WAGNER, S.D. — A woman has been charged with the murder of a 3-year-old girl found dead in Wagner last week.
Amanda Hernandez, 23, was arrested Friday, two days after police were called to a South Main Avenue residence on Aug. 14 and found her daughter, Aayana Hernandez, unresponsive and cold to the touch.
According to court documents, there was significant bruising on Aayana's forehead, nose, eyes, right cheek and abdomen. When police arrived, Hernandez was at the house, where she and her daughter had been staying with another woman and her children for about two weeks.
Hernandez reportedly told Wagner Police Chief Tim Simonsen that Aayana had fallen from the top of a bunk bed on Aug. 12, causing the bruising on her face, and that she had not sought medical care because Aayana had been behaving normally.
Special Agent Tyler Heine spoke with Hernandez, who reportedly said Aayana had been playing in a bedroom Aug. 12 when she ran out crying and bleeding from her face. The other children reportedly told her Aayana had fallen from the top bunk, hitting her head on a metal bar.
On Aug. 13, Hernandez said, she noticed bruising on Aayana's face but said she appeared to be fine, other than being more tired than usual. She said that later that day Aayana had fallen off a trampoline, hurting her knee.
Hernandez said she left the house at 8 p.m. Tuesday to go drink with a friend, leaving the children with the homeowner. At 6 a.m. on Aug. 14, she said, Aayana woke her up, and she told her to go back to bed. At 1:30 p.m., she became concerned that Aayana was not awake yet, and she went into the bedroom and found Aayana unresponsive.
On Thursday, Heine was told by the doctor who performed an autopsy on Aayana's body that her death was the result of internal bleeding caused by abuse and that the manner of death was homicide.
On Friday morning, the homeowner reportedly told Heine that she, not Hernandez, had been the one Aayana had come to at 6 a.m. on the day of her death. She later left the house to give a friend a ride to work, and the children were asleep while they were left alone. She said Hernandez had arrived at the house with a man at about 10:30 a.m.
When questioned, the man reportedly agreed he and Hernandez had not returned home until Wednesday morning. He told police that they fell asleep, he awoke to hear Aayana making noise in a bedroom and Hernandez walked to the bedroom, began yelling, then came back and fell asleep again. The man said he didn't hear Aayana crying while Hernandez was yelling or afterward.
When confronted during a second interview on Friday morning, Hernandez allegedly said she had lied about the timeline to avoid getting the homeowner in trouble for leaving the children unattended. When asked about the man's comments, she reportedly said they were not true and requested a lawyer.
Hernandez is charged with second-degree murder, a Class B felony that differs from first-degree murder in that the offender does not have to have premeditated the death and from first-degree manslaughter in that it reveals a depraved mind and is committed without regard for human life.
If convicted of the charge, Hernandez would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.