CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A Harlingen woman sentenced to death for killing her daughter is receiving support from an anti-death penalty group for the county’s district attorney to reopen her case.
Family members and attorneys for Melissa Lucio, 53, visited the office of Cameron County District Attorney Luis A. Saenz on Monday to attempt to deliver a petition calling for him to watch a documentary about the case and reinvestigate the matter. Death Penalty Action, an anti-death penalty group, helped with the effort.
In 2008, Lucio was convicted of murdering her two-year-old daughter in February 2007. She was sentenced to death and her execution is scheduled for April 27.
Investigators found Lucio’s 2-year-old daughter covered in bruises, bite marks, and a broken arm. EMT personnel stated the child was not breathing and had nobody near her when they arrived.
Lucio told police that her daughter fell down the stairs and that caused her death, according to court documents. However, Lucio also stated she was responsible for the bite mark and bruise marks on her body.
She told investigators that she was not angry at the 2-year-old child, but was frustrated with her other 13 children when the bite incident occurred.
During the case trial, a pathologist testified that the child’s autopsy revealed she did not die from falling downstairs and instead her injuries were consistent with a death from blunt-force trauma. Furthermore, court documents state the emergency room doctor that attempted to revive Lucio’s daughter stated it was the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen.
More than 30 thousand people have signed the petition, which is also directed toward Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Those in support of her are looking to see her case reopened and remove her from death row.
“They’re going to kill her… she is not a murderer there will be murders that they kill, and they kill an innocent woman she’s not guilty,” said Sonya Valencia Alvarez, Lucio’s sister. “She’s not guilty pleas we are just asking to watch the film.”
The petition centers around the film State of Texas vs. Melissa, a 2020 documentary that examines Lucio’s case.
The documentary highlights some of the legal issues presented in the trial’s early stages such as making note of the former district attorney who prosecuted the case’s legal troubles with taking bribes in exchange for outcomes in trials. The film series also takes aim at Lucio’s lack of a fair defense and paints her as a person possibly coerced into giving a confession.
Some of Lucio’s children spoke in the documentary and stated she did not physically abuse them but did admit she suffered from drug addiction and Child Protective Services (CPS) had to get involved multiple times.
“This is the kind of case that no matter where you stand on the death penalty nobody wants to be the wrong person executed and nobody should have that blood on their hands,” said Abraham Bonowitz, executive director of Death Penalty Action.
Saenz was not present at his office to accept the petition but did provide a statement on the case. He highlighted the significant injuries to Lucio’s daughter that were present before her death. Saenz noted that a jury issued her a guilty verdict and he stands by this conviction.
The district attorney also adds that Lucio has made six appeals to overturn her conviction but these have all been dismissed or denied.
“The time has come to finally carry out the sentence legally imposed by a jury of her peers
and for justice for 2-year old Baby Mariah,” wrote Saenz.
Some issues have been brought up about the documentary from Lucio’s own children.
Selina Flores, one of Lucio’s daughters, took to TikTok and offered her side of the story as she states she was excluded from the documentary.
Flores stated that the documentary is biased in favor of Lucio and did not include input from a lot of her children. She even provides screenshots of messages between her and the documentary’s director stating information about abuse that was excluded.
Flores says that on the night that the incident occurred, Lucio told her children to tell police that the girl fell down the stairs so that she would not go to jail.
“This is my life. That is my mother. My sister died. I don’t need to stop talking about it,” said Flores in a TikTok video. “I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about who they think is guilty… but the only ones who know the truth are the ones who were in the house when the abuse was happening.”
Flores expressed sadness about hearing her mom is set for execution and clarified she does not want her to be executed even though she believes she is guilty. She also said she wishes she had spoken up about her sister’s abuse when she was a child to maybe have prevented her death.
There are less than 80 days before Lucio is scheduled to be executed. It is unclear if any of the people with the power to reinvestigate Lucio’s case will do so.