Editor's note: Some of the information given in the linked articles is quite disturbing. Please know that we have been careful to relay the facts of the case without going into unnecessary detail.
Yesterday, 23-year-old Tiaundra Kae Criston was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and imposed with a fine of $10,000, the maximum sentence possible, after the jury deliberated for just 40 minutes.
Criston was found guilty of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence with the intent to impair a human corpse after her 2-year-old daughter Hazana Anderson died in 2018.
KHOU reached out to the Galveston County District Attorney's office to find out why more serious charges were not pursued in the case. The response they received was that "the Medical Examiner testified that she could not determine a cause of death or a time of death of the child. She also testified that the injuries that caused the bruising to the child would not have been sufficient to cause her death."
According to information that was presented to the court, Anderson was beaten with a belt for crying while Criston and her boyfriend Kenny D'Shawn Hewett were staying in a Houston hotel on October 17, 2018. She was struck in the arms, legs, and face to the point where she began to fade in and out of consciousness according to the criminal complaint.
In order to try to revive her, Criston said that she had placed Anderson into the bathtub. When removing her from the tub, she discovered signs of sexual assault.
Sometime during the night of October 17, Anderson died.
Noting that her child was cold to the touch, Criston then attempted to warm Anderson with the use of a hair dryer which then caused burns on her daughter's skin.
The court further heard that Anderson's body was placed on the floorboard of her vehicle for three days before being placed back into her car-seat which was then placed into a plastic bag.
On October 23, Criston and Hewett tied a heavy rock to the bag with a rope, and dropped Anderson's remains into a body of water near Moses Bayou and Texas 146 in Galveston, County.
In order to try and allay suspicion, Criston then carried what officers described as a life-sized doll, dressed in her daughter's clothing, around for several days. She even took the doll to Wal-Mart in a stroller before reporting Anderson as missing on October 28.
At the time, she told officers that her daughter had briefly been left unattended at a College Station Park.
Multiple agencies responded to the call and searched for Anderson including the Texas Department of Public Safety, College Station Police Department, Houston Police Department, and even the Texas Rangers.
Criston's story began to unravel though, when officers located the doll she had been carrying in a trash can across the street from where she had parked her car.
On October 31, Criston revealed to investigators where they would find her daughter's remains. In November she was arrested.
The jury took just about 20 minutes of deliberation to return a verdict of guilty on December 11. Under Texas law, she is required only to serve 25% of her sentence before she can apply for parole.
In November 2019, Hewett pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with physical evidence with the intent to impair a human corpse. He too was sentenced to the maximum possible of 20 years in prison as a part of a plea deal.