GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – A mother and her boyfriend are arrested for child abuse in the case of four-year-old Elijah Wallace.
Twenty-eight-year-old Ashleigh Wallace, Elijah’s mother, is facing one count of felony child abuse and one count of false reporting to authorities. Thirty-year-old Jessie Martinez is charged with two counts of felony child abuse, as well as a class 2 child abuse misdemeanor, according to Mesa County Sheriff’s Office arrest warrants.
Martinez was arrested on Jan. 22 for a parole violation unrelated to this child abuse investigation.
The charges stem from an incident that left Elijah with a swollen brain, broken arm and bruises all over his body.
According to an arrest warrant, Ashleigh saw that Elijah was unconscious, drooling and urinating in his bed at 1 p.m. on Jan. 13. She took him to St. Mary’s Hospital soon after, where he is currently in critical condition. His family says doctors don’t expect the boy will survive.
That evening, Ashleigh told sheriff’s investigators that she did not know how Elijah was injured; the only thing she could think of was a sledding accident, when Elijah tumbled head over heels a few times.
But two days later, she changed her story. The warrant says she admitted that the family had not gone sledding. Instead, she told investigators that on Jan. 11, she had left Elijah and her other, six-year-old son with Martinez for about 30 to 45 minutes.
While she was out, Martinez called to tell her he accidentally hit Elijah with a football. When she returned, she found Elijah asleep, but after Martinez left, she woke him and saw many bruises on the boy’s face.
Ashleigh confronted Martinez about it, but he denied knowing about the bruises, she said. She revealed that she had seen Martinez wrestle too roughly with her sons on a few occasions.
Ashleigh said the next day, Elijah was extremely lethargic, only getting out of bed twice. She told investigators that she assumed he was just sick and didn’t become worried about Elijah until Jan. 13, two days after the incident. That afternoon, she rushed him to the hospital after finding him unconscious.
When asked about Martinez, Ashleigh said she hated to think he’s the one who injured her son. “I love Jessie; I love him with all my heart. After this, I wanna kill him,” she said, according to the arrest warrant.
Ashleigh refused to take a polygraph test and denied a voluntary search of her cell phone. Investigators seized the phone due to "exigent circumstances that Ms. Wallace may be able to delete text/photos concerning this case which may not be recoverable," the warrant states.
From a child’s perspective
Elijah’s six-year-old brother told a similar story. When asked about Elijah by sheriff’s investigators, he said Martinez would often wrestle with them, sometimes leaving bruises.
According to the warrant, the boy told investigators, “…this was like a couple days ago, when –right—the day before my brother was knocked out (pause) I don’t know if he’s knocked out.”
He said his brother went to sleep and wouldn’t wake up. The boy said Martinez “told him not to tell on him because he would get in trouble, but since cops were around, [the boy] said he had to tell the truth,” according to the warrant.
Martinez speaks out
On Jan. 15, investigators interviewed Martinez, who first denied knowing anything about how Elijah sustained the injuries. The warrant says upon further questioning, he admitted to being alone with the boys on Jan. 11 and wrestling with Elijah.
Martinez said he accidentally hyper-extended the boy’s right arm and made him cry, so he immediately stopped. Martinez claimed that later, he heard something fall hard in the kitchen tile and walked in to find Elijah on the floor, unconscious.
He told investigators that he put Elijah in his bed, and when Ashleigh came home 20 minutes later, he told her Elijah needed to go to the hospital. Martinez said she refused, explaining she was afraid Social Services would take her children from her.
According to the warrant, Martinez stated that both he and Ashleigh were drinking alcohol on Jan. 11.
The sheriff’s investigators later spoke with the doctor assigned to Elijah’s case to verify Martinez’s version of events.
The doctor said the broken arm could have been caused by hyper-extension, but the force used to break the arm would have had to be more than force used in typical horse play.
He also said a fall from three to six feet could have caused the head injury, and the 48 hours of unconsciousness matched up with Elijah’s current situation. He stated that the boy’s condition could have been a “significantly salvageable situation” if he had been taken to the hospital immediately. If head injuries go untreated for more than 24 hours, they can cause significant/life threatening brain damage, the doctor explained.
Two children in DHS custody
After Elijah was hospitalized on Jan.13, investigators became concerned with Ashleigh’s other children, the six-year-old son and another three-week-old daughter.
Both had been left with Martinez, who then dropped them off at his brother’s house. Officers contacted the children there and placed them in the Mesa County Department Human Services custody for their safety, pending further investigation.