IN RE L. M. M., A CHILD
Appeal from the 257th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2015-17733
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Brown and
Radack Chief Justice
an appeal from an order terminating Mother's parental
rights to her minor son, L.M.M., on the grounds that she
"knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to
remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the
physical or emotional well-being of the child, " and
that termination was in the child's best interest.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D),
(b)(2). We affirm.
sustained serious injuries that were first referred to the
Department of Family Protective Services on April 2, 2015,
when L.M.M. was 7 months old. Mother denied injuring him and
denied any knowledge about the source of the injuries. On
April 29, 2015, the Department filed a suit for protection
and was granted temporary managing conservatorship. L.M.M.
was placed with his Aunt and Uncle, where he has since
remained, and they would like to adopt him.
November 22, 2016, a trial was held on the Department's
petition to terminate Mother's and Father's parental
rights that centered largely on evidence about who L.M.M. had
been left with who might have repeatedly injured him. The
trial court terminated both Mother's and Father's
parental rights. Only Mother appealed, challenging the
sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's
September - November, 2014
was born on September 1, 2014. For the first three months,
Mother lived in an apartment with her mother, Vickie, and
L.M.M. Father was not present in Mother's or L.M.M.'s
life. Mother did not work and was L.M.M.'s primary
caregiver. Mother testified that Vickie was a cook for a Head
Start program. Mother did not have her own transportation,
but often she and L.M.M. would go to work with Vickie.
Sometimes Mother would leave L.M.M. there to be taken care of
by Vickie and Vickie's co-workers. Mother believed L.M.M.
was well-taken care of there. She testified that, when she
would return, L.M.M. would be "laughing and giggling and
looking around like a happy baby." During this time,
Mother testified that she never observed any injuries on
also testified that she never observed any injuries on L.M.M.
during this period that they lived together.
supervisor B. Turner, also testified about keeping L.M.M. for
Mother at Vickie's workplace. Turner "always
observed [Mother] as a loving and caring mom, and she always
was protective of [L.M.M.]." Turner testified that
L.M.M. was always supervised and well taken care of when he
was at their workplace. Turner never saw any marks or bruises
of Vickie's co-workers, E. Gamble, likewise testified
that she observed Mother being loving, caring, and
affectionate towards L.M.M. Gamble never observed L.M.M. with
met Reynaldo, her cousin's husband, in October of 2014.
They started dating shortly after they met.
B. December 2014 - January 2015
moved out after November 2014. Mother and L.M.M. then lived
alone together in the apartment in December 2015 and January
2016. In January, Mother got a job with Dish Network. Mother
testified that, when she started work, Lisa-who she
identified as her pastor's wife-took care of L.M.M.
Mother selected Lisa to take care of L.M.M. because "she
stayed at home, and she was a loving, caring person."
During the month that Lisa cared for L.L.M., Mother never
noticed any "type of injury or any signs that he had, in
anyway, been harmed."
likewise testified that, during the approximately four weeks
she kept L.M.M. while Mother was at work, L.M.M. was
"clean and healthy and happy and well-fed and taken care
of." He was "growing and developing fine."
Mother always provided anything L.M.M. needed, and Lisa saw
Mother being a "very attentive, good mommy."
beginning of February 2015, Mother decided to have her family
take care of L.M.M. instead of Lisa to save money.
Mother's sister, Markisha, and Vickie would take turns
keeping L.M.M. while Mother was at work.
and Vickie testified that they did not notice any injuries on
L.M.M. during February 2016. Vickie testified that Mother was
a nurturing mother, and Markisha testified that L.M.M.
"was well taken care of." Both Vickie and Markisha
have seen Mother interact with her nephews and believe that
she is good with kids.
change in February 2015 was that Mother and L.M.M. moved from
their apartment into Reynaldo's house, where they lived
with several of Reynaldo's relatives. Living in the house
were Reynaldo, Reynaldo's mother (Helen), Reynaldo's
father (Carmen), Reynaldo's sister (Arely),
Reynaldo's sister (Ester), Ester's husband (Jiro),
and Ester's son (Mason).
testified that, on February 9, 2015, she went to work and
Reynaldo stayed at home with L.M.M. When Mother returned home
that day, five people were there-Reynaldo, L.M.M., Ester,
Mason, and Helen.
15 minutes after Mother arrived home on February 9, she
noticed L.M.M.'s head was bulging at its "soft
spot." Reynaldo had to take a younger sister Arely
somewhere, so Helen drove Mother and L.M.M. to the Memorial
Hermann Hospital emergency room. Mother testified that a
nurse diagnosed L.M.M. with a mild respiratory infection, and
told her to have the pediatrician look at his bulging
fontanel if it did not go down in three to five days.
