GERING (AP) — A Scottsbluff woman accused of child abuse testified on Friday that she and her husband are innocent and have been robbed of their family.
“Everything was taken away due to false allegations,” said Jennifer Herrera about what happened to her and her husband, Carlos.
The couple is charged with child abuse resulting in serious injury. Their trial began Monday and closing arguments were expected later Friday.
Defense attorneys said child services officials forced the couple’s children, including a daughter, to believe abuse was taking place.
“She looked like a zombie,” Jennifer Herrera said of her daughter’s testimony. “... That is not my baby. She was forced to say those things.”
Relatives testified Thursday that they’d never seen any abuse in the Herreras’ home. Carlos Herrera’s father, Ernie Herrera, and two sisters, Liza Arambaru and Monica Dominguez, said they saw the normal scratches, bumps and bruises one would find on any child.
Dominguez described her brother as “a good dad and a good husband.”
“He does what he can for his family,” Dominguez said, adding that both Herreras are “very loving parents and try their best for their children.”
Prosecutors have said police and child services officials began investigating the Herreras in October 2011, when the 5-year-old boy missed school after showing up with injuries.
The Herreras tried to conceal the boy’s whereabouts when officers went to check on the child, police said. He had the imprint of a shoe or flip-flop across his face, a black eye, bruising to the center of his forehead and a severe rash when found, officers said. The boy was removed from the Herreras’ home and placed in state custody.
Prosecutors also said the boy suffered extreme neglect and malnutrition, citing his lack of growth among other signs.
Scotts Bluff County District Court Judge Leo denied a defense motion on Thursday for the judge to decide the case instead of the jury.
Defense lawyers had cited testimony from Dr. Suzanne Haney, who said the boy’s growth had begun to plateau after being returned to his parents after living in Kansas. The defense said that any injury to the child — his lack of growth and the beginning stages of what’s been diagnosed as psychosocial dwarfism — would have begun in Kansas and thus beyond Nebraska’s jurisdiction.
Jennifer Herrera, on the stand Friday, said she did not know the cause of her son’s injuries.
“I am not a child abuser,” she said.