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Gresham foster mother facing murder charges is denied bail

Dunia Soledad-Moreno will remain in custody until July trail
by: Contributed photo, Dunia Soledad-Moreno

A foster mother accused of abusing a 2-year-old girl to death in a Gresham duplex will remain in jail until her July trial.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Edward Jones on Thursday, Dec. 7, denied allowing Dunia Soledad-Moreno, 29, to post bail. She remains in the Inverness Jail on a murder charge, a Measure 11 offense.

Typically defendants accused of murder are held without bail until trial, but Soledad-Moreno's attorney Angel Lopez requested his client be granted the opportunity to post bail.

During a hearing that spanned three days, County District Attorney Jeff Howes argued that the woman should remain behind bars.

Jones agreed. Although the hearing is not designed to prove guilt, 'I think we are in a situation here where the presumption is strong … that the critical blow or blows were struck by the defendant.'

Gresham police arrested Soledad-Moreno on Saturday, Sept. 9, five days after she and her husband Armando Moreno-Garcia, 38, brought their cold-to-the-touch foster daughter, Keyana Bravo-Hamilton, 2, to Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center on Monday, Sept. 4.

The toddler died of 'battered child syndrome,' or more specifically, blunt force trauma to the abdomen that resulted in sepsis, according to Dr. Karen Gunson, state medical examiner.

Keyana's bowel had been ruptured in four places, causing gas and contents of her bowel to leak into her abdomen, leading to swelling. Scar tissue had formed in the girl's inner abdomen. E. Coli and other bacteria also were detected in her blood.

Gunson noted 'old and new non-accidental injuries,' including a healing broken rib; bruises all over her body, including her face and head; scabbing abrasions on her back bone; 'ulcers' resembling cigarette burns marking her foot, ankle and knee; a healing cut on her inner lower lip; patches of hair so short the scalp was visible on what should have been a full head of thick, curly hair; and the girl's thin limbs and low weight. A child her age and size should have weighed about 32 pounds, but Keyana weighed just 24 pounds.

Keyana's biological mother Crystal Hamilton, 21, cringed at the sight of her daughter's graphic autopsy photos displayed on a projection screen in the courtroom

Some pictures caused her to place her head in her lap and cry.

But Dunia just stared at the photos with scarcely a blink.

'It was like she felt nothing,' Hamilton said.

Hamilton said her family helped her decide to allow Dunia and Armando to adopt Keyana and her half-sister, Jasmine, 3, as part of an open adoption after the state removed them from her custody.

Armando is Jasmine's uncle, but because the girls have different fathers, Armando is not related to Keyana.

Hamilton didn't want to separate the girls and the couple wanted to adopt both of them.

'It just touched me how they were willing to take in a child who was not their relative,' Hamilton said.

Plus, Hamilton had seen the couple with their own two daughters, as well as with Jasmine, and they seemed to be good parents.

Keyana and Jasmine moved in with the couple in June.

But the couple's 6-year-old daughter told a child-welfare worker that she saw her mother abuse Keyana, adding that Dunia laughed as she forced Keyana's head into a toilet bowl containing feces and urine, then sat on the girl to pin her down. The 6-year-old girl also said she saw her mother punch Keyana in the stomach, force her to eat grass and hit her on the face, legs, buttocks and back.

State child welfare officials have removed Jasmine, as well as the couple's two children, from the home located in a yellow duplex at 245 S.E. Vista Avenue.

The two foster children moved in with the couple in mid June, about five months after the couple moved from California to care for the girls.

Howes said the couple hid Keyana during the weeks leading to her death. They lied to neighbors, telling them that Keyana was at the beach with her former foster parents, when in fact no such trip had taken place.

Also, Howes said, there is no evidence that a Department of Human Services caseworker who paid a surprise visit two weeks before Keyana died saw either Keyana or her sister Jasmine. One was asleep and the other wasn't home.

The couple knew Keyana was gravely injured, Howes said.

'There was a dying child in that house,' Howes said, describing Keyana as a cold, catatonic, bloated child who slumped over when braced against a wall.

In addition, the couple 'sanitized' their home, Howes said.

'They knew they were going to be scrutinized because of the condition of the child,' he said.

As for motive, Howes said Dunia was unhappy that she was brought to Oregon from California 'to care for two kids who were not her own.' She reportedly wanted a divorce but acquiesced when her husband threatened to take his biological child to Mexico.

Angel Lopez, who is representing Dunia, implied during the hearing that one of Armando's cousins, who stayed with the family during weekends, caused the girl's death.

Armando faces charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment. He is free on bail.