Texas woman pleads guilty to causing injury to her daughter

DALLAS (AP) — A Texas mother has pleaded guilty in a case stemming from the beating death of her 4-year-old daughter last year.

Jeri Quezada, 31, entered the plea to one count of causing injury to a child, a first-degree felony, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday. She has not yet been sentenced.

Quezada’s daughter, Leiliana Wright, was found beaten to death in March 2016 after Child Protective Services workers failed to check on her multiple times. An autopsy determined the girl had extensive bruising and whip marks on her back.

Quezada and her boyfriend, Charles Phifer, were jailed in April 2016 on felony charges of injury to a child. Quezada also has a history of drug abuse and previous encounters with CPS.

“It takes a team effort to raise our children and to protect them,” District Attorney Faith Johnson said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, Leiliana could not be protected ... We hope this plea and the ultimate sentencing will dissuade those who dare to put children in harm’s way.”

Records show a caseworker failed to check on Leiliana for more than a month. When a child abuse investigator did check on her, he left her in the care of her mother despite Leiliana’s black eye. The child had been classified as a Priority 2 case, despite clear signs of abuse, according to investigators.

CPS fired two employees and a third resigned in April 2016, after the agency was accused of failing to prevent Leiliana’s death.

Leiliana’s death marked an example of CPS failing to check on children in a timely manner because of a huge workload and staff turnover.

Lawmakers and agency officials have struggled to address the issue of staff turnover. Exit surveys show that departing investigators complain of job stress, safety concerns, overwhelming caseloads, poor supervisors and low pay.