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DCF records show baby’s death; parents face murder, abuse charges

Tayla Aleman was born weighing a healthy 9 pounds. She died a year and one month later weighing only 7, and bearing a diaper rash and a black eye.

The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner blamed her death on “extreme malnutrition.” The Florida Department of Children and Families called it “senseless and avoidable.”

A grand jury ruled there’s enough to consider it murder.

Tayla’s parents, Kristen Meyer-Aleman and Alejandro Aleman, are in the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, court records show. They both pleaded not guilty to charges at their first-appearance hearings Sept. 30. The couple’s 10 other children — the oldest now 15, the youngest born four months after Tayla’s death — are in DCF custody.

On April 1, Meyer-Aleman, 43, found Tayla unresponsive after trying to feed her, the woman told officials. Rescue crews met her outside their Loxahatchee home as she held Tayla in a towel. Tayla died on the way to Palms West Hospital, rescue crews said.

Records show DCF had been following the Alemans since 2013. An internal review concluded “there were missed opportunities” to intervene.

In response to Tayla’s death, the department has given case supervisors more authority to involve themselves when a child is at a high risk of being abused or neglected, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. The department has required more training for its workers as well.

Tracking the Alemans

The first investigation was in September 2013. Their children weren’t in school, and the case was closed 10 days later.

The Aleman’s next run-in came in January 2015. Investigators again noted the children weren’t enrolled in school. But again, the case was dropped because the children didn’t appear to be abused or neglected, records show.

In May 2015, investigators met with the family in its Martin County home after reports that Aleman, 39, was never home and when he was, he was drunk. The children were left alone, neighbors told investigators, and one child was seen outside with a machete.

But the children were “free of marks and bruises,” according to a DCF report, so the case was closed.

Investigators made their last visit to the Alemans’ three-bedroom Loxahatchee home in November, when Tayla was 9 months old.

The children had speech and developmental delays, and investigators noted they were dirty. They suggested a follow-up visit.

Five days after Tayla died, state officials were back. Reports detail the appalling conditions in which the family of 12 — and their two dogs — were living.

A feces-like stench from the home reached investigators before they stepped onto the driveway, their report said. They found mildew growing on laundry and parts of a broken TV scattered in the living room where five of the children slept. Several of the children had scabies, a skin condition caused by mites. The toilet was black inside.

Animal-care officials also estimated the family’s American Bulldog hadn’t left its feces- and urine-filled cage in at least a month. Meyer-Aleman and Aleman also are facing a charge of animal cruelty.

Taking it to court

In June 2015, the family of 12 moved into Aleman’s parents’ Greenacres home and stayed much longer than expected, court records show.

The elder Alemans asked a court for protection against their son, whom they said threatened to kill them if they reported him to child-protective services about his 10 children “whom he does not support.”

The petition was dropped later that day. The Alemans moved out of the Greenacres home not long after, though jail records list the elder Alemans’ home as their son and daughter-in-law’s most recent address.

Despite previously raising concerns about the treatment of their grandchildren, Victor and Josefina Aleman firmly deny allegations that their son neglected his daughter to the point of killing her, their attorney Robert G. Lavin said Wednesday.

After reviewing the years of files on the family, DCF officials concluded Aleman had an “obvious power and control over the family.” He was uncooperative during investigations and prohibited his wife and children from speaking to investigators without his permission.

Aleman is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a motion regarding his legal representation, court records show.

Meyer-Aleman isn’t scheduled to be in court again until April 3 for a status check, according to court records.

Staff researcher Melania Mena contributed to this story.

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