Corpus Christi, Texas: Esmeralda Garza, a Texas woman accused of selling her seven-year-old son and planning to sell her two other children to settle a drug debt has been sentenced to six years in prison.
Esmeralda Garza of Corpus Christi was sentenced Friday after taking a plea deal. She was convicted on three counts of selling or purchasing a child. She also was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to sell or purchase a child.
Last June investigators discovered her son had been sold for US$2,500. Investigators also learned that she had planned to sell her two daughters, ages 2 and 3, as well — all to pay off a drug debt.
In June, Texas Department of Public Safety special agents found a 7-year-old boy at a home in Corpus Christi while executing a search warrant.
“Further investigation revealed two more female children, ages 2 and 3, who were in the process of being sold,” a news release stated at the time.
A woman told investigators she purchased the child from Garza for $2,500, according to an arrest affidavit.
“Garza stated that she and her boyfriend owe drug money and gave her child to (the woman) who (paid) $500 cash and clear the (owed) debt and an extra $700 when the ‘custody paperwork’ was signed,” the report states.
An unidentified man and woman were also arrested, according to a news release at the time. It’s unclear if they were charged with a crime.
Prosecutors and Garza’s attorney declined to comment after Friday’s hearing because a gag order is still in place. A Child Protective Services case is pending.
“He put his trust in her, and that was the last thing he would think she would do. Surprise caught him,” said Roland Olivarez II, the seven-year-old’s father. “I never thought she would do this to my child. He just trusted mom so much that he didn’t think that anything like this would happen. You know, nobody would think something so ugly as this would happen.”
The boy is now with Child Protective Services. His father and aunt wish they would have known he was in danger.
“If we knew anything that was going on, we would have done everything to stop it, but of course you can’t stop something that you have no clue of what’s going on,” said Lucy Naranjo, the seven-year-old’s aunt. “I couldn’t imagine anybody doing that. I’m a mother myself. I don’t know what was going through this girl’s head. No child deserves what my nephew’s going through at all.”
Naranjo said her brother and Garza were separated for seven years. Both had custody of their son.
“Recently she had given him to my brother and said, ‘Well, I can’t handle him so here you go,’ and my brother said okay. That’s his son,” Naranjo said.
“She said enough was enough and it was time for her to be a mommy,” Olivarez II said.
“He trusted her. He let my nephew go. That was last time we got to see him,” Naranjo said.
According to the Naranjo, Garza came to get her son back in April and they had not seen him since then. Garza did not contact Olivarez II at all.
“Didn’t let my brother know where she lived, didn’t let my nephew call,” Naranjo said.
CPS showed up at Olivarez II’s door last Friday to inform him of what happened. His son had been found with his birth certificate and other essential documents. Naranjo said Garza had gone to the child’s school to request the documents.
“When CPS came he had his birth certificate, his social, things that only parents should have, not anyone else,” Naranjo said.
Naranjo described the home where the child had been found.
“There was chains on the outside of the doors, and he was not allowed to go nowhere, and there were no other kids,” Naranjo said.
Naranjo said police found a paper inside the home that Garza had signed, dated June 16. She believes the child had been there for about two weeks.
When asked about Garza having a drug problem, Naranjo replied, “I didn’t know her personally, but I know she had a drug problem. She has six kids. She had none of them. She had my nephew and two other girls.”
Now Olivarez II hopes he can reunite with his son. He said he has learned a very important lesson.
“My son is going to stay right by side and never leave me again,” Olivarez II said.