New Mexico police arrested a woman they believe abused her foster child over an extended period of time.
According to the Farmington Daily Times, 53-year-old Hope Graciano faces a total of four felony charges — including one first-degree count — associated with her alleged abuse of the 11-year-old victim.
A licensed foster-care provider for roughly the past two years, police say Graciano abused the child, including one particularly vicious beating about a month ago.
The victim reportedly told investigators earlier this month that the suspect beat him repeatedly with a piece of a bed frame when he answered questions from his math homework incorrectly. It was that incident, police say, that provided the basis for a first-degree felony child abuse charge against Graciano.
Authorities reportedly launched an investigation after she brought the boy to an area hospital following that incident.
According to an affidavit filed in connection with her arrest, Graciano told hospital staff that the child was injured when he hit hit his face on a railroad tie as he played soccer in the front yard a day earlier.
The nature of the child’s injuries struck a physician as suspicious, though, and he reportedly contacted police out of “great concern” that he had been abused.
KOAT reported that the boy had extensive injuries, including two black eyes that were swollen shut.
Court documents indicate Graciano’s account did not match the child’s observable injuries. Furthermore, she reportedly altered her initial story, asserting at one point that the victim fell after tripping over his shoelaces.
Additional charges stem from the suspect allegedly intimidating the child while at the hospital by threatening to kill him if he told anyone that she had abused him.
Dustin O’Brien, the chief deputy district attorney for San Juan County, said prosecutors will present evidence of additional threats Graciano directed at the boy.
While it is unclear how many other children were in Graciano’s home prior to the investigation, Farmington police confirmed all had been removed from her care.
Investigators believe the suspect also forced an 8-year-old girl to perform physically demanding exercises and dragged her by her hair when she was unable to complete them.
Graciano was released on $25,000 bond after appearing in court last week. She is expected to make another appearance for a preliminary hearing late next month.
[Featured image: San Juan County Adult Detention Center]