Mom Charged With Felony Child Abuse: Checking Facebook While Her Daughter Was Run Over
Felony child abuse, loss of a toddler’s life, a mother captivated by social media. Sounds a little like the Casey Anthony trial that’s transfixing people lately.
But we’re talking about Aurora, Colorado, where 30-year-old Karen Pena was arrested Thursday on charges of child abuse resulting in death, a Class 3 felony. She is being held on $50,000 bail.
It was on the afternoon of Friday, May 27, that Pena’s 22-month-old daughter, Laniece Fletcher, was run over by a van in the parking lot of the Sierra Condos near East Mississippi Avenue and East Alameda Parkway, police Detective Bob Friel said.
Karen Pena admits that, at that time, she was on the second floor of her condo checking her Facebook messages, according to court documents. As The Denver Post reports, “Friel said the child was wandering the parking lot unsupervised at the time of the accident.”
The accident occurred at 3:19 p.m., when Laniece was run over by a 15-passenger Kids Wheels van that had just dropped off another child at a specialized learning program. The owner of Kids Wheels said the driver did not see Laniece. The driver has not been charged with a crime.
Paramedics rushed the child to Children’s Hospital, where she still had a pulse and was breathing, but she died shortly before midnight. The Arapahoe County Coroner said Laniece died of blunt force trauma to the head.
As The Denver Post investigative reporter Jace Larson writes,
Karen Pena, 30, first told police her kids — including 22-month-old Laniece Fletcher and her 3-year-old brother — had gone to play at the next-door neighbor’s. She later told them she had sent the kids to play in their yard inside a fenced area at her condo.
Pena told investigators she could see and hear Laniece and the girl’s brother through a window as she used her computer, but detectives said that wasn’t possible. She said she last looked outside her bedroom window and saw her children on the sidewalk outside the fenced-in area about three minutes before her daughter was hit. Pena said that at that time, she told her kids to play inside the fence. “I told the kids to be inside the gated area,” Pena told 9News.com shortly after the incident.
As The Denver Post reports about an affidavit that investigators filed,
‘The affidavit also accounts numerous reports about Pena to social services. Neighbors told investigators they often saw the young children outside alone, wearing only diapers so soiled that they hung down to their knees.’
And as Larson writes for 9news.com:
One neighbor said she asked the children once where their mother was, she was told, ‘She’s on the computer.’