SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Anaheim stepmother was sentenced today to 7 years to life plus 7 years, 10 months for torturing her 10-year-old step-daughter, leaving the little girl with a broken neck, bone sticking out of an unhealed sore, and bruises from head to toe as a result of months of increasingly humiliating and brutal cruelty. An emergency room nurse told police officers it was the worst case of trauma and suspected child abuse she had ever seen. Before sentencing her, Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner read a lengthy written statement detailing the horrifying abuse and calling the defendant a “bridge troll” and a “demon” in what he described as the most horrific case he has presided over.
Mayra Chavez, 35, of Anaheim was also convicted of abusing three other children in the home, including another step-daughter and two of her own children.
Chavez was convicted by a jury last month of one felony count of torture, two felony counts of child abuse and endangerment, and one felony enhancement of causing great bodily injury. The jury convicted Chavez of the lesser included offense of simple assault involving Chavez’ 17-year-old son.
Domingo Junior Flores, the 10-year-old girl’s father, is awaiting trial on one felony count of torture, two felony counts of child abuse and endangerment, one misdemeanor count of felony child abuse and endangerment, and one felony enhancement of causing great bodily injury.
Flores had been engaged in a lengthy child custody battle with the mother of his two oldest daughters, which resulted in Flores being awarded full custody of the girls, despite numerous court order violations being reported to authorities and multiple interactions with county social workers alleging abuse.
The 10-year-old weighed just 50 pounds and was unresponsive when she was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange by her father in August 2022, who told police and medical professionals the little girl had harmed herself and had fallen down the stairs.
Anaheim police had been previously called out to Chavez and Flores’ Anaheim apartment to do a welfare check after family members became concerned about the 10-year-old, but Chavez is seen on body worn camera laughing and pointing to all of the food that was in the refrigerator and on countertops. Officers did not discover the 10-year-old was zip tied to a bed in one of the apartment’s bedrooms.
Flores and Chavez were arrested by the Anaheim Police Department as emergency room staff worked to revive the little girl at the hospital.
Police recovered zip ties throughout the Anaheim apartment where they family lived. During Chavez’ trial, witnesses gave graphic details of the abuse the little girl suffered at the hands of her stepmother, including being forced to kneel on raw rice or tin cans with her hands and legs hogtied, being plunged face first into a bathtub full of ice while zip tied, and having a habanero pepper rubbed in her eyes and vagina after being forced to bit into the pepper. Jurors heard from three of the other children in the home who sobbed on the witness stand as they described being forced to zip tie their sister to the bed and witnessing Chavez abuse her.
In a courtroom filled with family and friends dressed in purple, the little girl’s favorite color, and jurors who convicted Chavez of torture, the 10-year-old girl, with a glittery purple walker by her side, read from a victim impact statement handwritten in halting child writing, telling her abuser, “I hope you die.”
The girl’s mother spoke of the horror of rushing to the pediatric intensive care unit at CHOC to see her emaciated daughter lying in a hospital bed, “skin and bones, bruises and scabs,” in a neck brace tinged with blood. “She was the personification of a whisper,” she said, explaining her daughter’s body was so broken she worried that any noise would shatter her and she would lose her all over again.
In her victim impact statement, the girl’s mother described the life they now live after being reunited with her daughters. “We sleep in soft beds with fluffy blankets surrounded by more pillows than we can count. We take warm baths – not baths filled with ice. We throw bath bombs. We frost cupcakes and have movie nights. We play in our backyard whenever we want to – and sit in the warmth of the sun. We’re making up for lost time. They not only survived; they triumphed.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced after the court hearing that he is launching a review into the systematic failures that prevented the discovery of the abuse sooner.
“This methodical and diabolical torture of child was normalized in this household to the point this children thought it was their fault that they were being abused,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Our job as parents is to celebrate the joy of childhood and embrace the laughter and the light of our children. The system failed this little girl. The system failed her siblings. Help was on the other side of the door, but over and over again, help didn’t come for this little girl until it was almost too late.
Despite all of the horror these children had to endure and the darkness that they were forced to live in, they are the true personification that good will always overpower evil and that light will eradicate darkness. We will get to the bottom of how this happened and what can be done to prevent another child from suffering the fate of what these children suffered at the hands of the very people who were supposed to protect them.”
Deputy District Attorney Bethel Cope-Vega of the Family Protection Unit is prosecuting this case.