Hermann's records of this visit were entered into
evidence at trial. L.M.M. presented with a 101.3 fever. The
records identified the "Chief Complaint" as
"fever, fuzzy since yesterday and mother noticed bulging
fontanel today." The reason for the visit was identified
as "Fever." The medical exam summary and discharge
notes did not indicate identify any additional injuries or
medical problems. Mother testified that she did not follow up
with the pediatrician because the bulge had gone down the
testified that, sometime mid-March, 2015, she noticed a rash
"on the top of [L.M.M.'s] private area." She
took him to the doctor, who prescribed medication and told
her to follow up in three days. No medical records were
introduced at trial from this episode, but hospital records
from a later visit note that Mother and Reynaldo report this
history as "a blister on [L.M.M.]'s penis."
immediately, Mother noticed faint red marks on L.L.M.'s
hands and feet. She testified that she took pictures to show
the doctor at the follow-up appointment from L.M.M.'s
rash. L.M.M. did not appear distressed at having his hands
and feet examined by the doctor. Mother believed L.M.M. was
having a reaction to the medication he was recently
prescribed. No medical records were introduced at trial from
this episode, but the Department's notes from contact
with the doctor's office indicate no concerns about
L.M.M., and that no signs of abuse or neglect were noted at
testified that, later in March, she went for a walk with
L.M.M. and noticed he had a bump on his forehead. She had the
impression the bump was a mosquito bite because Mother would
"welt up" when bitten as a child. She took a
picture and called her mother Vickie for advice. Mother
testified that she followed Vickie's advice to wipe the
bump down with alcohol, change L.M.M.'s sheets and wipe
down his bed. The bump receded within a couple of hours, and
Mother testified that she did not see any additional bumps,
so she did not seek medical care. Later hospital records note
Mother and Reynaldo described this as "two bumps and
bruises on [L.M.M.'s] forehead for which she took
pictures but did not receive medical care" in reporting
L.M.M.'s medical history.
testified that she did not work in March, so she was
"full-time taking care of" L.M.M. She and Reynaldo,
however, did go out apartment hunting two times a week
without L.M.M. These times, L.M.M. would stay with
Reynaldo's sister, Ester.
April - May 2015
testified that, on April 1, 2015, Helen asked Mother to pick
up Arely from school. L.M.M. stayed with Helen and Ester.
Mother returned with Arely about one hour later. Mother
testified that L.M.M. was sleeping, and Helen and Ester said
they would bring him to Mother in her bedroom when he woke
up. A few minutes later, Ester brought L.M.M. in. He was
crying. Mother soothed him, and she and L.M.M. then took a
nap together. Mother testified that L.M.M. had not been
feeling well; he was spitting up and losing weight. She
attributed this to his transition from breast milk to
formula. When Mother woke up, Reynaldo was holding L.M.M.
Mother went to take a shower.
matter of minutes, Reynaldo came into the bathroom carrying
L.M.M. and said, "there is something wrong with
[him]." Mother saw L.L.M. was not moving and was barely
breathing. Mother testified that, when she asked Reynaldo
what happened, he said L.M.M. had been fine when Mother left
the room, then L.M.M. was gassy, and then went limp and was
and Mother took L.M.M. to the emergency room at West Houston
Medical Center. He was lethargic with a slow pulse and
breathing. A CAT scan there revealed "bilateral subdural
hematomas, " i.e., bleeding of the brain. L.M.M. was
transferred by ambulance to Texas Children's Hospital for
more intensive care.
tests run at Texas Children's Hospital revealed extensive
injuries, some of which L.M.M. will never recover from,
characterized as likely related to "nonaccidental
trauma" and "consistent with child abuse."
Injuries identified by the hospital included (1) several
brain hemorrhages (of varying ages) and fresh blood in the
brain, (2) at least 20 broken bones throughout L.M.M.'s
body (also of varying ages), (3) multiple fractures in the
hands and feet (likely caused by squeezing or closing of the
fingers), and (4) broken blood vessels at the pinky.
Department began an investigation into L.M.M.'s injuries
when he was hospitalized and Texas Children's recognized
that his injuries were likely caused by abuse. It was not
able to determine who was responsible for the abuse.
more than a month of intensive treatment, L.M.M. was
discharged from Texas Children's Hospital on May 9, 2015.
The discharge notes contain the following summaries of the
Diagnoses: Principal Problem:
Non-accidental traumatic injury to child Active Problems:
Bilateral subdural hematoma
Fracture of arm, multiple, ...