Updated: Friday, 22 Jun 2012, 1:50 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 22 Jun 2012, 7:05 AM EDT
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The beating death of a 3-year-old girl could have been prevented if Windham Hospital doctors had not missed signs of previous abuse during an earlier hospital visit, according to the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families.
Hospital staff treated Athena Angeles for a cut to the head on the morning of Nov. 23. She was rushed back to the hospital later that night and died from blunt abdominal and chest trauma. Her mother and her mother's boyfriend are charged with manslaughter.
The Hartford Courant reports that DCF Commissioner Joette Katz believes Athena would be alive today if doctors had noticed previous bruising during the earlier hospital visit.
"Had they looked at their records and seen the prior bruises and done a body examination and seen more recent bruises, my thoughts are that this child would be alive today," Katz said.
The hospital said it is working to improve the way it handles young patients.
"Our sympathies are with the family during this time. Clearly, we are troubled by this tragic incident which has motivated us to improve and develop a better process to identify and protect children who are at risk of abuse," hospital spokeswoman Heather Tindall said in a written statement.
The girl's death prompted Katz to seek improvements in hospitals' screening of abuse cases. The commissioner has been working with Dr. Lenworth M. Jacobs of Hartford Hospital, chairman of the Connecticut State Committee on Trauma, to develop new guidelines for handling children who are treated for injuries at emergency rooms.
The child protection agency became involved with the family after Athena was taken to a Willimantic health clinic on Oct. 18 with two black eyes and a cut on her nose. A doctor referred the case to DCF.
The girl's mother, Rosa Gladis Diaz-Mendez, and her boyfriend, Fredy Alexander-Chingo Riz, have been charged with manslaughter in Athena's death.
Riz told police that he was angry at the girl for not eating when he punched her on Nov. 22, causing her to strike her head on a bathroom sink, according to an arrest warrant. She received two staples at the hospital that night.
In the hours before her death on the following day, Riz said, he punched Athena again in the stomach and ribs, causing her to fall backward into a closet door.
Information from: The Hartford Courant