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OMI: Baby who died at Santa Fe motel had blunt force trauma


SANTA FE — An infant who was in the care of an admitted heroin user died of blunt force trauma to the head, an autopsy report released Friday says.

Rachel Smith, 25, is in the Santa Fe County jail on a no-bond hold on charges of intentional child abuse resulting in death, possessing and using drugs and obstructing a child abuse investigation.

Rachel Smith

Santa Fe Police say Smith was watching 3-month-old Jonathan Valenzuela and his sister, age 2, for their 17-year-old mother at the Thunderbird Inn on Cerrillos Road March 11 before the baby boy was pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to police reports at the time, witnesses at the motel called 911 and said that a woman was banging on doors and saying that her baby was dying. Officers arrived and found baby Jonathan with no signs of life and took him to the hospital.

Smith told police that milk was coming out of Valenzuela’s nose and that he was making a “gurgling” noise when she fed him earlier that morning. She said she later woke up after briefly falling asleep and noticed that Jonathan “didn’t appear to be alive,” a report said.

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The autopsy report released Friday from the state Office of the Medical Investigator says Valenzuela died of blunt head trauma and says his injuries were inconsistent with what Smith told police. It also says that there is evidence that some pressure was placed on his neck, but it’s unclear if that contributed to his death.

An OMI investigator initially believed that Valenzuela died of asphyxiation, possibly from Smith rolling on top of him as she slept.

Smith originally told officers that the children were hers, but she later admitted that she was watching them for a friend. She said she lied because she didn’t want the incident to appear intentional, a report says.

Smith admitted to shooting heroin three times in the motel room bathroom and to smoking marijuana while the children were there. She started having withdrawals while being interviewed at the police station and had to be taken to the hospital. Police searched the motel room and reported finding used syringes, a tourniquet, suspected crack and marijuana pipes, a bag full of marijuana joints and a container with marijuana.

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