Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
IN THE INTEREST OF O.E.R. AND L.F.J., CHILDREN.
from the 109th District Court of Andrews County, Texas (TC#
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
Crawford McClure, Chief Justice.
a termination of parental rights appeal brought by the mother
of two children and the father of one of those children.
V.M.N. appeals from the judgment terminating her parental
rights to O.E.R. and L.F.J. L.J. appeals the portion of the
judgment terminating his parental rights to L.F.J. The trial
court also terminated the parental rights of M.D.R. to
O.E.R., but he has not appealed. We affirm.
Department first became involved with Vicky and the
children on August 20, 2016 when it received a
report of neglectful supervision. Vicky allowed her abusive
ex-boyfriend, Cory Sanchez, to watch both children even
though Vicky knew the children were afraid of him and Sanchez
was not allowed unsupervised contact with his own children.
During one of those visits, eight-month-old L.F.J. suffered a
serious brain injury. In her trial testimony, Vicky denied
ever letting Sanchez watch the children. She claimed that
they were getting ready for a birthday party and she left
L.F.J. asleep on the couch at Sanchez's house for twenty
minutes while she gave other family members a ride home. When
Vicky returned to pick up L.F.J., Sanchez had the child in
his arms and she was not breathing. At the hospital, it was
determined that L.F.J. had bleeding in the brain and she had
to be transported to a hospital in Lubbock. Sanchez told
Vicky that L.F.J. must have fallen off the couch, but one of
the doctors told her that the serious injuries could not have
been caused by a fall from the couch.
was arrested for injury to a child and both children were
removed from Vicky's care due to neglectful supervision.
The Department became the temporary managing conservator of
the children and L.F.J. was placed with Larry. Vicky
completed reunification services, including a Dynamics of
Domestic Violence class and a Protective Parenting class, and
the children were subsequently returned to her.
little more than a year later, the Department received a
report indicating that Vicky may have physically abused
O.E.R. who was nearly five-years-old. The child was sent home
from school on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 for bad behavior
and he did not attend school the following day. When O.E.R.
returned to school on September 15, he had what appeared to
be handprints on both sides of his face and he demonstrated
how his mother had hit him. O.E.R. also told school personnel
that his tooth hurt and it broke when his mother hit him.
After receiving the report, a case worker, Kimberly Salaam,
went to the home and spoke with Vicky. When Salaam attempted
to speak with O.E.R. alone, Vicky refused to leave the room.
Salaam ended the interview. On Monday, September 18, Salaam
interviewed O.E.R. at school, and he stated, while pointing
to both of his cheeks, that his mother had hit him in the
face. O.E.R. demonstrated how his mother had hit him with an
open hand. The bruising was still visible on O.E.R.'s
face and one of his teeth was chipped. O.E.R. additionally
stated that Vicky had choked him with her hands.
interviewed Vicky later that same day. She admitted spanking
O.E.R. on the buttocks but denied striking his face. When
asked about the bruising on O.E.R.'s face that looked
like handprints, Vicky suggested that it might have happened
when he got his head stuck in a chair. O.E.R. showed both
Salaam and his mother the chipped tooth, but Vicky said the
tooth had been like that for a long time.
September 20, 2017, O.E.R. was interviewed at the Andrews
Child Advocacy Center by forensic interviewer Kelli Crouse.
O.E.R. not only stated that his mother had hit him, he
demonstrated how she slapped him with an open hand. Vicky was
arrested on outstanding warrants and for injury to a child.
September 21, 2017, the Department filed a petition seeking
to terminate the parental rights of Vicky to O.E.R and L.F.J.
The petition also sought termination of the parental rights
of O.E.R.'s father, Marvin, and L.F.J.'s father,
Larry. The trial court entered an emergency order removing
the children and naming the Department as the temporary
managing conservator. O.E.R. was placed with his paternal
aunt, "Linda." L.F.J. was initially placed with her
father, Larry, but the Department removed her in July 2018
and placed her with Linda after Larry tested positive for
cocaine and marijuana. Vicky did not inform the Department
that Larry had been violent during their relationship. The
Department subsequently learned that Larry had been allowing
Vicky to have unsupervised visits with L.F.J. while she was
in his care.
Department developed service plans for Vicky and Larry. Vicky
was required to complete a psychological evaluation and to
follow all recommendations resulting from the evaluation.
Additionally, she was required to complete domestic violence
counseling and parenting classes. The service plan also
required Vicky to maintain employment and provide a safe and
stable home environment for the children. Vicky did not
complete either the trauma counseling with Teresa Valero or
the parenting classes. Further, she was not employed at the
time of trial and did not have a stable home for the
service plan required him to maintain employment, provide a
safe and stable home environment for L.F.J., to complete
parenting classes, and to abstain from the use of illegal
drugs. He was also required to submit to random drug testing.
Larry failed to complete the Daddy & Me program which is
a parenting/substance abuse program. He also tested positive
for cocaine and marijuana resulting in the removal of L.F.J.
from his care while the case was pending.
10, 2018, Vicky waived her right to a jury trial and entered
a negotiated guilty plea to the injury to a child charge. The
court assessed her punishment at imprisonment for six years,
but suspended the sentence and placed her on community
supervision for four years. The trial court conducted the
bench trial in the termination case on September 20, 2018.
evidence at trial showed that Vicky's had a series of
romantic relationships with abusive men. O.E.R.'s father,
Marvin, physically abused Vicky by pushing her against walls
and punching her, and he went so far as to
"body-slam" her while she was pregnant with O.E.R.
Vicky described Marvin as "really aggressive,"
"very violent physically," and emotionally abusive.
Vicky was involved with Marvin for several years and she
continued her relationship with him for "a little
while" after O.E.R. was born. Marvin abused Vicky in
O.E.R.'s presence. On one occasion, Marvin attempted to
leave with O.E.R., and when Vicky attempted to stop him, he
ending the relationship with Marvin, Vicky began dating
Larry. According to Vicky, Larry was both physically and
mentally abusive, and he frequently pushed, choked, and
yelled at her. On the night Vicky found out she was pregnant
with L.F.J., Larry beat Vicky and left her face black and
blue. She did not call the police because she was afraid.
Larry left Vicky one week after they found out she was
pregnant. O.E.R. witnessed a significant amount of the
domestic violence committed by Larry. Vicky admitted that
witnessing domestic violence is damaging to a small child.
dated Sanchez for several months before he injured L.F.J.
When Sanchez became angry, he would kick and punch the walls
and verbally abuse her. He began this behavior shortly after
he began living with her, but she continued to allow him to
live with her and the children. Vicky acknowledged that
allowing Sanchez to live with her was endangering to the
her testimony, Vicky admitted that she had slapped O.E.R.
hard enough to leave a bruise on his face, but she denied
breaking his tooth or choking him. Vicky participated in six
trauma counseling sessions with Teresa Valero between July
2018 and August 31, 2018, but she did not complete the
counseling. Vicky discussed the domestic violence she
experienced as a child at the hands of her mother and her
mother's boyfriend. She recognized that she was repeating
the pattern with her own children. Vicky admitted slapping
O.E.R. but continued to deny choking him. She also expressed
to Valero that O.E.R.'s aggressive behavior triggered her
memories of Larry's abusive behavior. Vicky ...