Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN THE INTEREST OF J.I.M. and A.A.M.
the 408th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016PA01450 Honorable Barbara Hanson Nellermoe,
Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice
Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice
M. appeals from the trial court's order terminating her
parental rights to her children J.I.M. and A.A.M. She brings
one issue on appeal, arguing that the trial court's
best-interest finding is not supported by legally and
factually sufficient evidence. We affirm.
5, 2016, the Department of Family and Protective Services
("the Department") filed an Original Petition for
Protection of a Child for Conservatorship, and for
Termination in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child
Relationship. On November 8, 2016, the case was tried to the
bench. At trial, Officer Becerra of the San Antonio Police
Department testified that he responded to the original 911
call. According to Officer Becerra, the 911 caller reported
that "there was a reckless driver" who was
"striking her child while operating a motor
vehicle." The caller "felt that the children were
in danger" and had "observed the children
crying." Officer Becerra testified that when he pulled
into the drive-in restaurant, he saw Dessarae M. and two
children in the car. According to Officer Becerra, one of the
children, two-year-old J.I.M.,  "had apparent injury to his face,
redness and whatnot." There was "a small cut"
underneath his left eye. The other child, A.A.M., was a baby
and less than a year old. Officer Becerra testified that
"[b]oth of the children were crying." Officer
Becerra testified that he investigated and interviewed a
witness at the scene, the same person who had called 911. The
witness told Officer Becerra that she had seen Dessarae M.
operating the vehicle, "striking her child repeatedly,
" and "driving recklessly." Officer Becerra
testified that the witness described Dessarae M. as
"swerving in and out of lanes" and braking
erratically. The witness told Officer Becerra that the child
"struck the dashboard of the vehicle." The witness
followed Dessarae M. as she stopped briefly at one restaurant
and continued following Dessarae M. as she traveled east.
Dessarae M. then stopped at the drive-in restaurant where
Officer Becerra located her and the witness. When Officer
Becerra questioned Dessarae M., she denied that she had
struck her child. Officer Becerra placed Dessarae M. under
arrest and took an inventory of the car. There was not a car
seat for the child who had struck the dashboard.
Craft, the Department's caseworker, testified that she
requested aggravated circumstances to be pursued against
Dessarae M. in this case. Craft was present at the hearing on
the issue. According to Craft, the court granted aggravated
circumstances against Dessarae M. and also waived the
requirement for reasonable efforts to be made to reunify the
children with their mother. The State then introduced,
without objection, three exhibits. State's Exhibit 1 was
a final order of termination in Cause Number 2010-PA-02003
terminating the parental rights of Dessarae M. to one child.
State's Exhibit 2 was a final order of termination in
Cause Number 2007-PA-02202 terminating the parental rights of
Dessarae M. to two other children. State's Exhibit 3 was
an order of termination in Cause Number 2010-PA-02003
terminating Dessarae M.'s parental rights to another
child. Thus, Dessarae M. previously had her parental rights
terminated with respect to four other children.
testified that in each of these previous cases, Dessarae M.
had her parental rights terminated on endangerment grounds.
With respect to the first case, Craft testified that Dessarae
M.'s rights had been terminated based on "drug abuse
and physical neglect." In one case, Dessarae M. had
shaken and slapped her child with her hand on his back, face,
and buttocks, which left red marks all over his body. In
another case, Dessarae M. would leave her children with
people for days at a time and not return. Craft emphasized
that in the present case, there were also allegations of
physical abuse of a child. Craft testified that when she
became the caseworker, she "learned that on the day of
the removal, the mother was driving with the children, and
she was arrested due to the physical endangerment of her
children." According to Craft, J.I.M. underwent a
forensic interview, and the results of that interview showed
that "while [J.I.M.] had facial scratches and bleeding
on his face, there was no subdermal or fractures underneath
the skin." Craft testified that when she met with
Dessarae M., Dessarae M. denied having struck J.I.M.
testified that Dessarae M. is currently "being held for
child endangerment with bodily intent." Craft testified
that when she spoke with two-year-old J.I.M., he said
"that he was with mean people, that his mother has been
mean to him, [and] that he likes it where he is now."
