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Mother's boyfriend charged after 5-year-old Houston girl found dead in closet

Santiago Esparza and Priscilla Torres are charged with tampering with a human corpse after the little girl's body was found in a closet.

HOUSTON — The boyfriend of a Houston woman whose daughter's body was found in a closet is in custody. 

A  warrant for Santiago Esparza Jr. had been issued for tampering with human remains, Houston police confirmed Friday.

Esparza was arrested Friday night. 

Prosecutors call him a "known gang member" and he has a long rap sheet dating back to 2006.

Priscilla Torres, the victim's mother, is facing the same charge as Esparza. She appeared in court Thursday.

Prosecutors said the couple acted together when they put 5-year-old Sierra Patino's body in a closet. Prosecutors said they got two different versions of the story as to how the little girl died, however.

Torres told police she and Sierra had moved into Esparza's apartment on Aug. 23 and he offered to give the girl a bath.

RELATED: Many mugs of Santiago Esparza: Man charged in Sierra Patino case has long rap sheet

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She says the bathroom door was closed. Torres said she opened the door and saw chemical burns on Sierra’s skin and redness and bruising on her forehead.

But that was the second version of her story, according to prosecutors.

Torres initially said she was the one who gave Sierra a bath. She said she left her daughter alone for a few minutes and when she came back, there was an empty bottle of toilet cleaner floating in the tub.

Credit: Texas DPS
Santiago Esparza, the man charged in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter, is no stranger to the law.

Torres said she and Esparza agreed to put Sierra to bed that evening without calling 911 because she was afraid CPS would take the girl away. She believed her daughter's apparent chemical burns would heal without treatment.

The mother said the girl died the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 27. She told police she wrapped Sierra’s body in a blanket and put her in a bedroom closet without calling police.

RELATED: Prosecutors: Houston mom accused of hiding daughter's body in closet gave different versions of what happened

RELATED: Houston mother arrested after hiding 5-year-old daughter's body in a closet

Six days after Sierra’s death, Torres and her mother, called 911 from the apartment where Sierra’s body was. First responders arrived to a smell coming from the apartment unit. They then found Sierra’s body wrapped in blankets at the bottom of a closet.

"There was obvious splash signs of chemical burns to her body, which we believe is some sort of chemical." HCDAO prosecutor Gilbert Sawtelle said Thursday.

But the mother's attorney said prosecutors aren't telling the whole story.

"She's innocent until proven guilty. At this point, she's innocent," defense attorney Bryan Savoy said. "We do not litigate cases in the media. We litigate cases in the courtroom."

The attorney said the mother was not responsible for her child's death.

“We believe (Santiago Esparza) was in the apartment with Priscilla Torres and that they acted together to put the body in the closet, and then left the scene for multiple days before Priscilla Torres reported this to police,” Sawtelle said.

Prosecutors are awaiting the results of an autopsy performed earlier this week.

At this time, the mother remains behind bars. The judge Thursday denied Savoy's request to reduce Torres' $50,000 bond.

Prosecutors argued against lowering the bond, claiming Torres is a flight risk since she and Esparza took a trip to Galveston following the death of her daughter.


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