Original article no longer available
The Fresno Bee (CA)
October 30, 1992
Author: Alex Pulaski The Fresno Bee
SYLVIA MARIE RODRIQUEZ SAID SHE STRUCK THE BLOW THAT KILLED THE 4-YEAR-OLD GIRL AFTER DRINKING BEER AND TAKING MEDICATION
An examiner’s report shows that a Fresno woman, after consuming at least 40 ounces of beer and 50 milligrams of anti- depression medication , struck the blow that killed 4-year-old Rose Ann Palumbo.
Sylvia Marie Rodriguez, 34, told a polygraph examiner on Oct. 20 – the day Rose Ann died – that she could not remember the precise details of the night the girl was injured, probably because of the effects of the alcohol and medication.
“I know I killed her,” Rodriguez told the examiner. “I know I hit her, but I can’t remember why.”
The interview with Rodriguez, conducted by polygraph examiner Raul Saldana, was done at the behest of Fresno County sheriff’s detectives. Saldana’s report was forwarded to the district attorney, who filed murder charges against Rodriguez on Wednesday.
After questioning Rodriguez, the examiner did not conduct a lie-detector test. Saldana said in his report that Rodriguez appeared too upset by preliminary questions to actually undergo a test.
Rose Ann’s death has touched off a new round of criticism of Child Protective Services, the agency charged with keeping children safe from abuse. It has also sparked concern among Fresno County supervisors.
Sheriff’s investigators have documented that at least five different people called CPS in the months before Rose Ann’s death to say they believed she was being beaten.
“All the tears will not bring this little girl back,” Supervisor Sharon Levy said Thursday. “But the Board [of Supervisors] and the Department of Social Services need to commit to one another and the public so that this will not happen again.”
A social worker who visited Rose Ann’s home three different times told investigators that he could not find sufficient evidence that she was in danger.
Ernie Velasquez, who heads the Social Services Department, has said his preliminary inquiry into the case showed that the department, which includes CPS, did nothing wrong.
History of abuse
But sheriff’s investigators who spoke with relatives and friends of the family were told time and again that the girl was constantly bruised, lived on cold cereal, pulled out clumps of her hair and had not gained a pound in nine months.
The investigators found enough evidence to charge Rose Ann’s father, Allie John Palumbo, 40, and Rodriguez, his live-in girlfriend, with three felony counts of child abuse. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
The Bee could not reach Rodriguez’s attorney to comment.
In the interview with the examiner, Rodriguez said she had sometimes slapped Rose Ann and had put soap in her mouth when she did bad things. Rodriguez said she became especially mad when Rose Ann did things to Rodriguez’s 6-month-old son.
On one occasion, Rodriguez slapped Rose Ann because she had taken the baby’s bottle from him to drink from it. Rodriguez said she told Allie Palumbo that she had “had it with Rose and something should be done with her.”
Memory clouded by alcohol
According to the examiner’s report, Rodriguez, Rose Ann and the baby were at home together on Oct. 17. Palumbo had gone to work.
Rodriguez took her anti-depressant medication and began drinking a 40-ounce bottle of beer in the afternoon. They watched television and Rodriguez sewed. They walked to the store together to buy another 40-ounce beer and licorice for Rose Ann.
Rodriguez said the only thing she remembers after returning home from the store was bathing Rose Ann in an attempt to revive her. Rodriguez told the examiner she must have struck the girl with the beer bottle or an ashtray.
“I know I did it, but I don’t remember with what,” Rodriguez told the examiner.
Index Terms: CHILD ABUSE DEATH ROSE ANN
Record Number: 1992304011
Copyright (c) 1992 The Fresno Bee