Death sentence upheld for
Texas mom who killed daughter
September 16, 2011
HOUSTON - The Texas Court of Criminal appeals has
upheld the conviction and death sentence of a Rio Grande Valley woman
condemned for the death of her 2-year-old daughter, one of her nine
Forty-three-year-old Melissa Elizabeth Lucio was
convicted of killing her daughter, Mariah, in 2007.
The woman told authorities the child had fallen
down some stairs but emergency room physicians found she had bruises
covering her body, bite marks on her back, an arm that had been broken
weeks earlier and was missing hair that had been pulled by the roots
from her head. An autopsy showed the girl had been beaten on her head
and the injuries were not caused by a fall down some stairs.
Lucio is one of 10 women on Texas death row.
Lucio formally sentenced to death by lethal
Valley Morning Star
July 22, 2008
BROWNSVILLE - Melissa Elizabeth Lucio was formally
sentenced to death by lethal injection in the 13th Judicial District
Court, according to a Cameron county District Attorney's Office
Lucio, 40, of Harlingen was found guilty of capital
murder for the death of her 21/2-year-old daughter, Mariah Alvarez.
"A jury of 12 good and true citizens of Cameron
County has decided the fate of a convicted capital murderer," said
Chief 1st Assistant Charles E. Mattingly Jr. "Justice was sought in
this case and justice has been delivered."
District Attorney Armando Villalobos and Assistant
District Attorneys Alfredo Padilla, Maria De Ford and Joseph Krippel
secured a conviction on July 8 after a week-long jury trial.
Lucio is the first female in Cameron County history
to be sentenced to death by lethal injection. She will be confined at
Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito until she is transferred
in two to four weeks to the Mountain View Unit of the Texas Department
of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division in Gatesville.
The last time the District Attorney's Office
pursued the death penalty was the John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho
case in 2003.
On February 17, 2007, Harlingen Police found Mariah
Alvarez unresponsive at the family's apartment off of Lee Street.
Alvarez was later transported to the emergency room at Valley Baptist
Medical Center in Harlingen, where she was pronounced dead by medical
Lucio was arrested on February 18, 2007, by the
Harlingen Police Department, indicted on May 16, 2007 and arraigned on
May 31, 2007.
Jury finds Lucio guilty of daughter's death
Valley Morning Star
July 9, 2008
Melissa Elizabeth Lucio burst into tears Tuesday as
a jury in 138th state District Court found her guilty of the beating
death of her 2-year-old daughter.
Lucio, 38, continued to sob as all 12 jurors were
polled and individually told Judge Arturo Cisneros Nelson that they
had voted to find the Harlingen mother guilty of capital murder for
killing Mariah Alvarez on Feb. 17, 2007.
Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos
said he will seek the death penalty today when the punishment phase of
the trial begins at 9 a.m.
It was always the plan of his office to seek the
death penalty against the mother of 14 for battering her little girl
to death, the district attorney said.
"When we started the case, that's why we had to go
through three weeks of (individual interviews of potential jurors),"
Villalobos said, declining to comment further.
During his final argument, lead defense attorney
Peter Gilman said it is not true that his client had confessed to a
Texas Ranger that she had beaten her daughter to death.
"They think they got a confession," Gilman said.
"Nowhere in that statement does it say, I killed my child.' … Three
doctors testified that she could have died from blunt force head
trauma by falling down the stairs."
His client was grilled by police from about 10 p.m.
to 3 a.m. after likely rising at 6 a.m. the day before to take care of
a house full of children, Gilman said. She was not accompanied by a
lawyer, he said.
"My client is not up for Mother of the Year. She's
guilty of child abuse," Gilman said. "But they haven't proved she
intentionally murdered her child."
His client told police she was told Mariah had
fallen down a flight of stairs about 24 hours before her death and
described the exact symptoms she would have suffered from hitting her
head in a fall, Gilman said.
Lucio said she wasn't present when her daughter
fell because the family was moving from an apartment on Madison Avenue
in Harlingen to another apartment on Lee Street, Gilman said.
His client agreed to take a polygraph examination
and police took samples of her hair, fingernail clippings and a DNA
mouth swab, Gilman said. But none of those samples were tested, he
Lead prosecutor Alfredo Padilla urged the jury to
ignore claims that Mariah's death was caused by a fall down some
He asked the jury to review photos that showed her
battered and bruised body and to remember testimony by experienced
doctors who called it the worst case of child abuse they had ever
Assistant DA Maria De Ford asked jurors to use
their common sense and review the long list of bruises, lacerations
and even a broken arm that Mariah suffered during the 88 days that she
lived with her mother after living for 2 years in foster care.
