DA releases arrest affidavit in death of 23-month-old girl in Conejos County

ALAMOSA — Details are emerging in the Feb. 3 death of a 23-month-old girl in Conejos County. Following an investigation conducted by the Conejos County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) with assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the girl’s babysitter, Denise Cordova, was taken into custody on Friday, Feb. 24, by CCSO. Cordova, 47, is facing charges of murder in the first degree and abuse of a child.

According to court documents released by the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to the Valley Courier, at 3:03 p.m. on the afternoon of Jan. 31, Lt. Antonio Galvez with the Conejos County Sheriff’s Office responded to 16625 County Road W.5 in Conejos County in response to a 911 call from a woman who said her little girl was not breathing.

When Galvez arrived at the house, EMS was already on the scene. The child’s mother, whose name is not being released, and Cordova were in the house. Galvez assisted with loading the little girl into the ambulance, noting that he could see “swelling and bruises” on the child’s face.

Galvez also noted that Cordova was “yelling and trying to explain what happened,” stating the toddler had “stood up in the stroller and fallen face-first on the ground.”

Galvez further reports that, while he was in the ambulance, Cordova came to the window and said that the girl “kept losing consciousness” after the fall, so she “kept hitting her on the back” and “if there were any marks, that’s where they had come from.”

Galvez and the child’s mother went with the girl in the ambulance that transported her to Conejos County Hospital. Once there, the child’s mother told hospital staff she had been at work when she got a call from Cordova that something had happened. When she got to her house, she found her daughter being “held up” by Cordova who was on the couch. She said her daughter was not breathing, and she immediately called 911. That call was received at 3:03 p.m. Cordova had told the girl’s mother that the incident had happened at 2:53 p.m.

Meanwhile, a CCSOP deputy and sergeant stayed on the scene with Cordova. The sergeant later reported that Cordova smelled of alcohol and had become “difficult to speak with.”

Due to the toddler’s critical condition, she was then flown to Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs where medical staff told Galvez that the child’s injuries were not consistent with a fall from a stroller, an assessment that was supported by one of the surgeons at the hospital.

At that point, Sheriff Garth Crowther was contacted and, with assistance from CBI, CCSO launched an investigation into the incident.

That investigation, conducted over days, revealed significant contradictions and inconsistencies in Cordova’s account of what happened.

A deputy reported that Cordova said she had taken the little girl in her stroller for a walk down County Road W.5 toward County Road 16.9 in Conejos County. They were on County Road 16.9 when, Cordova said, the little girl got excited at seeing sheep in a nearby pasture, tried to stand up on the footrest of the stroller and then fell from the stroller landing face first on the ground. Cordova drew a map for the deputies, showing the route she had taken with the child.

Back on the scene several hours later, Lt. Galvez drove the route Cordova said she travelled to where he noticed a house located right next to where the incident allegedly occurred. The house had a clear view from its front door of County Road W.5 and “windows all around the house.”

Galvez learned the resident of the house had a motion-activated “camera in the window facing County Road W.5 that would catch any traffic on the road.” Upon reviewing footage captured by the camera from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — the timeframe during which Cordova said the incident took place — Galvez says there was no footage of Cordova with a little girl in a stroller on the road. The camera picked up all the traffic that was on the road, Galvez wrote, but no footage of where Cordova claimed she and the little girl in the stroller were walking.

There were also other inconsistencies in Cordova’s account. In text messages retrieved by CCSO on Cordova’s phone, she writes that the straps on the stroller “broke,” which accounted for her falling from the stroller.

When it was learned that the stroller was at Cordova’s house, a deputy recovered the stroller and brought it to CCSO where it was examined. Galvez writes the straps were not “frayed” but seemed to be cut with a sharp object. “I was unable to see any other evidence on the stroller consistent with the account.”

Text messages on Cordova’s phone also show inconsistencies in both timing and her talking about events sometimes in the past tense and other times in the present.

On Feb. 2, a team comprised of CCSO, DSS, CBI and the Conejos County prosecutor for the DA’s office had a Zoom call with Children’s Hospital staff. At that time, they were informed that the little girl’s condition was extremely critical and due to the extent of trauma to her head, it was not likely she would survive.

That proved true as, at 6:15 a.m. on Feb. 3, the 23-month-old girl was pronounced deceased.

Of all the information in the document released by the DA’s office, the statements noted by the CBI agent reviewing the medical chart are the most conclusive. Among those notations in the medical chart are 12 different statements from a total of six doctors involved in the little girl’s medical care, referencing child abuse or “non-accidental trauma.”

“The patient’s severity of injury does not match the reported story of the mechanism of injury, concern for abusive head trauma,” wrote Dr. Miya.

Cordova is currently being held in the Conejos County Jail with a $1 million bond.