A Texas man whose girlfriend’s daughter was found dead in a closet has said he turned himself in, and claims he had nothing to do with the 5-year-old girl’s death.
KSDK reports that Santiago Esparza Jr. was arrested on Friday night after Houston police issued a warrant for his arrest, suggesting in a public alert that authorities considered the suspect a possible flight risk. As CrimeOnline previously reported, Priscilla Torres, 27, was arrested last week on charges of tampering with evidence after police responded to a welfare check request at her apartment and found her daughter, Sierra Patino, dead in a closet.
Esparza is now facing the same charge as Torres, and authorities are continuing to investigate the incident to determine the cause of death. It is not clear from local reports exactly how Esparza was apprehended, but he claimed in a jailhouse interview with KSDK that he turned himself in — and denied Torres’ reported claims that he was involved in Sierra’s death.
“I turned myself in,” Esparza told the news station. “I wouldn’t be here if I was guilty. I’d be long gone. I turned myself in to face this because I didn’t do what she said I did. I’m here to face all this.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Torres gave police conflicting accounts about the circumstances of her daughter’s death, but at one point told police that Sierra appeared to have been harmed after Esparza gave her a bath, when the mother noticed possible chemical burns on the girl’s skins. In another account, Torres reportedly said that she had been giving the girl a bath when a bottle of toilet cleaner fell into the tub.
“Why would I give that girl a bath?” Esparza said in the interview with KSDK. “I didn’t give that girl a bath. Would you let me give your daughter a bath? No, right? Then why would I give her daughter a bath?”
Esparza is believed to be a gang member, and has a criminal history, including a conviction for hurting his own son, the news station reports.
Asked by a reporter why Torres had blamed him for her daughter’s death, Esparza said, “I don’t know. She’s obsessed with me.”
Both suspects remain in custody.
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