SALINAS (CBS SF) — The grandmother of a 10-month-old girl found dead Tuesday said her daughter’s boyfriend took the baby with him on Feb. 2 to watch the Super Bowl at his Castroville home but never bought her back before he was arrested on suspicion of the baby’s murder.
Pompey Morales said Jesus “Jessie” Espinoza and his daughter Linda Espinoza kept her granddaughter for nearly two weeks and “kept making excuses, they were going to Disneyland, this and that.”
The Espinozas stayed in contact with Morales by text message, saying they were at Disneyland and “don’t worry, that they were having fun.”
“He was supposed to be back (this) Sunday, but he didn’t show up,” Morales said. “On Saturday night, she (Linda) confessed they never went nowhere.”
Morales said she and her Castroville family were devastated to learn Tuesday about the death of Angelle Jenisis Negron, the 10-month-old daughter of Morales’ daughter Susan, who is in a rehab facility for substance abuse.
The girl’s body was located at 9 a.m. Tuesday hidden under some brush off of Market Street near Davis Road just outside of the Salinas city limits, according to Monterey County sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Kaiser.
The body was found three days after the girl’s family reported her missing, Sheriff Scott Miller said at a news conference in Salinas Tuesday.
Jesus Espinoza, 47, was arrested at 5:30 p.m. Monday by Los Angeles police, aided by FBI agents from Los Angeles and Watsonville, in the area of Maple and Seventh Streets in Los Angeles and transported to the Monterey County Jail in Salinas, Kaiser said.
He was booked into jail at 12:35 p.m. Tuesday on suspicion of murder, child endangerment and child stealing in Angelle’s disappearance, according to a jail employee.
An autopsy on the girl’s body will be performed Wednesday, Kaiser said.
“We had to ID (the baby’s body),” Morales said. “We never thought this would happen to our grandchild. We have to stay strong.”
Morales said the family is waiting for the autopsy to learn the cause of the girl’s death and when she died, but “it had to be recently, she wasn’t decomposed. She was fresh faced. It had to be within a couple of days.”
Linda Espinoza had promised she and her father would have Angelle back by Sunday at 8 a.m., Morales said.
But on Saturday, after confessing they never went to Disneyland, Linda filed a report with sheriff’s deputies that her father had abused the girl, Morales said.
Linda sent a text with a blown-up picture allegedly showing Angelle with a black eye, Morales said.
“She confessed and said that she wasn’t going to cover up anymore for her dad’s lies,” Morales said. “We didn’t know where Angelle was at.”
The family put up fliers about the missing girl around Castroville and people told her that Jesus “was a good person” and wouldn’t harm her, Morales said.
Then a relative posted on Facebook that she had seen Jesus at a Greyhound bus stop in Salinas by himself just after midnight Sunday with two duffle bags, she said.
Espinoza, who had been dating Susan Morales for less than six months, often asked to take Angelle out of the house for brief outings and the family trusted him, Morales said.
“When he came here, he would be nice,” she said. “He bonded with the baby. We didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary, until he didn’t bring her back.”
“I just want him to be punished,” the grandmother said. “She did not deserve that kind of death. I just want justice for my granddaughter.”
After his arrest, Espinoza described for authorities a general location where the girl’s body might be found that led to its discovery, Miller said.
Deputies made a statewide announcement to authorities on Sunday to be on the lookout for the girl but the department did not issue an Amber Alert to the public, Miller said.
During the search on Sunday, deputies learned that Espinoza might have been en route to Mexico, Miller said.
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