Monday, January 14, 2013

Records released in Tucson tot's starvation death

March 06, 2012 5:03 pm  •  By Veronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star

Child Protective Services has released its case records about Za’Naya Flores, the 21-month old Tucson girl who died from malnutrition in January.

The heavily redacted records show Za’Naya was placed into foster care immediately after her birth on March 15, 2010 while her mother, Kiyana Higgins, was being held in Pima County jail awaiting a child abuse trial involving one of her four other children.

Higgins was acquitted in May 2010, but Za’Naya remained in foster care until April 2011. CPS closed Za’Naya’s case in September 2011.

Case notes about monthly visits lasting between 30 minutes and three hours with Za’Naya and later also with Higgins written by state CPS specialist Donald Hauser give nearly identical accounts of her health during the months she was in the care of CPS.

In a report dated July 20, 2010 Hauser reports that Za’Naya “continues to spit up, the dr. stated that it is normal and not to worry about it. She now weighs 13 pounds and 14 oz.”

The same information is documented in monthly reports through March 28, 2011. Most of the case notes about visits were entered weeks to months after the visit was made.

Court documents state that Za’Naya weighed 16 pounds and 11 ounces on Sept. 17, 2010.

Notes from a May 17, 2011 visit said Za’Naya “is walking and more mobile, as a result of being more mobile she has shot up in height and slimmed down.”

However, on Jan. 12, the day Za’Naya died, Higgins told CPS investigators that the child could not walk or talk.

Paramedics responded to Higgins’ home after receiving a 911 call that Za’Naya was having a seizure. She was taken to University of Arizona Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.

Za’Naya weighed 14.6 pounds and had several blunt force injuries on her head, upper back, abdomen and feet, according to an autopsy report from the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office.

In a report, a CPS investigator who saw Za’Naya’s body at the hospital, said she was emaciated and “appeared to be extremely malnourished as evidence by the wrinkles on her body, the peeling of her skin and her head appeared to be too large for her tiny frame.”

The investigator also noted that the girl had black dirt caked under finger and toenails and “cemented on her shins and knees.”

The investigator visited Higgins’ home the day Za’Naya died and reported the home smelled of urine and the floors were dirty. The only food in the house were two cans of vegetables in the cupboards, an empty gallon of milk and condiments in the refrigerator and two small frozen food packages in the freezer, the investigator reported.

Kiyana Higgins, her sister Keshawna Higgins and their mother Clara Huyghue were indicted on second-degree murder and child abuse charges in January.

In mid-February, prosecutors asked Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini to drop the murder charges so they could seek an indictment on first-degree murder charges instead.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at or 573-4224.

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