LAS CRUCES — The biological mother of an 8-year-old Las Cruces girl left alone last week in what police described as a wooden cage had expressed, several years ago, concern that her child could be abused.
In 2007, when the child was a toddler, her paternal aunt, Cindy Patriarchias of Las Cruces, filed for kinship guardianship, according to 3rd Judicial District Court documents. The petition states that the child, then 2, had lived with Patriarchias nearly all of her young life.
In her response to the petition, the mother of the girl noted she was "fearful" that Patriarchias "is or will become physically and verbally abusive" toward the girl, who is developmentally delayed.
Due to an undisclosed disability, the mother also said she had lived with Patriarchias until June 2006 when she had been hospitalized for "suicidal thoughts" brought on by "neglect and abuse at the hands of (Patriarchias)."
A psychiatrist treating the girl's mother addressed those claims in a letter he wrote about her, one that accompanies court records. In it, he describes the woman as "mentally incapacitated."
Regarding the abuse charges, the psychiatrist wrote that there are "discrepancies and inconsistencies" in the woman's claims. However, the doctor added that that those allegations "cannot completely be ruled out either."
Police on Friday arrested Patriarchias, 33, and her live-in boyfriend Edmond Gonzales, 37.
Patriarchias had worked as a part-time lunch monitor and volunteered at Columbia Elementary. A Las Cruces Public Schools officials said she has been terminated from both roles — though she had pass all LCPS background checks prior to employment.
In 2007 District Judge James T. Martin issued an order granting Patriarchias kinship guardianship of her niece, who has microcephaly, a rare neurological condition which diminishes mental and physical abilities, court records state.
The girl had been placed there, court records state, by Child Protection Services in 2005.
According to the criminal complaint, Patriarchias' estranged husband told police he built the "wooden cage" to protect the girl. She had a tendency, the husband said, to get into household chemicals and cabinets at night.
A few days after he and Patriarchias separated, Gonzales moved into the family's mobile home on the 100 block of Mohawk.
Gonzales is still jailed at the Doña Ana County Detention Center, held on no bond because of a probation violation. In the past five years he has pleaded guilty to unauthorized use or theft of a credit card and no contest to trafficking of a controlled substance.
Patriarchias is free after posting her $8,000 secured bond. She could not be reached for comment.
The girl's biological father, Michael Lewelling, agreed to suspend his parental rights as part of the kinship guardianship proceedings, court records state.
In November a Doña Ana County grand jury indicted Lewelling, of Chaparral, for child abuse. Lewelling allegedly struck his 4-year-old son in the face multiple times, according to court documents.
James Staley may be reached at 575-541-5476. Follow him on Twitter @auguststaley.