The state of New Mexico, and particularly its city of Albuquerque, has recently been grappling with a disturbing increase in violent crimes, a situation highlighted by a harrowing incident involving the abuse and subsequent death of a three-year-old girl. This tragic case not only underscores the growing concern over crime in the region but also brings to light the complex web of issues, including domestic violence and child abuse, that law enforcement agencies must navigate.
In a recent distressing event, the Albuquerque Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit (CACU) was compelled to take action following the death of a young girl. The investigation led to the arrest of four adults, including the mother of the deceased child. The suspects, who had recently migrated from Massachusetts to New Mexico, were found to have a history of violence in other states. This incident points to a larger pattern of violence migrating across state lines, contributing to the safety concerns in New Mexico.
Kerri Anne Santos, a 33-year-old mother, presented a chilling narrative when she arrived at the University of New Mexico Hospital with her three children, one of whom was already deceased. Santos claimed that after leaving Massachusetts and traveling through New Mexico, she noticed her daughter was unwell. According to her account, the child sustained injuries after falling from a toilet at a gas station. However, the hospital staff quickly recognized signs of foul play and alerted the authorities.
Upon examination, the child was found to have multiple bruises and ligature marks indicative of abuse. This prompted a thorough investigation by the APD’s Crimes Against Children detectives. The involvement of law enforcement in Massachusetts revealed a troubling history of domestic violence and concerns about Santos using drugs in the presence of her children.
Further investigation unraveled a more sinister scenario. Two other adults, Christina Hopkins Pena-Cantor and her son, Austin Bing, along with James Welch, were implicated in the case. It was discovered that these individuals, together with Santos and her children, had been staying at Welch’s residence in Albuquerque. Alarming details emerged, including allegations of the children being sexually molested and the deceased child being bound with shoelaces.
This case is not isolated in its severity or nature in New Mexico. The state has witnessed a series of violent crimes, contributing to a growing sense of unease among its residents. From domestic disputes escalating into fatalities to incidents of child abuse culminating in tragedy, the pattern of violence in New Mexico paints a grim picture.
The collaborative efforts of various agencies, including CYFD, the Office of the Medical Investigator, University of New Mexico social workers, All Faiths Safehouse, the District Attorney’s Office, and the FBI, were instrumental in responding to this case. Their involvement highlights the multifaceted approach needed to address such complex and deeply rooted social issues.
The arrest warrants issued for Santos, Pena-Cantor, Bing, and Welch signify a step toward justice for the young victim. However, this incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle against crime in New Mexico and the need for concerted efforts to safeguard the most vulnerable members of society.