Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Police say a 17-year-old sat on his younger sister’s face and throat for 45 minutes – after she had a tantrum – in the back seat of the family’s van as they traveled across New Mexico on the way home to Nevada on Sunday.
The 12-year-old girl died of her injuries Wednesday afternoon.
Her teenage brother, Khachadourian Rooks, and their mother, 39-year-old Heather Rooks of Pahrump, Nevada, have been charged with child abuse resulting in great bodily harm, but they could face additional charges, according to a spokesman for the New Mexico State Police. The two were booked into Cibola County adult and juvenile detention centers.
On Sunday, a State Police officer was called to Interstate 40 near Laguna, where a red van was pulled over on the shoulder of the westbound lanes.
The 12-year-old, who is identified only as “RR” in court documents, had already been airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital. She was unresponsive.
The rest of the family was taken to the Laguna Police Department to be interviewed, and the van was towed to be processed for evidence.
RR’s grandfather told police the family was traveling from Santa Fe to Nevada and the girl, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, threw a tantrum because they didn’t buy her a toy at a gas station.
As the family headed west on the highway – with the grandfather driving, the mother in the front seat and siblings in the back – RR continued to kick, scream and hit them all until her older brother restrained her, according to the arrest warrant affidavit filed in Cibola County Magistrate Court.
Heather Rooks and her father both told officers that eventually RR became quiet and they assumed she had fallen asleep. Heather Rooks said she heard her daughter say “get off me” and she told her son to get off but didn’t do anything else and she didn’t look to see how the girl was being restrained.
Khachadourian Rooks told a slightly different story, that his mother looked back at him and told him to get off his sister three times, according to the affidavit. He said he did get off after the third time.
Khachadourian Rooks told officers he has used multiple methods of restraining his sister in the past, but this time was different because he sat on her face and throat, according to the affidavit. He said he sat on her for about 45 minutes.
“Khachadourian stated when he was sitting on RR, she told him to get off and told him she loved him and Heather,” the officer wrote in the affidavit. “Khachadourian stated RR did kick around so much that he lost his right shoe in the van. Khachadourian stated he knew RR was hurting when he was sitting on RR.”
Eventually, he looked at his sister and screamed, according to the complaint.
The grandfather pulled over and tried to revive the girl as Heather and Khachadourian Rooks were in shock.
“Khachadourian stated he has done this before and RR ‘pulled through,’ but he does not know if she is going to make it this time,” the officer wrote.
The grandfather was not charged. The Journal could not reach him.
Heather Rooks is being held in jail on a $10,000 cash-only bond. Her preliminary hearing is set for next week.
Her lawyer said he had not had a chance to look at the case yet.
It’s unclear what’s happening with Khachadourian Rooks’ case, because he’s a juvenile.