Child abuse expert witness Dr. James Lukefahr testified in the case against Matthew Aranda following the death of Aranda’s adopted daughter Melody Velasquez, 3. Aranda claims that she accidentally fell down a flight of stairs but medical experts have testified that the death was a homicide. Dr. Lukefahr, director of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, told the jury “If someone or something could cause her to be thrown or pushed down the staircase at a very high rate of speed, then that conceivably (could) cause some of those fatal injuries that she had.” Melody suffered broken limbs, ribs, multiple bruises and head injuries.
The professor of pediatrics testified recently before the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in San Antonio, TX. He presented statistics showing that in 2013 Texas had 156 child abuse and neglect deaths. In 2011 there were 231, and 280 in 2009.
The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities held its first public meeting this week at the University of Texas, San Antonio on June 2-3, 2014. CECANF was established by Public Law 112-275 (112th Congress), the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, to develop a national strategy and recommendations for reducing fatalities across the country resulting from child abuse and neglect. The meeting in San Antonio was the first opportunity for Commission members to gather detailed information and insight related to federal policy, research, and practice associated with child abuse and neglect fatalities, with a practice focus on Texas.
Commission chairman David Sanders said the panel came to Texas because, though the number of child deaths has decreased in recent years, the state leads the nation in the number of child abuse and neglect deaths. “What do we have here and does it work?” he said. “We heard about education, but the question is whether it’s effective.”
The panel’s next meeting is July 10 in Tampa, Fla., followed by a meeting Aug. 28 in Detroit.The panel could draft its first report by year’s end.
The commission’s work is available online at eliminatechildabuse fatalities.sites.usa.gov.