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Toddler Brutally Abused to Death, 4 Irresponsible Adults Charged

BY ABQ RAW Staff

POSTED 01/14/2024 @ 4:15PM

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Kelli Santos James Welch Christina Hopkins Pena-Cantor Austin Bing



ALBUQUERQUE – Detectives with APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit (CACU) arrested four adults, including the mother of a 3-year-old girl, who died Saturday as a result of abuse. Three of the adults and the children recently arrived in New Mexico from Massachusetts. Two of those adults had violent histories in other states.

 

Kerri Anne Santos, 33, arrived at University of New Mexico Hospital on Saturday shortly before 4 a.m. with her three young children, including the 3-year-old girl who was wrapped in a blanket. Santos said she left Massachusetts and was traveling through New Mexico and noticed her daughter was sick. She said she stopped at a gas station so her daughter could use the restroom, but she fell from the toilet and injured herself. Santos said she started driving again and followed signs and drove to the hospital. Hospital staff determined the 3-year-old girl was deceased upon arrival and called police.

 

Authorities were suspicious of the story Santos provided and noted the child had several bruises on her body that were in different stages of healing. She also had ligature marks across both ankles. As a result of the signs of abuse, APD’s Crimes Against Children detectives were called to investigate.

 

Detectives worked throughout the day and night on Saturday to determine the circumstances that led to the child’s death. They placed the other two children on a 72-hour hold with CYFD. They also learned from law enforcement in Massachusetts that there were multiple police reports of domestic violence and an investigation by the Department of Child and Families about suspicion of Santos using drugs around her children.

 

A forensic interview was conducted on the older sibling of the deceased child, and detectives learned that two other adults, Christina Hopkins Pena-Cantor and her son, Austin Bing, drove with Santos and her three children to Albuquerque. Detectives also discovered the children, including the 3-year-old girl, were sexually molested. Detectives learned of allegations that one of the adults would tie the 3-year-old girl at the ankles and wrists with shoe laces.

 

The two families arrived in Albuquerque in recent days and stayed at an apartment with another man, James Welch. Santos eventually told detectives the abuse and the injuries to the 3-year-old occurred at Welch’s house. Detectives secured a search warrant for the home at 2103 Gold Ave. S.E.

 

Detectives worked closely through the weekend with CYFD, Office of the Medical Investigator, University of New Mexico social workers, All Faiths Safehouse and the District Attorney’s Office. The FBI also assisted. Arrest warrants were secured for all four adults involved in the abuse. Kerri Anne Santos, Christina Hopkins Pena-Cantor, Austin Bing, and James Welch.

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