HEBER CITY, Utah (ABC4) — An 18-year-old Utah mom is facing an aggravated murder charge after police claim she attempted to “erase any and all traces” of her newborn’s birth, life and death within a month of giving birth.
Estrella Meza Ojeda, 18, is facing felony charges of aggravated murder, obstruction of justice, abuse or desecration of a body and producing false identification.
According to a police booking affidavit, Ojeda gave birth to a premature boy at the beginning of August. Doctors reportedly told Ojeda that her son was unable to breathe on his own and required supplemental oxygen. After 22 days in the NICU, the infant was released from the hospital with Ojeda, who went home with oxygen tanks to give her son.
Less than a week later, another tenant in the apartments where Ojeda lived called 911 to report the baby had stopped breathing. The boy was taken to the hospital where doctors reportedly again told Ojeda that oxygen tanks were vital to his survival after she arrived without his tanks. The affidavit says doctors sent Ojeda home with her son along with smaller oxygen tanks for easier transportation.
“It is now believed that this was an attempt to end [the baby’s] life and that [Ojeda] was either interrupted or could not go through it with it at this time,” Heber City Police investigators wrote in their probable cause statement.
On Sept. 11, about 10 days after the hospital visit, police were called to do a welfare check on the baby boy after Ojeda missed a follow-up appointment. Police were reportedly unable to find Ojeda or her baby despite multiple phone calls and messages for her to call back. Officers and Department of Child and Family Services workers again responded to her address after reports came in that Ojeda was seen with her baby without his oxygen.
Police said they began an “extensive search” for Ojeda and her baby. Shortly after, DCFS reported they spoke with Ojeda who said the baby was in Mexico. Police then found Ojeda at a house in Kamas. During their initial conversation, Ojeda reportedly provided forged IDs, including a social security card and a United States Permanent Resident card that were “clearly missing” security features.
Ojeda allegedly told Heber City Police she found it difficult to raise a baby that needed special care. She said she had made “a rash decision without thinking,” explaining her mother told her to give the baby to a man named “Daniel” who was going to take the baby to Mexico where she has family. Ojeda claimed Daniel had baby clothes, formula, a car seat, and oxygen tanks. Police reported that Ojeda’s story changed frequently and she was unable to verify specific details such as where she met Daniel to say goodbye to the baby. In addition, phone numbers for Ojeda’s family reportedly did not ring through and Mexico addresses led to a town square.
According to the probable cause statement, Ojeda told officers the baby was “doing great” and was receiving care from a pediatrician in Mexico City just 24 hours after leaving Salt Lake City. A Heber City Police Department investigator noted that it takes 34 hours to drive the over 2,000-mile distance from Salt Lake to Mexico City.
Police executed a search warrant on Ojeda’s phone, revealing Google searches that suggested she may have killed her son. Searches included asking questions such as “How much time will I serve in prison for killing my baby” as well as “garbage dumps near me.” The search also reportedly revealed a text exchange Ojeda and her mother where she asked “How’s my baby?” Her mother reportedly replied asking what baby. Police said they found no photos of the baby on her phone no other reference to him in any text messages.
“It appeared that [Ojeda] was attempting to erase all evidence of his birth, life and death,” investigators wrote in a probable cause statement.
Ojeda allegedly later confirmed with Detectives that the baby was no longer alive. She said she had gone to a grocery store in Park City to meet with a man and brought her son with her but did not bring any oxygen tanks. When she arrived she thought the boy was sleeping. She later returned to the apartment and allegedly found that her son was not breathing and did not have a pulse.
“She stated that she then drove [her son] towards Salt Lake City and disposed of his body on the side of the road,” the affidavit said. “When asked where she had disposed of [the body], she stated that she could not properly name or describe it, but agreed to show [detectives] where it was.
According to the booking affidavit, Ojeda took police to the area of Exit 131 on I-80, where there are large crosses on the hill on the south side of the highway. She allegedly told police she had left the baby’s body wrapped in a gray blanket with an elephant on it in the area. After a brief search, police reported not finding the body or the blanket. Ojeda was asked to show the exact spot she left the body and she took police to the same spot she pointed out from the car.
“While there, one of our officers spotted a piece of fabric on the ground,” investigators said. “When [Ojeda] saw this fabric, she began to sob and try to go to the area.”
Police were still unable to find the baby’s body after finding the fabric and later called off the initial search due to the lack of lighting and “the possibility of animal activity in the area disturbing or removing [the baby’s] body.” Officers said they would conduct an additional search with the use of cadaver dogs and more officers.
Police claimed Ojeda was over-whelmed with caring for a premature baby that needed extra care and wished to go back to being a single, non-mother. Investigators believe Ojeda had premeditated her son’s death and booked on the aforementioned charges.