Couple charged with starving 3-year-old daughter due in court today

Posted: January 09, 2014

CARMEN RAMIREZ, who is already charged with murder in the September starvation death of her 3-year-old daughter, was charged yesterday with stealing federal Social Security funds intended for the severely disabled girl and two of her siblings.

Nathalyz Rivera weighed just 11 pounds when she died Sept. 9. Born partially blind and unable to walk or talk, the girl's body was covered with bruises that police said were caused by bites from fleas and rodents.

Nathalyz lived and died in a West Oak Lane house so filthy that police wore hazmat suits to wade through the dirt, broken furniture and 6-inch-high trash that littered the floors, Assistant District Attorney Gwenn Cujdik said after a brief court hearing during which the theft charge was announced.

From February through September, Ramirez received $2,130 a month in Social Security disability payments for Nathalyz and two of her other four children, Cujdik said.

Ramirez, who was frequently away from the home, received even more money in previous years, but the amount has yet to be tallied, Cujdik said.

But Ramirez, 27, spent the money at clubs and casinos instead of on taking care of her children, the prosecutor said.

"The theft [charge] arises out of the misappropriation of the funds. . . . There is clear evidence the children were not cared for, not provided for - not provided food, shelter or clothing," Cujdik said.

Nathalyz's two older sisters, ages 8 and 9, had to be withdrawn from school after officials there complained about their poor hygiene, Cujdik said. The 8-year-old girl was also near death from malnourishment at the time of Nathalyz's death.

Ramirez and the children's father, Carlos Rivera, 30, attended yesterday's hearing and will be back in court today for a joint preliminary hearing, at which time Municipal Judge James DeLeon is expected to formally hold them for trial.

Ramirez is charged with third-degree murder in Nathalyz's death. Rivera has been charged with first-degree murder because he was the child's primary caregiver at the time of her death, Cujdik said.

Ramirez turned over $1,200 a month of the disability money to Rivera, though there are no receipts to prove that, her attorney, Earl Kauffman, said during the hearing.

Rivera's attorney, Bobby Hoof, said his client disputed that he received any money.

Ramirez and Rivera - who are being held without bail - also are charged with numerous related counts stemming from injuries suffered by all five of their children, who are now in the care of the city's Department of Human Services.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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