DA’s office denied removal of children from home before baby was burned, injected with meth, state rep says

‘I’m very frustrated,’ state Rep. John Lujan says he’s looking into situation

SAN ANTONIOUPDATE Dec. 5, 2023: Late Monday afternoon, the District Attorney’s Office sent an email to KSAT stating that attorneys representing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in a children’s court hearing on Monday showed evidence that there was only one prior referral to the DA’s Office seeking removal of six children before the parents were arrested on charges of endangering and injuring their 1-year-old girl.

That request was in 2022, and at the time, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence for removal, according to the DA’s office. The email also stated that there was additional evidence to show that the existence of needle marks on one of the children was the result of a medical treatment.

According to the DA’s Office, the court granted temporary custody of the children to DFPS with continued relative placement for five of the six children. Another hearing regarding the case will take place in 60 days.

Last week, KSAT 12 asked the DA’s Office for a response based on statements made by Texas State Rep. John Lujan to KSAT that the DA’s office denied several requests by CPS to remove the six children.

Original Story:

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office denied several requests by Child Protective Services to remove six children who were found living in “filthy” conditions, state Rep. John Lujan confirmed to KSAT 12 News.

One of the children was a 1-year-old girl who suffered severe burns and tested positive for methamphetamine after her parents left her at a hospital.

“I don’t understand how (CPS) can take a case that you feel the children need to be removed and the DA says there’s not enough there,” Lujan told KSAT. “And both agencies, the DA and the DFPS (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services), walk away and leave the child there.”

Left: Amanda Mann, 31 Right: Dustin Lawrence, 30 (Bexar County Sheriffs Office)

The parents of the children, Amanda Mann, 31, and Dustin Lawrence, 30, have been charged with endangering a child, endangering a child risking bodily injury, injury to a child resulting in serious bodily injury-reckless, and four counts of abandoning/endangering a child with intent, according to Bexar County Jail records.

All charges are felonies and their bonds are each set at $450,000.

Lujan said he understands that several legal obstacles exist to remove children from a home and that the DA’s office may have followed the law. However, he said he’s disappointed that the case was just closed instead of some other remedy short of removal.

“What is the process to sit down, say, ‘OK, what is it that we that we need to do to get enough (for removal) or what services do we provide to protect these children?” Lujan said. “But the answer definitely is not walking away. That’s not the answer. And that’s the part [that’s really frustrating].”

Lujan said he has yet to talk with the DA’s Office about the case, but plans to reach out soon.

KSAT reached out to the DA’s Office for a response and here is a statement provided to us:

Under the law, our office cannot comment on any investigation involving the removal of a child.

Protecting children is the top priority of our CPS Division. However, our office can only seek removal of a child when the law allows. Over the last two legislative sessions, the law has changed to make removal more difficult. We welcome the Legislature to revisit this issue.

Authorities discovered horrific child abuse after baby brought to hospital

The following details may be disturbing to some readers.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said law enforcement first learned of the case when the 1-year-old, who only weighed 18 pounds, was taken to the hospital.

The baby had suffered burns on her face and throughout her body, Salazar said, adding that it appeared boiling hot liquid was either spilled or poured on her.

Deputies were initially told the baby was burned by hot water in the shower, but Mann later said she was burned with boiling water from a pot while they were making spaghetti.

Salazar said BCSO is investigating if the baby pulled the pot down on herself, or if it was accidentally or intentionally done by someone.

Her parents chose to not seek medical care, Salazar said, and instead treated her with a burn ointment.

They then injected her with meth to help with the pain, Salazar said.

The baby fell asleep, and the following day, when the parents took the sheets off her, the baby’s skin fell off, Salazar said.

At some point, they gave her chest compressions. It is unknown if the baby ever lost consciousness, he said.

Mann and Lawrence called a family friend for help, and the family friend suggested taking her to the hospital, more than 24 hours after the baby received her injuries.

Salazar said after taking the baby to the hospital, Mann left and BCSO asked for the public’s help in finding her.

Mann and Lawrence were taken into custody a day later.

Five other children found in ‘filthy’ conditions

Salazar said deputies found several other children in a small, filthy RV where they were living, including 2-month-old twins, a 2-year-old, a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old.

Mann gave birth to the twins at the home and they never received medical care, Salazar said. He added that it appeared the 8-year-old took care of the other children while the couple took the 1-year-old to the hospital.

One other child also tested positive for meth.

“They had a living hell,” Salazar said.

The sheriff called the case “pretty infuriating,” adding the baby had to endure “outright torture.”

“We have literally thrown every possible charge we could,” Salazar said. “I hope to God they stay in jail for the better part of the rest of their lives based on what we’ve seen.”

The children are now in the care of Child Protective Services.

Searching for solutions

Lujan said that he had a meeting with DFPS on Wednesday to discuss what needs to be done and to get a complete look at the case. He plans on putting together a round table discussion soon with other Bexar County leaders to find ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Lujan hopes that more people in the community, including churches, get more involved to help children and families in our county.

“It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue, these kids don’t care what party,” Lujan said. “What they need is to be safe and in a safe environment. And I want to get everybody at the table and find out where it went wrong.”

Currently, both Mann and Lawrence are awaiting their case to be presented to a grand jury. Neither of them have been able to post bond and are still in jail.

About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Rebecca Salinas has worked in digital news for more than 10 years and joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.