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System Failed 6-Year-Old Who Was Tortured Before Being Killed

November 24, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ The system failed 6-year-old Alisa Izquierdo and it cost her her life. Neighbors heard her screams and did nothing, and the pleas of those who did intervene fell on deaf ears.

On Thursday, her mother, Awilda Lopez, 29, was charged with second-degree murder and endangering the welfare of the child, said Officer Debra Kearns, a police spokeswoman.

``I didn’t do it,″ the 29-year-old mother of six said as she was walked out of the police precinct.

Alisa’s body was found Wednesday in the family’s apartment. She was covered with bruises and cigarette burns. Some of her fingers were broken and there were signs she had been sexually abused, authorities said.

``In my 22 years of service, this has been the worst case of child abuse I’ve ever seen,″ Lt. Luis Gonzalez said.

The apartment was orderly and Lopez’s five other children, ages 2 to 9, didn’t appear to be injured, police said. They have been turned over to welfare authorities.

Lopez had told relatives that Alisa knew voodoo, and she was afraid of the little girl, Brunilda Rivera, the suspect’s sister, told The New York Times.

Neighbor Millie Vasquez said she would hear Alisa crying in the middle of the night: ``Mommy, please stop. No more.″

Other neighbors also said they heard screams or strange thuds coming from the apartment, and did nothing.

``I wish I had called Family Services or something,″ neighbor Wen Kuen Ng said.

An autopsy showed Alisa died from blunt impact injuries to the head, which caused a brain hemorrhage, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.

Rivera said she reported her sister to the child welfare agency in 1989 and that Alisa was taken from Lopez for a year. Afterward, she said, her sister cut her out of her life and she lost track of the children.

Officials at the school where Alisa attended kindergarten from September 1994 to December 1994, said they notified social services that they thought the girl was being abused but that no action was taken.

Renelda Higgins, a spokeswoman for the city’s Child Welfare Administration said state confidentiality laws prevented her from commenting.

Andrew Lachman, who represents the school district where Alisa attended kindergarten, said her mother pulled her out of school last December and led officials to believe she was enrolling elsewhere for first grade.

Even so, he said, workers from the school _ where Alisa’s two older siblings continued to go _ visited the Lopez home twice to monitor it. He said that they did not spot any trouble on either visit.

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