A Texas woman arrested Thursday after the body of her toddler daughter -- who she said accidentally drowned in the bathtub -- was found hidden in a bucket of acid has a long history of arrests for violent crimes and was on probation for injury to a child when her daughter died, records show.
Monica Yvonne Dominguez, 37, of Laredo, is charged with abuse of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence and endangering a child in the death of her daughter, according to Webb County Jail records.
Rebecka Zavala would have been 3 years old on Sunday, according to KGNS in Laredo. Members of the community held a candlelight vigil for the girl outside the apartment where she lived and died.
Dominguez is being held in lieu of $175,000 bond, according to jail records. Rebecka’s father, Gerardo Zavala-Loredo, 32, is jailed in lieu of $125,000 bond on the same charges as his wife, the records show.
Dominguez has a long history of arrests, including multiple arrests on aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and injury to a child with the intent to cause bodily injury. Of her 17 prior arrests listed since 1999, five of them were related to accusations of injuring a child, jail records show.
The most recent arrest took place last February, when she spent nine days in jail. According to records, Dominguez was released a year to the day before Laredo police officials announced her arrest in connection with Rebecka’s death.
Webb County court records show Dominguez was serving 10 years of probation at the time of the toddler’s death, after pleading guilty to injury to a child with the intent to cause bodily injury in 2016. Limited online case records indicate her 2018 arrest was related to the enforcement of her probation in the 2016 case.
Dominguez’s probation was revoked Friday, the records show.
Laredo police Chief Claudio Trevino Jr. said during a news conference Friday that the department received a call around noon Thursday for a welfare check at the couple’s apartment, where a concerned neighbor said there were possible human remains inside a container in a closet. Officers went to the home, where they secured the scene and determined there was a potential situation involving hazardous materials.
The Laredo Fire Department’s hazmat team went to the apartment, along with the Webb County medical examiner, the chief said. A search warrant was obtained to allow the agencies access to the container in which the child, called “Baby Rebecka” by authorities, was found.
Detectives made their grim discovery around 5 p.m. Thursday.
“The investigative team recovered what appears to be body parts, decomposing body parts in this bucket located in the bedroom closet,” Trevino said during a news conference Friday.
Dominguez and Zavala-Loredo were arrested and their remaining four children, ages 11 to 1, were placed with Child Protective Services, Trevino said.
Online court records did not indicate if Rebecka or one of her siblings was the victim in Dominguez’s 2016 case, or if there were multiple victims.
Isidro Alaniz, district attorney for the 49th Judicial District of Texas, described the crime scene as “tragic and horrific.”
“As you can imagine, it’s very difficult for all of us in law enforcement and for the first responders to be in a situation, to come across a scene like we did yesterday,” Alaniz said Friday. “Like the chief stated, there was what is believed to be the body of a child found in what looks to be a five-gallon plastic container that was placed in there for disposal with what appears to be acid.”
Alaniz said the investigation was still in the preliminary stages, but that Dominguez and Zavala-Loredo told detectives Rebecka drowned in the tub while bathing unsupervised.
“After the baby drowned and died, it was when it was believed that, according to, again, statements by Monica Dominguez, the mother, that she recruited her husband to help her dispose of the body,” the prosecutor said.
It was not clear Friday how long the girl’s body had been submerged in acid or exactly when she died.
Alaniz said the medical examiner and a forensic anthropologist would examine Rebecka’s remains to determine if she had any injuries that contributed to her death.
“We need to wait to see what the science tells us,” Alaniz said. “We’re hoping that we’re able to recover enough evidence to complete the story.”
Jorge Dominguez, Monica Dominguez’s nephew, told KGNS he was shocked by the allegations against his aunt.
“I don’t know if to be sad, angry,” Jorge Dominguez said. “I didn’t expect that from her.”
The young man said he grew up around his aunt, who he lived with for a time as a child. He said Monica Dominguez would sometimes lose her temper and “get aggressive” with her children, “taking it out on the kids.”
Jorge Dominguez said he never thought his aunt could be capable of desecrating her child’s remains as alleged.
“How can you live with that?” Jorge Dominguez said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
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