Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
A 1-year-old Albuquerque girl who was found dead, wrapped in two plastic bags, stuffed inside a duffel bag and buried in a backyard earlier this year had methamphetamine in her system, according to a recently released autopsy report.
However, the state Office of the Medical Investigator could not determine how the baby, Anastazia Zuber, died. Her body was found about two weeks after concerns were first raised that she might have died.
“There is no minimum amount of methamphetamine that is considered fatal,” the autopsy report states. “Any concentration has the potential to cause increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and/or body temperature and may result in seizures, arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), or sudden death. There is no indication as to the route or the circumstances by which Anastazia was exposed to methamphetamine.”
Anastazia’s parents, David Zuber, 26, and Monique Romero, 23, have been charged with child abuse resulting in death. Their cases are pending, and they were released from jail while awaiting their trials.
Police say the parents had told relatives their daughter had drowned, but the medical investigator could not determine if that was true.
“While it is possible that the decedent died from drowning as reported, it is also possible that she died from methamphetamine poisoning, asphyxia or other causes that leave no visible injuries,” the autopsy report states.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, police were called to a Northeast Albuquerque apartment on Dec. 18 to check on Anastazia after someone reported that she had not been seen recently.
Zuber and Romero told the officer Anastazia was with a relative, and the Albuquerque Police Department officer left without seeing the girl.
Lapel video released to the Journal shows the officer talking with Zuber and Romero.
He asks for 1-year-old Anastazia by name and the parents tell him she is staying with an aunt. The officer asked them to call him that afternoon when she is back with the family.
Then, the officer appears to get confused and says the caller who had asked for a welfare check had said Anastazia was 1-month-old not 1-year-old.
Zuber and Romero show them their 2-month-old baby boy and the officer appears satisfied.
“You don’t have to call me anymore then,” he said, and leaves the apartment.
Several hours later, early the next morning, two other officers visited the family’s apartment. They knocked on the door but no one answered.
According to the complaint, the aunt later told police she hadn’t seen Anastazia since five days before the welfare check and other family members told officers that Zuber had told them the baby drowned in the bathtub. Both parents “stated to multiple parties AZ was dead; and conversely, AZ was staying with (a relative) and was alive.”
Fifteen days after that initial welfare check, APD’s missing persons unit sent a flier to the media asking for the public’s assistance in finding Anastazia and her family.
The child was found buried in the backyard of a Northeast Albuquerque home two days later and Zuber and Romero were arrested.
Their other two children were taken into the custody of CYFD.
A little more than three months later, their youngest child died at a foster family’s home.
The infant was brought to the hospital, where he died, and detectives were called in to investigate.
However, APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said neither the detectives nor the Office of the Medical Investigator, found anything suspicious.
“It appears to be a natural death,” he said.
Kelly Golightley, Romero’s attorney, said she is still investigating on behalf of her client and the methamphetamine found in Anastazia’s body is at odds with her theory of the case.
She said Romero is devastated by the loss of her children. Zuber’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
“She’s trying to do the best she can but of course she’s devastated,” Golightley said. “She’s trying really hard to put her life together after losing two children…”