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Toddler is found dead; authorities seek father
By LINDA GIBSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2000
TAMPA -- Laura Cruz stepped into her apartment Saturday morning after working a midnight shift and found her 18-month-old daughter dead inside, authorities said.
The child's 3-year-old sister was inside unharmed, and Cruz's boyfriend, the father of the two children, was gone, Hillsborough County authorities said.
Deputies released few details about the death of 18-month-old Rosinda Michelle Fajardo-Cruz, except to say that it was "suspicious."
The toddler and her sister, whose name deputies did not release, had been left in the care of their father, 38-year-old Pablo Samuel Fajardo, authorities said.
Saturday night, as police searched for Fajardo, an arrest warrant alleging child neglect was issued for him.
Hillsborough sheriff's Sgt. Rod Reder described Fajardo as Hispanic, 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He drives a 1995 red Ford Ranger pickup truck with an extended cab and a Buccaneers plate in front, deputies said.
The cause of Rosinda's death won't be known until the medical examiner completes an autopsy, Reder said. Authorities would not say where in the apartment the 26-year-old Cruz had found her daughter's body or how the girl might have died.
Deputies were called to Cruz's apartment at 8836 Brennan Circle in Town 'N Country at 10:57 a.m., said sheriff's Cpl. Mike Conigliaro, a homicide investigator. They remained there Saturday afternoon, searching for clues to what happened.
At the Sheldon Palms apartments where the family has been living, neighbors described the complex as quiet and safe.
Neighbor Rosana D'Almeida, 35, said she had babysat for the two girls, and they seemed happy and healthy.
D'Almeida said police had come to the Cruz apartment before, but she could not say when or why.
A former neighbor of the family, Reina DeArmas, 62, said she used to live next door to Cruz and Fajardo at 5510 N Himes Ave. She described Cruz as an excellent mother and housekeeper, who kept both the children and the apartment spotless.
But the couple fought often, she said. One time neighbors called the police about it. She didn't know what they fought about.
"I can't believe this child is dead," DeArmas said. "Those girls were everything to her. She loved them very much."
Fajardo was arrested in June 1998 and charged with aggravated battery on a pregnant woman, says a Sheriff's Office arrest report.
The records do not say how the case was resolved or name the victim.
Cruz has no arrest record in Hillsborough County.
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