Craft recognized that J.I.M. has a limited ability to express
his desires and has not been able to say more. According to
Craft, J.I.M. is "currently placed with a maternal
relative" and is bonded with that relative. Adoption is
the future goal. Craft testified that J.I.M. "is very
happy" and "settled in." J.I.M. "is able
to communicate well with the relatives." Craft
He loves to show me his room. He calls it his house, his
dogs. He talks about [he] and his sister living in the home
for quite some time, as much time as a three-year-old can,
you know express. He calls the relatives "Mom" and
"Dad." He is very happy.
testified that the children's current and future needs
will be met at their current placement.
testified that because Dessarae M. has been incarcerated
since she was arrested, Craft had not had an opportunity to
see Dessarae M. with J.I.M. and A.A.M. According to Craft,
Dessarae M. cannot meet the needs of her children. When asked
if Dessarae M. has ever expressed a desire to change her
behaviors, Craft testified that Dessarae M. "has
expressed that she doesn't have any behaviors to
change." According to Craft, Dessarae M. holds this
belief even though she has already had her rights to four
other children terminated in previous cases. In Craft's
opinion, it was in J.I.M. and A.A.M.'s best interest to
have Dessarae M.'s parental rights terminated because
Dessarae M. "has exhibited a pattern of behavior over a
long period of time that has shown that she neither cares nor
is able to meet the needs of her children."
M. testified that on the day in question, she pulled into the
drive-in restaurant to buckle J.I.M. into his car seat:
"He was in the shoulder strap car seat. I also had a
booster seat too in there for him." Dessarae M.
testified J.I.M. "was in the far right back seat, "
and A.A.M. "was in her carrier." Dessarae M. argued
that because she is four feet, nine inches tall, she is
physically incapable of reaching J.I.M. in the back seat to
hit him. According to Dessarae M., she was buckling J.I.M.
into the car seat when she "saw all these cop cars
coming with the ambulance." The officer told her that he
had received a call reporting she "was brutally
attacking [her] son." Dessarae M. told the officer that
she "had proof on [her] phone that [her] son fell the
day before at [her] friend Amanda's house." Dessarae
M. testified, "That could be the mean people he is
saying." Dessarae M. testified that she told the officer
she had not hit J.I.M. but he said "he didn't want
to effing [sic] hear it."
M. testified she has been able to work services while in
jail. She is enrolled in a parenting class, has engaged in
individual and group counseling, and is enrolled in Recovery
in Motion. She testified she was also "taking [her] GED
again." She stated that she is currently being held on
the charge of bodily injury to a child and that bond is set
at $75, 000.
cross-examination, Dessarae M. was questioned about the three
previous cases that resulted in the termination of her
parental rights to four other children. When asked whether
she recalled the types of behaviors she engaged in that led
to the termination of her parental rights, Dessarae M.
replied, "I remember I was taking extensive drug tests
because the dad was on drugs, and I passed all my drug tests.
But, I mean, I guess because the guy kept coming around . . .
." With respect to the first case in 2005, Dessarae M.
was asked whether she disputed "the finding that you
physically abused [your son] by shaking him and slapping him
with your hands that left red marks." Dessarae M.
replied, "I do disagree with that." The State
asked, "Never happened?" Dessarae M. clarified,
"Not from my hand." Dessarae M. was asked whether
she believed the trial court ruled incorrectly in the three
previous cases. Dessarae M. testified, "The court has it
wrong? That is in the CPS reports that the dad kept coming
around, and I was being irresponsible." The State
clarified its question: "Do you think the court got it
wrong that you did endanger your children in three separate
instances prior to this case." Dessarae M. replied,
"Yes, they got it wrong, especially this time."
When asked to explain why she believed the previous courts
had ruled incorrectly, Dessarae M. replied,
Okay. With [E.], I was in jail. and somebody made a report,
and they used that against me. I was already in jail, and
they said I physically abused them after three months in
jail. This time, my son, I thought I found a correct
babysitter. She is a family friend, Amanda. I go to work and
come home, and [J.I.M.] is like scratched up in the face.
M. was asked what she would have done differently in
parenting her four previous children to whom she had lost
parental rights. Dessarae M. replied,
I already have. I would make sure me [sic] and my kids had a
stable home. I had a car this time. I made sure that I stayed
in parenting classes. Of course, I'm not able to bring
proof because I have been in jail since the day that this
happened, but I have a lot of proof of me having a stable
home, stable jobs.
M. was then asked about "the physical abuse"
sustained by her previous four kids. When asked again about
physically abusing her son by shaking him ...