Mother charged with murder in death of girl, 3

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / March 17, 2011

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NANTUCKET — The mother charged in the death of her 3-year-old daughter told a pastor and hospital officials that she shoved a rose down her daughter’s throat to rid the child of demons, and that God told her to do it, according to court records.

Dora Alicia Tejada Pleitez then told her pastor that at one point she realized the rose was actually her fist, and that “the devil’’ bit her hand through her daughter, according to the records. The daughter, Nicole Garcia, was pronounced dead at 1:18 p.m. Monday at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, less than an hour after police were notified.

Tejada Pleitez was charged with murder in Nantucket District Court on Tuesday. She was ordered held without bail pending a hearing to determine whether she is competent to understand the charge. She is to return to court Monday.

Detectives said in court records that they found several pink roses and rose petals on the floor of Tejada Pleitez’s living room, where the child was found. Hospital officials said they found no other signs of physical abuse on Nicole, according to court records. Tejada Pleitez also had a wound on her hand that resembled a bite mark, according to police reports.

It was not clear yesterday what caused the child’s death. A spokeswoman for the Cape and Islands district attorney would not discuss autopsy results.

Tejada Pleitez is a native of El Salvador, and the killing shocked a close-knit immigrant community on the island.

The child’s death was the first homicide to occur on this island in two years, since 39-year-old Scott M. Bernard was killed during a fight with a fellow painter in March 2009. The last homicide before that was nearly five years earlier.

Tejada Pleitez initially told authorities that she and her daughter had fallen asleep together on the couch. At one point, she and Nicole fell to the floor, and all she remembered was people taking the girl from her, according to a police report.

She also told authorities that her sister-in-law had given her candy to give to Nicole and her toddler son, Luis, who was also by her side.

But the sister-in-law, Deonila Tema, told authorities that the passing of candy never happened, and that she was scared because Tejada Pleitez was acting strangely, the police report stated. Tema said Tejada Pleitez kept asking her to pray for her, and that she was “asking for mercy for her and her children,’’ according to court records.

Tema left the house to call her husband, Amilear Tejada, Tejada Pleitez’s brother, asking him to come home. On the way, he told authorities, he called his sister, who told him that they needed to pray and that their third sibling, Maria Elena, was in the room with her. Maria Elena died several years ago, according to court records.

Amilear Tejada also told authorities that his sister Tejada Pleitez has said several times before that she has been “given a gift by God that allowed her to see people that passed away.’’

When Amilear Tejada arrived at his sister’s home, he found her on the couch with Nicole unresponsive in her arms. She told him that Nicole’s face looked like Maria Elena’s, and she would not let him take her daughter from her arms, the report said.

Amilear Tejada called other family members, including the girl’s father, Juan Garcia, and the family pastor.

Family members then tried unsuccessfully to administer the child first aid.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families said the agency had no history with the family.

Tejada Pleitez’s son was in the custody of his father.

Globe correspondent Rob Benchley contributed to this report from Nantucket. Milton Valencia can be reached at