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Surprise, Ariz. couple charged with first-degree murder of daughter

LISTEN: Monica Lindstrom - 15-Pound Toddler Death

SURPRISE, Ariz. — A Surprise couple has been charged with first-degree murder and related child abuse charges in the death of their nearly 4-year-old daughter.

Officers said the girl showed signs of being beaten and sexually abused and weighed just 15 pounds when she was taken to a hospital.

Carlos Cruz, 28, and Rosemary Velazco, 36, were both were arrested Saturday on suspicion of felony child abuse.

The girl, who was weeks away from her 4th birthday, showed the signs of beatings and sexual abuse when she was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead Saturday, according to court records.

The girl also showed signs of extreme malnourishment and had injuries all over her body that were in various stages of healing and had a 1-inch cut on her forehead that exposed her skull, police said.

Investigators said Velazco told them her husband suffered from anger issues and allegedly would use a belt to repeatedly whip the girl and her 6-year-old brother. Velazco said she also would use the belt, but she would “measure her strength” so as to not strike her daughter too hard to knock her to the ground.

Police served a search warrant and found a small paint can that appeared to be used as a toilet by the children and the victim’s bed, which was a 2-foot-by-2-foot wobbly wood structure made from eight pieces of wood. The girl and her brother shared a bedroom with their parents.

The bedroom door had no handle, but it did have a padlock about 43 inches from the floor that could be locked and opened only from the outside, according to police, who said they also found keys to the padlock suspended by a rope about 6 feet off the floor.

Police also said there was little food in the family’s refrigerator, but the freezer contained beer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report