Two weeks after concerned relatives asked Albuquerque police to check on a 1-year-old girl, officers found the baby buried in the backyard of a Northeast Albuquerque home Friday and arrested her parents.
Police announced that the family and baby were missing on Wednesday, after relatives told them the father claimed to have drowned the girl.
David Zuber, 26, and Monique Romero, 23, are facing several charges, including child abuse resulting in the death of their daughter, Anastazia Zuber, said Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Simon Drobik.
Police say Romero told detectives that the baby drowned after being left alone in the bathtub with her other child at a Northeast Albuquerque apartment sometime last month. Detectives exhumed the girl’s body after Zuber told them where he buried her.
“It’s tough for detectives to go out to a location, dig a hole and find a dead baby in a bag,” Drobik said, “and then have to build a case around it — just horrible.”
Drobik said an autopsy is being performed to determine how the girl died.
Zuber’s family asked police to check on the baby on Dec. 18 and an officer did a welfare check on the baby at a Northeast Albuquerque apartment, but Romero told the officer the baby was with her sister, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday. At that point, the baby was still missing, and it’s unclear why police did not seek the public’s help in finding the family sooner.
“That’s under internal affairs investigation, that’s what we’re looking into,” Drobik said.
He said APD Chief Michael Geier has launched an internal investigation into the case to determine whether officers properly followed policies.
That includes new policies put in place after an investigation into the alleged prostitution of a 7-year-old girl that made the department re-evaluate its methods.
Drobik said officers found the couple at a home in the 1900 block of Macbeth NE on Friday morning. They then executed search warrants at the apartment where the baby allegedly died and another home where the baby was found buried.
He said the couple’s other two children were found with the parents and are now in the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department.
It is unclear in the complaint when exactly the death occurred and Drobik said the timeline will “have to be vetted.”
According to the complaint, Zuber’s mother reported to APD that her son told her on Dec. 17 that he had drowned the baby.
Police say she didn’t believe him until he insisted the girl was dead, although he later told her he was “making up the story” and the baby was safe.
Zuber’s brother told police he went to the home the next day to check on the family and found Romero with Zuber and their other children, but the baby girl wasn’t there.
Police said the brother asked where Anastazia was and Zuber got angry, picked up a crowbar and denied that he had killed the baby. He refused to talk about it further.
Romero’s sister told police they spoke with her over video chat days later, on Dec. 21, but did not see or speak with any of the other children and hadn’t seen Anastazia since Dec. 13.
According to the complaint, Romero told her sister that “everyone was OK, and that they were going to Raton to visit relatives for Christmas.”
After finding the couple, Romero admitted to police that the baby was dead.
Police say Romero said she found the baby dead in the bathtub with her 2-year-old sibling after leaving them alone but did not call police or seek help.
Instead, Romero told police Zuber took the body and left, telling her “it was taken care of” when he returned.