HOUSTON—A Houston man is accused of pouring salt down the throat of 4-year-old Angel Maldonado and torturing him on a number of occasions.
Rolando Tomas Mendez, 21, was charged with injury to a child this week after a year-long investigation.
Angel was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital Northeast after vomiting and losing consciousness on September 28, 2011. He was then airlifted to Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital. Doctors there said he could’ve died if they’d waited any longer.
Police questioned Angel's mother and Mendez, her live-in boyfriend. He is not the boy’s father, but does have a 2-year-old daughter with the mother.
Mendez told police he was keeping both kids while their mother worked the first day of her new job. He said after feeding them, he noticed Angel had vomited in the bedroom and bathroom.
The child’s mother said she noticed her son was walking sideways and was unable to keep his balance so she ran and picked him up. As she rushed her son to the hospital, she noticed his bottom lip was blue and hanging down.
Mendez told the mother he had given the boy a piece of lemon with a little salt on it and fed him spaghetti, but denied doing anything wrong to the child.
Doctors, however, said the child had elevated levels of sodium and had to be either poisoned with salt or deprived water. After numerous tests, they determined there were no underlying medical conditions that could explain the sodium levels.
When Angel returned home, relatives say he would often cry uncontrollably and had developed a fear of the salt shaker. His grandmother said he’d say "no touch, that’s bad" when someone would reach for the shaker at the dinner table.
They put two and two together and called police.
Angel told investigators that "Lando" was mean and often forced him to eat "a lot of salt" when he got mad. The boy showed how Mendez would tilt his head back and shake the salt directly into his mouth. He also said Mendez would place him into scorching hot baths.
"I was real, real mad. I didn’t know what to do," said Alberto Maldonado, Angel’s father.
Angel's paternal grandmother was also interviewed. She told investigators the child told her that Mendez would lock him in the closet and make him watch scary "Chucky" movies.
Mendez told police he did let the child watch the "Chucky" movie with him, but said he never locked him in the closet or poured salt down his throat.
He refused to take a polygraph examination.
After the full investigation was completed, charges were filed against Mendez and his bond was set at $50,000.
The boy’s biological father was given custody in December 2011. Angel is much better now and has fully recovered.
His mother still lives with Mendez.