Bakersfield police report: girl who was abused is mentally challenged

A 5 year-old girl is in critical condition. Doctors say she is a victim of physical abuse over an extended period of time.
BAKERSFIELD, CA - A five-year-old girl continues to fight for her life. Bakersfield police said she suffered severe abuse at the hands of her father and stepmother for a long time inside their home on Cedar Street.

The investigation documents said paramedics and police found the daughter of Jesse Brown and Virginia Rodriguez unresponsive, naked, and wet on the bathroom floor.

Her parents told detectives they thought she fell taking a shower, but doctors found several life-threatening head injuries, cigarette burns, and older bruises on her body. She also appeared malnourished, weighing just 25 pounds.

Police said the other four children in the house were unharmed.

During the second interrogation, the report showed Brown and Rodriguez said the girl was mentally challenged and was hard to control. She would eat trash and feces, but traditional punishments wouldn't work. Brown would hit her with a belt or make her stand in the corner to perform squat exercises for hours. One witness said the girl was locked in the closet and refused to use the bathroom.

"People don't understand that you can't beat who they are out of a child," said H.E.A.R.T.S Connection Program Coordinator Dian Schneider. "You have to change your behavior first."

Schneider is a mother with a mentally challenged son. She co-founded H.E.A.R.T.S Connection as a family resource center. Parents who need help can join without a referral and for free.

"First, I would hook you up with another family for support," said Schneider on the services offered at H.E.A.R.T.S.

"We have trainings that we do with families. There are many people out there that would more than love to come and help these families out. They can get in-home behavior support. There's quite a process that they need to go through, but it's well worth it."

Families can also call the 2-1-1 hotline any time of day or night to find help.

"You sometimes wish you could do more for these families, especially as they tell you their stories, but since we are a call center," said 211 specialist Susanna Arevalo. "We try to assist them as best we can with the resources that we do have."

2-1-1 will direct parents and guardians to a list of services available in Kern County, including for mental health and family assistance.

The five-year-old girl is still in critical condition at Children's Hospital in Madera. Brown and Rodriguez are charged with child abuse and torture. Brown is also charged with attempted murder. Their next court appearance is March 10.

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