By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – A guilty verdict was returned by a Houston County jury on Thursday evening against a 21-year-old Grapeland woman who stood accused of severely injuring a child in the fall of 2015.
Kala Hernandez was convicted on one count of first-degree felony injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.
Her arrest and subsequent conviction came about after medical staff at the Houston County Medical Center (HCMC – now Timberlands Healthcare) notified the Crockett Police Department on Oct. 10, 2015 about the suspicious nature of injuries to an infant brought into the hospital’s emergency room.
The trial began on Tuesday, May 16 in the 349th District Court with District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding and the jury returned its verdict at approximately 9:30 p.m. on May 18.
According to Assistant Houston County District (ADA) Attorney Roger White, the sentencing phase of the trial will not begin until Tuesday, May 23 because of a scheduling conflict.
At the time of her arrest, Hernandez and her common law husband, 22-year-old Israel Gonzalez, “…were charged with multiple counts of injury to a child, all first degree felonies,” Crockett Police Chief David “Buddy” Cross stated in an Oct 16, 2015 press release.
In his October 2015 statement, Cross further indicated Hernandez and Gonzalez “… have two children together, one age three months and the other a year and a half old. Both of their children were severely physically abused by both parents.”
The whereabouts of Gonzalez, a co-defendant in the case, are unknown. According to the ADA, he is considered a fugitive from justice.
As first reported in The Messenger at the time of the incident, on the night of Oct. 10, 2015, Hernandez and Gonzalez brought the children to the HCMC ER.
Due to the severity of injuries, the three month old infant was transported by air ambulance to Texas Children’s Hospital. The medical staff at Texas Children’s Hospital reported the child had suffered “… a corner fracture of the distal right tibia, (a) bilateral subdural collection with blood as well as left and right frontal – and bilateral retinal – homologies.”
According to the medical staff, the child’s injuries were consistent with abusive head trauma.
“The one year old child was placed with a different family member by Child Protective Services at the beginning of this investigation,” and was later “… also taken to Texas Children Hospital for a medical evaluation at the request of CPS,” Cross reported in his Oct. 2015 statement.
In addition, it was noted by the attending medical staff the one year old “…had a healed distal fracture in her right wrist and a mild bowing deformity of the right ulnar in her arm.”
Initially, Hernandez told officers that the child was on the bed and rolled over and fell off.
In his statement, Cross reported while police officers were on the scene, they noticed that the child had no outward injuries on her head and also did not notice any bruises on the child. The officers also noticed the child would cry from time to time and appeared to be in pain. Detectives were notified and launched an investigation into the injuries sustained by the child.
Gonzalez and Hernandez were interviewed separately on Oct. 15 by Crockett Police Sgt. Alfredo Fajardo.
According to the police chief’s statement, while being questioned “… Hernandez admitted that she had, in the recent past, shaken the three month old child because she was stressed out and frustrated, during which time the baby would not quit crying.”
She also admitted that in the recent past, she was changing the baby’s diaper on the bed and she would not stop crying. Out of frustration, she forcibly pulled the child by its legs and then forcibly pulled the baby up off the bed by pulling at her arms. Hernandez also said that on Friday, Oct. 9 she had placed the baby on the edge of a bed at the house and the baby had fallen off, hitting the floor.
Hernandez implicated Gonzalez in her statement to police and reported she had seen “… the baby’s father, Gonzalez, purposely drop the three month old baby onto the bed from a distance of about one-two feet. The baby landed on the bed with force. Also, she said that the father shook the three month old baby in the recent past, which caused the child’s head to forcibly shake back and forth,” according to Cross.
“During the interview, Hernandez also admitted that in the recent past, she had forcibly pulled or jerked the one year old child by the wrist, which could have caused the injury to the one year old’s wrist,” according to the police chief’s statement. “During Gonzalez’s interview, he also admitted to dropping the three month old child to the bed from a distance of one-two feet, during which time he was frustrated and stressed. He also admitted to shaking the three month old in the recent past, at which time the child’s head forcibly shook back and forth.”
Will Johnson may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.