Mother claims daughter died days after drinking toilet bowl cleaner during bath, investigators say

By Cory McCord - Digital News Editor, Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - The mother of a girl whose body was found in a closet at a northwest Houston apartment appeared in court Tuesday night.

Priscilla Torres is charged with tampering with evidence -- a human corpse in this case.

The 27-year-old was charged in connection with the death of her daughter, 5-year-old Sierra Patino, according to KPRC.

Authorities have also interviewed Torres' boyfriend in connection with Patino's death, but he has not yet been charged.

What happened

The child's grandmother made the discovery at Torres' apartment about 3 p.m. Monday at Quail Creek Apartments at 7835 Grow Lane.

How was the girl found?

Family members who were visiting the child's home discovered the child dead in the closet, police said. Investigators said Sierra's body was wrapped in blankets.

How did Sierra die?

According to court documents, Torres told investigators that Aug. 23, her boyfriend picked her and her daughter up and brought them to his apartment on Grow Lane.

"The defendant initially stated that she was giving her daughter a bath and that there was a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner that was within reach of the child, she left the child alone for a few minutes, when she returned she said there as an empty bottle of the cleaner floating in the bath water next to her daughter," said the court.

According to investigators, Torres said Sierra was showing signs of what appeared to be a chemical burn because the child's skin and face started peeling. 

"She had a fear of involving the authorities, as CPS would get involved and take her child away," stated the court.

Torres told investigators Sierra wasn't able to hold down any solid food for the next several days. Torres told authorities that in the days leading up to her death, Sierra needed help standing up and was not near her asthma machine. She told authorities she thought the child would recover from her injuries since she was taking care of her at home.

Torres told investigators that Sierra died Aug. 27.

Story changes

After more questioning, authorities said, Torres changed her story.

HPD

Priscilla Torres is seen in this mug shot released by the Houston Police Department on Sept. 3, 2019.

She said that on the first night at her boyfriend's apartment, he offered to give the child a bath while Torres made dinner.

"The defendant stated that the door was closed and upon opening the door, she observed her boyfriend with the daughter in which she already," said the court. "She said the daughter was already exhibiting chemical burns to her extremities and also displayed some redness and possible bruising to the forehead."

Why didn't she get help for Sierra?

According to investigators, Torres said she didn't call authorities because she was worried her daughter would be taken from her.

On the night of the bath, Torres and her boyfriend agreed to put Sierra to bed without calling for emergency medical services.

[Click here to donate towards the child's funeral expenses]

According to authorities, Torres said she and Sierra spent the night of Aug. 25 at a vacant apartment so that the mother of her boyfriend's child could spend the night at his apartment without seeing Torres or the sick child.

Torres told investigators that she was allowed into her boyfriend's apartment Aug. 26. Sierra died the next day, Torres told authorities.

What did they do with the body?

After Sierra died, authorities said Torres told them she wrapped her daughter in a blanket and put her in the bedroom closet without calling authorities because she "didn't want to let her daughter go."

What's next

The child's autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the medical examiner.

Torres does not have a criminal history and this is her first arrest.

According to the court, Torres has been unemployed since she became pregnant with Sierra. She's been a stay-at-home mom and had been living with her parents for the past four years.

The state asked to set the bond at $100,000, but the judge set it at $50,000.

Family members of Sierra made a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses. Click here to donate.

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