While babysitting her younger siblings, 16-year-old Heather Trujillo and her live-in boyfriend Lamar Roberts told police they'd beaten the second grader to death on Dec. 6, 2007.
"She told me 'sissy, I'm scared. I think I'm going to die today.' I just told her that's silly and that it was going to be OK," said Heather Trujillo in an interview with The Denver Post from the juvenile facility she has been in since her conviction in July of 2008.
In the interview, Trujillo talked about the years leading up to the death of her sister. She told the Post that she lied about Mortal Kombat to protect her boyfriend. He had moved in after she dropped out of school at the age of 14.
"When Lamar got drunk, he got very aggressive, very fast," she said.
Trujillo said she was the primary caregiver of all three of her sisters, including twin 3 year olds, a fact backed up in a fatality review report issued death by the state Department of Human Services following Zoe's death.
Failed to Death: Zoe Garcia
The review said, "There were concerns that Zoe's mother was working evenings, not supervising the children, and using drugs (methamphetamines)."
Trujillo admitted to ignoring some abuse in the home. She also said she was the victim of domestic violence at the hand of Roberts.
Trujillo also admitted to supplying her younger sister with drugs.
"She was smoking cigarettes and weed before she died because that's all she had ever seen me do," Trujillo said.
The review also mentioned 14 visits from caseworkers from five counties to the family's multiple homes in the year before Zoe died. All of the visits were for a lack of supervision, substance abuse or neglect.
The Department of Human Services child fatality review team cited Weld County for violating state policy seven different ways in its handling of the case. Those violations included a lack of action when responding to allegations of abuse, ignoring the nature of past complaints, a lack of a thorough investigation of an injury to one of the children, and waiting too long to assign a caseworker after deciding to open a case.
In response to each violation, Weld County DHS repeated the same statement: "At this time, Weld County Department of Social Services is unable to respond to the State's findings set forth in the Garcia Review, because there are many sections therein that contain inaccurate factual allegations not supported by the information the Weld County Department of Social Services had at the time of the referrals in the Garcia case."
Trujillo and Roberts were both sentenced to time behind bars. Roberts will spend 36-years in prison.
But Trujillo's mother, Dana, never faced charges in the case despite the multiple allegations of abuse in the state review.
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck told 9NEWS there just wasn't enough evidence in the case to charge Zoe's mother.
Trujillo says she often lied to caseworkers in an attempt to keep her and her siblings together.
"I think we should've been taken out of the home, whether we were separated or not," she now says in hindsight.
Trujillo has earned a G.E.D. and learned several job skills while in juvenile custody.
"I know my life would be different if I hadn't come here. I wouldn't have a GED right now, probably wouldn't have a job, but I'd still take a do over," she said.
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