July 8, 2014

Haltom City babysitter goes on trial in baby’s death

Araceli Guzman, 22, of Haltom City is charged with murder in the death of a 7-month-old girl she was babysitting.

A neighbor of a then-21-year-old babysitter described for jurors on Tuesday the scene after the sitter asked for help on April 22, 2013.

The neighbor, Casey Neill, testified that 7-month-old Juliana Payan was lying on a couch in the apartment of Araceli Guzman. The baby’s eyes were rolling back in her head, and she was struggling to breathe, Neill testified.

“She looked like she was having a seizure,” Neill said.

Guzman is on trial on a murder charge in the death of Juliana, who died May 18 at a hospice. The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled her death a homicide caused by “abusive head injury with complications.”

Other witnesses on the opening day of the trial included a paramedic who testified that the infant showed signs of traumatic brain injury. There was a bruise on the baby’s head, and she had a wildly fluctuating heart rate, the paramedic said.

“Once we knew we were dealing with a closed head injury, I knew we had to get her to the hospital as soon as possible,” the paramedic testified.

At Cook Children’s Medical Center, a nurse and a social worker told detectives that the infant had bruising on her forehead and swelling on the side of her head, according to a search warrant affidavit. The baby had massive bleeding in her brain, doctors said.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Letty Martinez said Juliana’s mother found Guzman on Craigslist.

Guzman, who has two children of her own, lived with a 31-year-old man at the Fossil Hill Apartments in the 5700 block of North Beach Street in Haltom City.

Her attorney, Lisa Hoobler, said in her opening statement that police never fully investigated the case. The detective developed a theory of how the crime occurred and then never explored or investigated any alternatives, Hoobler said.

“You will hear that Araceli has never been arrested and has never been involved with CPS” before this incident, Hoobler said.

No one knows when the baby was injured, and no one will testify that they know exactly how the child was injured, Hoobler said.

A secondary situation developed on April 22 after Juliana’s father, Javier Payan of Watauga, learned that the child was injured.

Payan drove to Guzman’s apartment, and when he arrived, police were there to question Guzman. Payan refused to get out of his vehicle and threatened to set off a bomb and blow up her apartment, according to previous reports.

Police rushed to the complex from Fort Worth, Haltom City, Watauga and North Richland Hills, and the Northeast Tarrant County bomb squad was called out. Police in tactical gear surrounded his sport utility vehicle with weapons drawn. Officers negotiated with him while evacuating part of the complex.

Payan eventually surrendered, and no explosive devices or weapons were found. Payan is awaiting trial on a charge of terroristic threat.

Testimony in Guzman’s trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday in state District Judge Wayne Salvant’s court.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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