An infant died on June 23, after medics responded to a call reporting a female child who was choking and not breathing. The death marks the second such incident in which the mother, identified as Athena Savell, 21, of Chimayó was involved.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Cpl. Chris Gurule was also en route to the scene, when he heard on his radio, that the ambulance and medics arrived on scene at the Chimayó Country Store and the child was picked up there, put in the ambulance and taken to the Española Presbyterian Hospital.

“...I was advised that CPR was still in progress, as ambulance (sic) arrived at the Espanola Presbyterian Hospital I witnesses (sic) a female straddeling (sic) the body of the infant still performing CPR into the ER,” Gurule wrote in his incident report. He wrote that numerous nurses and doctors attempted life-saving measures on the child to no avail and after more than half an hour, an unidentified doctor called the time of death at around 10 p.m.

The child, later identified only by the initials, E.L., is the second child of Savell who has been rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Death of Steven Serrano III

The first incident occurred on Oct. 14, 2020 and Savell was charged with intentional abuse of a child (resulting in death) under 12. She did not enter a plea in that case and it was dismissed by the prosecutor on Jan. 13, 2021. Savell had been on full house arrest since Oct. 21, 2020. She was released from house arrest on Jan. 12, 2021, according to online court records.

However, the case is not over. Savell’s boyfriend at the time and the first child’s father, Steven Serrano Jr., was also charged with intentional abuse of a child (resulting in death) under 12 and is scheduled for a jury selection hearing on Sept. 12, before Judge Jason Lidyard in Tierra Amarilla District Court, online court records show.

The affidavit for an arrest warrant for Savell shows at about 2:55 p.m., on Oct. 14, 2020, deputies with the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to State Road 76 in Chimayó, regarding an infant who was not breathing.

“As I was en route to the address provided by Central Dispatch I observed via radio that the Espanola ambulance med 3 picked up the child and were transporting the child to the Espanola Hospital,” Sgt. Robert Vigil wrote in the affidavit for arrest. 

Once they arrived at the hospital, EMC wheeled the one-month-old infant, on a gurney, into the hospital, while performing CPR.

“Upon following EMS into the hospital, I observed the infant get wheeled into the second trauma room where I then observed hospital staff attempt to perform life-saving measures on the infant child,” Vigil wrote.

He heard Emergency Medical Technician Manny Gallegos tell Doctor Merrell (no first name listed in the affidavit) that the father of the child, later identified as Steven Serrano III, woke up around 7 a.m. and checked the child. 

According to the EMT, Serrano checked on the child, then fell asleep until 3 p.m., when he found the child not breathing, the affidavit said.

Life-saving efforts were not successful and Steven Serrano III died.

During the investigation into that death, Agent Shane Faulkner with the New Mexico State Police interviewed Savell and Serrano. According to the affidavit, Serrano said he got home around 1:20 or 1:30 a.m., fed the baby and changed his diaper. Serrano then said he got up an hour-and-a-half later at 7 a.m.

“Agent Faulkner then explained that he (Steven) got home at 130 and went to bed then woke up at 0700 hours an hour and a half later,” the affidavit said. “As Agent Faulkner was explaining the issue of the six-hour difference, Steven pointed at Agent Faulkner and advised ‘oh I woke up at 4:00 too, because he was crying.’ Given another chance Steven stated that he got home fed him burped him and put him back to sleep. Steven then couldn’t remember if he woke up baby Steven or if baby Steven woke up Steven.”

Faulkner continued the interview, in an attempt to sort out the details leading up to the child’s death.

“Agent Faulkner then advised that he believed that (Steven) got up, changed him (baby Steven) but he (baby Steven) continued to cry so you (Steven) put the pillow over him to muffle the sound and then went to sleep,” the affidavit said. “As agent Faulkner stated this, Steven contentiously shook his head yes in agreement with what Agent Faulkner was saying. Agent Faulkner then stated, “that’s what happen,” Steven shook his head yes agreeing with Agent Faulkner. Agent Faulkner then asked when you woke up that’s when you found him. Steven shook his head yes agreeing with Agent Faulkner. Steven responded ‘I didn’t mean for that to happen, bro, it’s not a heavy pillow at all.’”

However, according to the affidavit, Savell was also suspected of abusing the child prior to his death. Serrano claimed to have caught her talking “bad” to the baby and saying things like “shut the (expletive) up.” He said he got mad at Savell one day for grabbing Serrano III from under the armpit and jerking him up.

He also claimed, three weeks prior to the child’s death, that Serrano III had fallen on the floor while Savell was asleep and a family relative, Caprice Vigil found the child on the floor and took him outside to Serrano. 

“According to Steven, he was told that the baby fell on the floor and he was screaming and Athena would not wake up,” the affidavit said.

Savell also allegedly smacked Serrano III once in the face, when he grabbed her hair and pulled it.

“Steven advised that he got mad at Athena and told her to never do that again,” the affidavit said. “Steven then advised that Athena used her fingertips and tapped baby Steven and did not smack him hard.”

Serrano also allegedly once saw Savell shake Serrano III and ask what was wrong with him.

Following Faulkner’s investigation, he charged Serrano and Savell with intentional abuse of a child resulting in death.

Second incident

When Gurule spoke with Savell regarding the June 23 incident, she said she checked on E.L. around 7:30 p.m., as she was sleeping in her bed. At 8 p.m., Savell said she found E.L. lying on the bed in vomit and instantly tried to resuscitate her because she was not breathing, his report said. Savell then ran to the phone and called Vigil, who drove her and the child to the area where the ambulance met them.

“Office of Medical Investigation Christopher Martinez was called out and arrived at 2143,” Gurule wrote. “OMI did his initial screening and body visual observation which showed no broken bones, lacerations or bruising. Cause of death was still unconclusive as E.L. would be transferred to an autopsy in Albuquerque New Mexico Office. Chris Martinez stated there was nothing suspicious at this time and E.L. would be sent to ABQ for autopsy.” 

As of press time, Savell had not been charged with a crime in the death of E.L. 

A request for the child’s autopsy report is pending with the Office of the Medical Investigator.

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