysitting in the park. That is a good job but it didn’t end up being that way. It was a nightmare.”

As time passed, the couple became worried.

“When she didn’t show up two to three hours, I said I would go look for her,” Covarrubias said. “I was searching for her for 10 hours and could not find her. I eventually found her and she seemed like she was under the influence. I told her to come and get her children but she wouldn’t.”

Meanwhile, as Suarez remained there in the park with the three children, she said her heart began to break.

“I know what it is like to have my children taken away from me,” Suarez said as she began to cry. “Those little babies did not deserve to go through that. The babies kept crying and crying out for their mother.”

Suarez, who was also in a wheelchair, said she felt helpless.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “They kept crying. She left them and they were wet. They didn’t have any diapers. No food but this spoiled milk that had spoiled from the heat. They had feces all over them and the one blanket she left had feces all over it as well.”

A Bexar County affidavit said the children also had lice.

Not knowing what to do, Suarez said she tried her best to calm the children down.

“There were these people playing basketball and were wondering why the baby kept crying,” Suarez said. “They thought I was doing something to hurt her but I told them the baby was crying for her mom. They called the police.”

When police arrived, they too thought the children belonged to her.

“They were asking me what was going on and to talk to them, thinking I was their mother,” she said. “I told them I was not the mother and that mother left the kids with me and took off.”

At that time, Covarrubias returned and told police what happened.

The children were then taken into Child Protective Services.

Investigators were also able to find Martinez’s passport on one of the children, which helped track her down.

She was later arrested and is facing three counts of abandoned child-no return.

“We could have left those children, but we didn’t because we are not those kind of people,” Covarrubias said. “But you don’t leave your children with random people at a d*** park. I am glad that they are ok but their mom needs to clean her act up before she ever gets them back again.”

He said he hopes this situation encourages others to be ready to step in whenever they are needed.

“No matter what demons you are battling and no matter what you are going through, always be kind and good to people,” he said. “Always do good deeds because it always comes back.”

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About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.