IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (East Idaho News) — Physical, occupational and speech therapy are now a part of a 5-year-old’s weekly routine after a trusted babysitter beat and severely injured him.
This new lifestyle is something Liz Marquez never thought she would experience with her son Carlos Perez.
In February 2016, Marquez was in Mexico visiting her husband when she got the call about Carlos having a head injury. At the time, he was only 3-years-old and was being looked after by his biological father and his fiancé, Lorena Ocampo-Garcia.
“I got a call from my sister that he had hit his head and he was going to have brain surgery,” Marquez tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I was like ‘Are you kidding me? How can he hit his head and need brain surgery for that?”
Court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com show paramedics were called to the 800 block of Lakewood Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 23 around 8 a.m.
When EMT’s arrived, they said Carlos was unresponsive, vomiting and bleeding from the nose and mouth.
“He hadn’t fallen and done that damage. We knew from the start that this wasn’t an accident. Somebody did this to him and she was the only person that was with him,” Marquez says. “It was a full blown attack on him.”
When Carlos arrived at the hospital, he was still unresponsive.
Doctors shaved his head and discovered multiple markings, some which were fresh, and others from old wounds. He had severe internal bleeding around his brain and he was rushed into surgery to remove a portion of his skull to relieve pressure.
“A vein detached from his brain and it was bleeding so much that parts of his brain were not functioning,” Marquez said.
This potentially fatal injury was the result of Ocampo-Garcia repeatedly striking Carlos in the head with a 14-inch hard plastic toy.
Ocampo-Garcia originally told investigators that Carlos had thrown himself into a pile of 2X4 boards. She then said admitted to grabbing him by the hair, throwing him on the ground and at one point striking him “no more than eight times” in his head.
“He just looked like he wasn’t going to be the same. I knew that. It was so hard seeing him struggle like that,” Marquez says.
Doctors put Carlos in a medically induced coma and weren’t sure what the full the effects of his brain injury would be. Once he woke up from the coma, the effects were life-altering.
“He couldn’t move his whole right side. He couldn’t talk anymore and he couldn’t eat. It affected his vocal cords and his tongue,” Marquez said. “He had a hemorrhage on the cornea.”
Marquez says the road to recovery has been hard and adding to the difficulties were the continued delays in Ocampo-Garcia’s court proceedings. At one point, she lost faith in the judicial process and thought Ocampo-Garcia would get away with her crime.
“All I wanted was revenge and I just wanted her to pay,” Marquez says. “Then I realized…this hate toward her is keeping me from being with my son and concentrating on him. From that day on, I knew God’s going to take care of it.”
When asked what Ocampo-Garcia’s motivation could be, Marquez believes the babysitter was jealous.
“She was probably jealous that his dad loved him so much. He got all of his dad’s attention and she might have been feeling left out,” Marquez says. “And (Ocampo-Garcia) being pregnant on top of that – I think she just lost it.”
When Carlos was released from the hospital in April 2016, he was still in a wheelchair. Marquez says about a month later he was able to regain control of his right leg and he has since regained his speech.
“The main thing is his hand, which he still can’t use it,” Marquez says. He needs help with everything – tying his shoes, dressing, the restroom, playing, carrying things, eating, normal things that other kids can do with both hands he can’t.”
In July 2017, Ocampo-Garcia entered into a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to a felony injury to a child charge with an enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury on the child. She was sentenced Monday Sept. 11 to three to 15 years in prison and $5,000 in civil fines.
“At the court, she didn’t seem like she repented or anything. She just seemed like normal,” Marquez says. “If that would have been me going to prison for three or 15 years I would have been crying my eyes out.”
Marquez says she and Carlos have never received an apology from Ocampo-Garcia and they are trying to move forward with life. She is working on teaching Carlos to write his name with his left hand and says she is grateful the doctors, especially neurosurgeon Brent Greenwald, who worked so hard to save him.
“We owe him my son’s life. I feel like we can never repay him for what he’s done,” Marquez says.