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Where are the kids? Story 4

We asked women in prison what happened to their kids when they were arrested.

Marlene Gonzales

When a stranger left a 6-year-old girl in a driveway in Lubbock, the homeowner promptly called 911. Police and child welfare workers arrived to investigate the case of little Catalina Maree.

Hours later on Sept. 30, 2016, officers found the child’s mother, 31-year-old Marlene Gonzales, disoriented and begging for gas money at a Lubbock convenience store, according to a police report. She was holding her newborn son, Isaiah. He, too, went into protective care.

Gonzales was arrested on an old drunken-driving charge and transferred to the Potter County Jail. She wasn’t eligible for bail. In a journal, she drew hearts near the names of her children: “Love you guys always. My days seem endless here. Under this bunk I lay here, hoping I haven’t been forgotten.”

But where were her other four children? Her parents and siblings, who live in Amarillo, scrambled to find out.

Their task was made harder when she died in jail last October. Officials reported her cause of death as hyponatremia, dangerously low sodium levels after she allegedly drank too much water. The Gonzales family is dubious.

It took months — and help from a lawyer and a detective — for them to find their daughter’s kids. One was in the custody of child welfare officials in New Mexico, where she had an abusive boyfriend. Three others, it turned out, had been taken in by the families of their fathers.

Because Gonzales’ parents have their own criminal records, they were unable to get custody of any of the children. The last time they saw Catalina Maree was when a child welfare worker brought her to Marlene Gonzales’ funeral, to say goodbye.

[This story was originally published by Dallas News.]


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