Since November, 2-year-old Yatzirys Rodriguez had been in the care of her godmother, 32-year-old Yaritza Cirilo-Fuentes and 42-year-old Helen Smith, another woman residing in the residence. This arrangement was due to the mother's residence being without heat the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
"She believed that the child would be safe there and obviously, that belief was wrong," Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey told reporters during a press conference on Monday.
On the afternoon of Thursday, March 11, officers responded to a call for an unresponsive female toddler where they found Yatzirys covered in bruises. She was rushed to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children where she was pronounced dead at 2:49 pm.
Police Homicide Captain Jason Smith told the reporters on Monday that, "It's a very disturbing case of child abuse. The child sustained horrific injuries."
Her cause of death has been ruled to be blunt force trauma which Lightsey described as "torture."
In addition to the bruising from head to toe, Yatzirys was found to have had gashes on her forehead and scalp. "Where were open wounds that seemed to be pretty old on her head," Lightsey stated. "There were what appeared to be knuckle marks, punch marks on the top of her head."
"I can't imagine there would ever be a motive that could be understood or dissected from an adult person who would torture a 2-year-old," Lightsey stated.
Cirilo-Fuentes and Smith have both been charged with murder, conspiracy and six counts related to corruption of minors. There is an additional charge of false report against Smith. Their preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 30 at 8:00 am. They remain in the county correctional facility without bail.
Yatzirys' mother is cooperating with investigators.
“Thanks to a number of witnesses who came forward with information that helped the Philadelphia Police Department apprehend those we believe responsible, we can now pursue justice in this horrific case of apparent long-term abuse involving this innocent 2-year-old girl,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said while announcing the charges against the two women.
“This pandemic has made it terribly difficult to spot signs of abuse because of the absence of contact between children and mandated reporters such as teachers and other service providers. That’s why it’s critically important that witnesses contact authorities if they suspect that child abuse is occurring.”