The mother of a 13-month-old little girl who starved to death said she never noticed that her daughter had withered to the weight of a newborn.
“I knew she was small. I didn’t realize she was that small,” Kristen Meyer-Aleman told detectives in a three-hour interview in September about her daughter Tayla’s April 2016 death. “Why would I starve my child?”
The day of the interview, she and her husband, Alejandro, had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and animal abuse. They face the death penalty.
Tayla died of exhaustion caused by neglect and weighed 7 pounds at death, 2 pounds less than when she was born, the medical examiner said. Detectives told her mother she “looked like a concentration camp survivor.”
In an interrogation recorded on tapes released by the State Attorney’s Office Thursday, Meyer-Aleman argued and interrupted detectives. When confronted with the piles of clothes found in her Loxahatchee home, several feet high and reeking of urine and feces, she said the landlord hadn’t provided a working washer and dryer yet she also said she did laundry every day.
She said the dogs and her other children could be the reason the walls were spread with feces.
And she didn’t believe detectives when they told her Tayla had a severe rash around her genitals – so red it resembled burns — seen at Palms West Hospital where the child died.
“It didn’t look that way when she went to the hospital,” Meyer-Aleman said.
Tayla’s rash was only about the size of a quarter, she told them, and was caused by her daughter drinking apple juice.
Her husband, Alejandro, on the other hand, said he never once picked up his 13-month-old daughter.
Nor had he ever cradled any of the other nine children born before Tayla when they were babies.
“I won’t hold a baby until, until like 2 years old,” Aleman said. “I don’t do little kids. I don’t,” adding that he was “scared” of them.
During the interviews, he got frustrated, even annoyed, when detectives asked him why Tayla was so thin.
“Aggravated child abuse and murder of my daughter, wow,” Aleman said. “That’s a nasty charge, a really nasty charge.”
Tayla’s 10 siblings — one of whom was born after she died — have been under the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families since her death.
In the recordings, both parents adamantly denied having anything to do with Tayla’s death, and neither said they noticed that she was abnormally thin.
“I don’t really know how you pay attention to that,” Aleman told Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Detective Vionide St. Jean.
“She was small. In my mind, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” Meyer-Aleman said.
Detectives grew increasingly frustrated with Aleman, who said that after Tayla died, he read that she might have had a disease.
“There’s a disease or something where a baby eats all the time but doesn’t put on weight,” he said.
“Tayla did not have a disease,” an exasperated St. Jean said. “There was no disease. It was starving.”
An autopsy revealed Tayla was suffering from multiple strains of influenza, E. coli, the start of pneumonia and a bacteria known to cause skin infections.
Aleman insisted his daughter was fed and was baffled why detectives pressed him about taking not taking Tayla to see a doctor.
“Is there a law that your baby has to go to the doctor?” Aleman asks.
“Yes,” a detective responds. “It’s called medical treatment.”
When deputies visited their three-bedroom Loxahatchee home, they could smell urine from the end of the driveway. Inside, there was no food, and the carpets were black, stained and reeking. Feces was on the wall, and one of the dogs had been kept in a cage for two months.
The older kids pestered their parents about Tayla being “different,” Aleman said. “Everything about her was different, she was never like the rest of the kids,” Aleman said.
But his wife said they never treated her any differently.
“We all loved her,” she told detectives. “I treat all my kids the same way. I wasn’t different with any of my children, and then all this happened and threw my family into a turmoil.”
Meyer-Aleman said her daughter’s death has broken her heart.
“I don’t think anybody understands what it has done to me,” she said. “It has killed me inside.”
But Detective St. Jean said she really didn’t understand.
“I don’t think you are an animal and I don’t think you are a monster, but only an animal and a monster would sit there and let their child shrivel up and die like that.”
Hear the parents’ interviews online
Got to http://pbpo.st/alemantapes