Last week Zulma Chavez was arrested in murder of her 4-year-old stepdaughter Serenity. Following her arrest, the court held an emergency custody hearing to determine where to place Serenity’s two brothers. During the hearing, CPS outlined the horrific injuries sustained by the girl. Additionally, scans taken at the hospital indicated Chavez abused the girl over a long period.
Police first learned about the case last week after dispatch sent them to the home of Chavez. Earlier in the day, Chavez called her husband, Kevin Carames, to tell him that Serenity was unresponsive. When Kevin arrived home, he called the police to request help.
When Serenity arrived at the hospital on Sunday, staffed noted she had substantial traumatic injuries. Staff at the hospital took images of Serenity’s brain via a CT scan. The scan showed that Serenity had old and new blood on her brain. Additionally, they noted a retinal hemorrhage that can only occur from substantial shaking or a major car accident.
Officers interviewed by ABC10 said the magnitude of Serenity’s injuries shocked the investigators.
On Tuesday of last week, Serenity died from her injuries. Police began to look at Chavez as the abuser in the case. Initially, she told police her stepdaughter sustained the injuries by walking into a ladder on a bunk bed. Later she changed her story and said she picked up Serenity over her head and fell backward. She said the fall made Serenity land on her head.
Kevin Carames was not home at the time of the alleged incident. However, his other two children were home with their sister. Serenity’s older brother told police that Chavez often kicked, stomped, and punched them.
After Serenity died, CPS removed the two boys from Kevin’s custody. The family is working to find a permanent housing solution for the two boys. The family set up a GoFundMe to assist with costs in helping the boys.
Serenity’s biological mom was at the court hearing on Wednesday. She told reporters she lost custody of her children two years ago. According to Malinda Beach, she and her husband were involved in a car accident two years ago. At the time of the crash, police found meth on her.
Kevin sued her for custody and won. She said that Kevin had withheld any visitation with the kids. Before Serenity’s death, Malinda hadn’t seen her daughter in more than two years. Beach said she learned about her daughter’s death when police called to inform her that Serenity died.
Malinda’s mother Shanna Crabtree was with her at the court hearing on Wednesday. She told reporters that Serenity died from “blunt force trauma.” Crabtree also said that her 5-year-old grandson knows what happened to his sister. Additionally, Crabtree said her grandson could hear his sister moaning after the incident occurred.
Neither Crabtree nor Beach held back regarding the alleged allegations of abuse. They said the kids were thrown, stomped, and punched in the head by their stepmother.
Oddly quiet this entire time has been Kevin Carames. He has not made any public statements about the death of his youngest daughter. However, his cousin Damian Mastrapasqua said in an interview with Recordnet.com that, “Kevin is very upset. He loves his children and fought tooth and nail for him to get custody of his children.”
Damian went on to say, “My cousin, Kevin, is being portrayed as someone who knew about or even participated in the abuse of his children,” he said. “If he did anything wrong, he deserves what (Chavez) deserves, but I know him.
“He would never, ever abuse any child let alone his own child or allow it to happen.”
A quick Facebook search of Zulma’s profile shows that she and Kevin wed less than two years ago. Pictures show a loving and happy family, but pictures can always be deceiving. An older girl appears in many of the photos, likely Kevin’s oldest daughter.
Kevin and Zulma have a May-December relationship. Kevin is 39 years old, and Zulma is only 21 years old. When they married last year, she posted she was blessed to be a “mommy.” Zulma’s Facebook intro is telling:
She says, “Nothing beats being a strong wife and mommy.” Her choice of the word “beats” foreshadows what she did to her stepchildren.
During Zulma’s arraignments, she didn’t say a single world. A judge in the case denied her bond. She will remain held at San Joaquin County until her next court date. Officers say that the investigation is on-going at this point. Kevin’s lack of comment on the case could be because officers have not ruled out making other arrests in Serenity’s murder.
A GoFundme set up to help the family with the two boys has raised $4,4000 thus far. The family used their GoFundMe as an opportunity to shade Malinda Beach and accuse her of seeking attention. Family members say Serenity’s funeral is being paid for by Victim’s of Violent Crimes. At this point, what the money will help fund remains unclear.
For now, Zulma is behind bars for the horrific beating and murder of her stepdaughter. Two children are ripped from their home, and a father remains mum on his role in the crime. As the investigation unfolds into Serenity’s murder, we will update as we learn more information.
Our thoughts are with Serenity’s family and mother during this tough time.
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