By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Following Monday’s jury selection, sentencing for Catrina Maldonado is expected to conclude this week.
An official from the Cooke County District Attorney’s office said Maldonado, 36, has already pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of injury to a child, resulting in the September 2011 death of Nathan De Alejandro, 4, in Gainesville.
The official said Janice Warder and Ron Poole are prosecuting the case and Maldonado is facing a sentence of five to 99 years to life.
“The testimony’s moving pretty quickly and she’s already entered a plea of guilty,” the official said Tuesday. “Now it’s up to the jury to assess punishment.”
The case’s three other suspects — Johnny Earl Alexander, Johnny Lee Alexander and Matilde Medina Alexander — were not included in this week’s hearing. Johnny Earl Alexander faces trial in November and the other two are currently serving time in a Texas Department of Correctional Justice facility, having already pleaded guilty to felony charges related to the child’s death.
And as with the other suspects and the related charges, the official said Maldonado’s charge was lowered from the level of a first-degree felony to third-degree felony since the child’s injuries — serious burns that proved fatal — were not verified to be directly caused by the suspects.
De Alejandro died days after sustaining his injuries, the official said, and the four suspects were complicit in keeping the child from proper medical care. This was allegedly because the child accidentally suffered his burns while adults manufactured drugs and his guardians attempted to treat him at home rather than submit to authorities.
“We cannot prove that they caused serious bodily injury or death,” the official said. “But they caused him a lot of pain by not taking him to a hospital. So that drops it from a first-degree felony down to a third-degree felony.”
A recap of the case
Catrina Maldonado, then 34, Johnny Earl Alexander, then 28, Johnny Lee Alexander, then 58, and Matilde Medina Alexander, then 58, were indicted on Nov. 21, 2011, for injury to a child younger than 14 years of age, a first degree felony.
Maldonado’s offense allegedly occurred Sept. 10, 2011, and the offenses of the other three suspects allegedly occurred Sept. 21, 2011.
The case itself began on Sept. 21, 2011, when Gainesville police officers visited 913 Dover Drive to serve an arrest warrant in connection to drug trafficking indictments. The suspect they wanted was not located.
But while checking the scene, officers detected contraband items and remained on scene long enough to secure the location in order to obtain a search warrant. Nathan De Alejandro was at the Dover residence and appeared to be asleep and under covers when officers arrived. Maldonado, the boy’s mother, told officers the child was sick. Prior to being issued a search warrant, the Dover residence subjects told officers that Johnny Lee and Matilde Alexander, the parents of guardian Johnny Earl Alexander, were about to arrive at the residence and take De Alejandro to a doctor’s appointment. The Alexanders arrived, took custody of the boy and left.
Burn injuries to his body, which had already been sustained and were later determined to be extensive second and third-degree burns, were obscured from view.
“Officers on scene were not aware of how seriously ill or injured he was,” Gainesville Police Department Public Information Officer Belva McClinton said during a media conference in early October 2011.
Investigators reportedly presumed that on the morning of Sept. 21, 2011, when the child was taken away by the senior Alexanders, he was taken to their residence rather than to a doctor’s office. McClinton also said during the conference that she was unaware if law enforcement or Child Protective Services had ever been called to intervene on behalf of this child on any other occasion.
A Register story from Sept. 30, 2011, reported that Debbie Ramirez, the child’s maternal grandmother, said she heard about the Dover Street police visit and contacted Child Protective Services and county legal offices on Sept. 22, 2011, in an attempt to “get Nathan back” from the Alexanders.
“By the time the 72-hour waiting period was over, it was too late,” the story quoted Ramirez.
Nathan De Alejandro’s medical condition had worsened. Shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sept. 24, 2011, officers returned to Dover Drive in response to reports of a child not breathing. In her conference statement, McClinton said Catrina Maldonado had taken Nathan De Alejandro to a neighbor’s home after he showed breathing problems — and the neighbor was trying to resuscitate the child at this residence as officers arrived.
Emergency Medical Services transported the boy to North Texas Medical Center, where he later died at 3:30 a.m.
“We do know that Nathan sustained severe burns to a large portion of his body,” McClinton said during the October 2011 conference. “The majority of the burns were to his legs, and these injuries occurred on or about Sept. 10. During the 14 days between the occurrence of the burns and the date of his death, no one caring for Nathan sought professional medical treatment for his injuries.”