She didn’t kill her son, police said, but she let him die.
The stepmother of a 12-year-old boy who died last year has been charged with murder after police said she ignored his symptoms of appendicitis for a week.
Kalinda Mercado, 41, was charged last month in the Feb. 4, 2012, death of stepson Emmanuel Mercado.
Emmanuel first showed signs of illness on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, when he vomited in the courtyard at Johnson Junior High School.
A school nurse notified Mercado, but she refused to pick him up from school and Emmanuel took the bus home, police said. Police said Emmanuel’s condition worsened over the weekend, but he wasn’t taken to a doctor.
Emmanuel returned to school on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012, and complained again of severe stomach pain. The school nurse, suspecting the boy might be suffering from appendicitis, called Mercado. The stepmother suspected Emmanuel was “only trying to avoid going to class,” according to the police report.
“It was relayed to Mrs. Mercado that he may be able to fake stomach pain, but not the fever,” the report said. The nurse told Mercado she suspected appendicitis and Emmanuel immediately needed a doctor.
Mercado took the boy from school that morning, but did not take him to a doctor, police said. She later called the nurse and claimed she called a doctor, who advised Emmanuel take a Tylenol for the fever. Emmanuel had a bowel movement and was feeling better, Mercado told the nurse.
But the boy’s condition worsened throughout the week. He vomited after eating dinner Wednesday night, but was only given Alka-Seltzer, police said.
On Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, Emmanuel went to school and immediately contacted the nurse. He complained of leg pain. A nurse told police the boy was dehydrated, pale, could barely walk and his finger tips were blue.
Mercado called Desert Valley Pediatrics and scheduled an appointment for 3:45 p.m., despite earlier appointments being available, police said. Emmanuel was taken home later that morning.
Emmanuel never made it to the doctor. He collapsed while being taken to the family car about 3 p.m. and went into cardiac arrest. Before he collapsed, the boy could not walk or see, police said.
The boy was taken to University Medical Center where doctors discovered his appendix had burst and sepsis, a complete-body inflammatory state caused by severe infection, had consumed his organs.
Emmanuel died the next day.
Shawnanna Flores, the boy’s biological mother, was suspicious of the death and requested an autopsy. A medical examiner determined Emmanuel died from appendicitis, with medical neglect as a significant contributing factor. His death was ruled a homicide.
Police recommended charging Mercado with child abuse with substantial bodily harm resulting in death in December 2012, but prosecutors thought the crime was more egregious. She was charged with murder on April 19.
Mercado recently posted $100,000 bail and was released on house arrest, said her lawyer Lawrence Hill, who added that his client was being overcharged.
“This boils down to a ruptured appendix,” Hill said. “For murder, you need criminal intent. In this law office’s opinion, this is a death negligence case.”
Hill said he represented Mercado during a Family Court case regarding Emmanuel’s death. Mercado was assigned a social worker to monitor her for a year to become more knowledgeable about appendicitis and to monitor the family’s other children, he said.
“The family is very loving, very united. It’s a tragedy, no doubt,” he said. “There was absolutely no intention to hurt any children.”
Hill disputed the school officials’ account of their interaction with Mercado, and wondered why the school nurse never called 911 if a potentially fatal illness was suspected.
“There’s more to cover than what’s on the arrest report,” he said.
Mercado’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 12.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.