Mother of toddler found dead in dumpster lost custody of 6 older children

Laura Sanchez told police she last saw her son, Frankie Gonzales, early Monday afternoon in the...
Laura Sanchez told police she last saw her son, Frankie Gonzales, early Monday afternoon in the area of the restrooms near the splash pad in the Pecan Bottoms area of Cameron Park. She was charged Tuesday after the boy's body was found in a dumpster. (Law enforcement photos)(KWTX)
Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 2:32 PM CDT
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Laura Sanchez, 35, who’s charged with injury to a child after the body of her 2-year-old son, Frankie Gonzales, whom she had earlier reported missing, was found in a dumpster near a North Waco church lost custody of six older children several years ago over allegations and neglect, Waco lawyer Gerald Villarrial confirmed Friday.

Villarrial represented interests of the six children during proceedings to terminate Sanchez’s parental rights.

“She not only lost custody, her parental rights were terminated, and that’s because the main part of that was neglect and drug abuse. She was doing drugs during that time and couldn’t stop,” he said Friday.

Two of the dead toddler's siblings were placed in foster care after Sanchez was arrested on Tuesday, authorities confirmed.

Sanchez, 35, who’s identified on the McLennan County Jail’s online roster as Laura Jane Villalon, is held in lieu of $500,000 bond on the injury to a child charge and without bond on a parole violation stemming from a previous conviction.

Sanchez told police early Monday afternoon she last saw her son, Frankie Gonzales, in the area of the restrooms near the splash pad in the Pecan Bottoms.

The report led to an intensive search of Cameron Park and the Brazos River.

Sanchez, the affidavit says, told an investigator the toddler spent the weekend with her adult son in Killeen, but family members said “that was a lie.”

The investigator interviewed Sanchez Monday evening, however, “and determined she told several lies,” the affidavit says.

On Tuesday Sanchez’s brother called the investigator “and said his sister had confessed," the affidavit says.

The investigator returned to Sanchez who, after she was advised of her Miranda rights, admitted “that Frankie was dead in a dumpster somewhere around 27th (and) Park Lake,” the affidavit says.

Authorities think the boy died on May 28.

“Sanchez told (an investigator) she kept Frankie’s body in her house until about May 30 when she disposed of it in the dumpster,” the affidavit says.

The affidavit does not say how the toddler died.

Autopsy results were still pending Friday, but foul play is suspected, police Officer Garen Bynum said earlier.

“Frankie did not die of natural causes,” he said.

Officers responded to the Pecan Bottoms area just before 2 p.m. Monday and about an hour later closed the park entirely.

While Waco Fire Department rescue crews searched the nearby Brazos River, officers spread out through the park.

Bloodhounds from a Texas Department of Criminal Justice unit in Gatesville were brought in to help in the search.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued for the youngster just after 7:30 p.m. Monday after the hours-long search of the park came up empty.

But Bynum said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon investigators determined the toddler was never in the park.

"The information found throughout the investigation confirmed that Frankie was never taken to Cameron Park, and the missing child report that was initially called in was a diversion to Frankie's actual whereabouts," he said.

Police found the toddler’s body at around 8 a.m. Tuesday in a dumpster near Park Lake Drive Baptist Church at 3701 North 27th St., about 2 ½ miles from the park, he said.

Investigators impounded Sanchez’s car.

“This is a tragic scene,” Bynum said after the body was found Tuesday.

“This is a very tragic thing we’re having to deal with.”

“We are, as a police department, we are hurting. This is a very hard thing for officers to work,” he said.

“We’re all parents as well.”

The warrant for Sanchez’s arrest was issued at around noon Tuesday.

Sanchez was arrested at the Waco Child Advocacy Center, according to a police report.

The dumpster near a garage outside the church, around which a makeshift memorial was placed, will be removed from the property and replaced with another dumpster, officials said.

(Rissa Shaw, Christy Soto, Neill Main and Tyler Bowman contributed to this story)

WACO, Texas (KWTX)--Laura Sanchez, 35, who was charged with injury to a child after she led police to a trash dumpster where authorities found the body of her 2-year-old son Frankie Gonzales, had eight other children.

Two of the dead toddler's siblings were placed in foster care, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

She lost custody of the other six, earlier.

The oldest of them, Michael Occasion, rushed to Cameron Park after Sanchez reported the toddler missing Monday. “When I got to the park... I went up to her and I asked ‘where is Frankie at?’” he said Thursday.

“And she said she didn’t know. And I said ‘what do you mean you don’t know?’ But she didn’t even want to look in my eyes so I knew Frankie wasn’t there,” he said.
“He meant the world to me,” he said.  “Ain’t no two year old deserve this. I feel lost without him.” (Drake Lawson)