"It was no accident," she said of Mariah's death.
"She beat her; she stomped her; she threw her. … She pinched her
little vagina. What kind of mother does this?"
After the court session ended Tuesday, Sonia
Chavez, Lucio's younger sister, told a reporter that she found it was
curious that the courtroom was filled with Child Protective Service
workers during the entire trial.
"When we were conducting the funeral (for Mariah),
there were lots of CPS people there," Chavez said. "Why were they all
here and at the funeral when there are so many children who need
protection and families that need help?"
Chavez also said that a Harlingen police detective
was lying when he testified that he had heard Lucio say during a
cellular phone call that it was she, not her husband, who killed
"She was making that call to me," Chavez said.
"(Lucio) never said those things he said she did."
Lucio's husband, Robert Antonio Alvarez, 37, will
stand trial separately for injury to a child by omission, prosecutors
Detective: Lucio admitted to beating daughter
July 2, 2008
A Harlingen detective on Tuesday testified that he overheard Melissa
Elizabeth Lucio admit that she was responsible for the beating death
of her 2 1/2-year-old daughter.
Lucio is charged
with capital murder in the Feb. 17, 2007, death of Mariah Alvarez.
Officer Robert Muoz testified that he and another officer were driving
Lucio and her husband to a Brownsville dentist and that Lucio was
allowed to make a call on a cell phone at that time.
He said he heard Lucio say, "Don't blame Robert. This was me. I did
Lucio and her husband Roberto Antonio Alvarez
were to have casts made of their teeth, to compare to bite marks found
on Mariah's back, the officer said.
of the child's body, covered with new and old bruises and other
injuries, were presented to the jury.
attacked Lucio's statement to police that the little girl fell down a
flight of outside stairs at the family's former apartment on Madison
Lawyers on both sides of the case said Lucio
has had 14 children, the oldest of which are now adults and the
youngest were Mariah and a set of twins born in jail after she was
arrested on the capital murder charge.
Lucio, 38, could face the death penalty or from 5 to 99 years in
Defense attorney Peter Gilman hammered
detectives and a Child Protective Service worker during their turns on
the witness stand.
Harlingen Police Detective
Rebecca Cruz, who was in charge of all the evidence in the case, was
asked by Gilman whether any tests were made on soft drink cans, a
spoon with alleged cocaine residue and baking soda found together in
an apartment on Madison Avenue in Harlingen.
and her family had vacated the apartment. Police searched it and the
apartment on West Lee Street where Mariah was found dead by police and
paramedics, but no laboratory tests were ordered of the alleged drug
residue visible in police photos. Neither Lucio nor her husband was
tested for drugs, Gilman said.
Cruz also admitted
hair and fingernail clippings taken from Lucio were never sent to a
laboratory for testing.
No dental impressions were
taken from any of the older children in the family, Gilman was told.
Texas Ranger Victor Escalon Jr. testified that when he helped
interview Lucio at the Harlingen police station the evening after the
toddler died, Lucio changed her story until she admitted beating the
girl to death.
Under questioning by Cameron County
District Attorney Armando Villalobos, Escalon testified that Lucio was
given a child's baby doll to demonstrate what she had done and showed
how she beat the child on the back of the head and shook her violently
from side to side.
"You're adding things other than
what the video shows," Gilman said loudly to the ranger. "You're just
making that up. That's a bunch of baloney. She didn't say she shook
(Mariah) from side to side. You don't have any evidence of Melissa
shaking Mariah or throwing her."
the only proof he had was from Lucio's admissions during questioning
at the police station from 10 p.m. to about 3:30 a.m.
CPS caseworker Jo Ann Estrada testified that she was not completely
familiar with the background of the case but had worked extensively
with the family after the 2007 death of Mariah.
refuted Gilman's claims that some of Lucio's older children were
unruly and hard to handle by foster parents.
questioned why the CPS was trying to permanently revoke Lucio's
parental rights but at the same time arranged parental visits with her
children, including weekly visits with her newborn twins.
Estrada said CPS was complying with a court order. State District
Judge Arturo Cisneros Nelson told jurors it was not his order.
Nelson told the jury that they will have today off because of
scheduling problems for witnesses.
will testify Thursday and then defense attorneys will being
questioning their witnesses and presenting evidence on Monday, the