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State seeks to terminate parental rights of woman charged in toddler's death

State seeks to terminate parental rights of woman charged in toddler's death


As mourning continued Wednesday for toddler Frankie Gonzales, state child welfare workers sought to terminate his mother’s parental rights to two other children, and records revealed that her rights to six other children were taken from her five years ago.

Laura Sanchez, 35, who was charged Tuesday with first-degree felony injury to a child in her 2-year-old son’s death, remained in jail Wednesday on a $500,000 bond. She is also being held on allegations of parole violations.

Police have said she led them to the body of her son in a dumpster on Tuesday after abandoning her original story that Frankie had disappeared from Cameron Park.

Petitions seeking to terminate Laura Sanchez’s parental rights to her 3-year-old and 4-month-old children were not publicly available Wednesday because Associate Judge Nikki Mundkowsky ordered them sealed.

However, courthouse officials confirmed Texas Department of Family and Protective Services workers filed petitions Wednesday to terminate Sanchez’s parental rights, and a spokesman for the state agency said officials have placed Frankie’s two siblings in foster care.

Sanchez, also known as Laura Jane Villalon, was released from prison in May 2019 after serving time for a burglary of a habitation conviction and was scheduled to remain on parole through September 2022 before her arrest this week. Before she was sent to prison, Sanchez was on probation, but it was revoked for continued drug use and other violations, records show.

Waco attorney Susan Shafer, appointed to represent Sanchez, declined comment Wednesday on her client’s case.

According to arrest records, Sanchez told police Tuesday that Frankie died May 28 but she did not report his death. She kept her son’s body in her home for about two days before disposing of his remains in a trash bin near North 27th Street and Alice Avenue off Park Lake Drive.

Police said her initial report was a ruse to cover his death, but the outcry sparked an extensive search in Cameron Park and the neighboring Brazos River on Monday evening.

Community members mourning Frankie’s death held vigils and created makeshift memorials for the boy in the parking lot of Park Lake Baptist Church and at Cameron Park on Tuesday night. Many continued to bring toys, stuffed animals, balloons and drawings to those areas Wednesday.

Records from Sanchez’s previous dealings with Department of Family and Protective Services workers show her name then was Laura Villalon. Her parental rights to six children, two with the surname Villalon and four with the surname Sanchez, were terminated in June 2015 after an 18-month investigation and case study showed Sanchez abused drugs and alcohol, neglected her children, was thrown out of substance abuse rehabilitation programs and failed to meet regularly with her probation officer in the burglary case.

“Ms. Villalon has continued to abuse cocaine throughout the department’s involvement with the family,” a DFPS caseworker wrote in reports. “Ms. Villalon has not made any substantial attempts to receive treatment for her drug addictions and she has left treatments as unsuccessfully discharged twice during the case. Ms. Villalon has also failed to address her legal obligations in terms of probation noncompliance.”

Maternal grandparents who were living with Villalon and her children at the time also tested positive for cocaine, DFPS reports show.

In terminating her parental rights, 74th State District Judge Gary Coley Jr. found that she allowed her children to remain in conditions that endangered their physical or emotional well-being, placed the children with others who posed dangers to the children, and “constructively abandoned” the children while they were in the agency’s temporary care.

Waco attorney Gerald Villarrial, who represented the children’s interests in the custody hearings as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, said Wednesday that what he remembers most about the case was that Sanchez had serious problems with alcohol abuse, cocaine and other drugs.

“I was real surprised to learn that she had more kids,” Villarrial said.

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