Chandler has seen a spate of severe child abuse cases and child deaths in the last three weeks that have left the police department shaken.
Since Aug. 21 Chandler police have investigated two child deaths and two other child abuse cases in which a 5-month-old boy suffered a broken leg and ribs and a 3-week-old girl is near death.
The rash of abuse cases has taken a toll on the entire department, said Detective Frank Mendoza, a Chandler police spokesman.
“When you have the caregivers do these horrific things to kids, it is hard to fathom,” Mendoza said.
He said he can’t remember so many horrific cases in such a short span.
Murder charges have been filed against 23-year-old Dauntorian Sanders and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Susan Witbracht, in one of the deaths, which involves the mother’s 3-year-old girl, Schala Vera.
The other death case, which involves a 2-year-old boy, is still under investigation, Mendoza said.
According to court documents, the 2-year-old boy died on the same day that his mother gave birth to another child.
The mother had left the boy in the care of her 20-year-old boyfriend while she went to a doctor’s appointment and then the hospital. The Tribune is not identifying the child, mother or her boyfriend because no charges have been filed.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner said the cause of death is pending.
One detective said the beating death of Schala, 3, was the worst case he had seen in his career, Mendoza said.
She suffered bruises on her head, torso, arms and legs, all in the pattern of a belt and belt buckle, court documents state.
That case was topped nine days later when Isabella Hopf, 3 weeks old, was hospitalized with skull fractures, brain swelling and broken ribs.
According to court documents she was also sexually assaulted.
As of Friday, she was brain-dead.
Police arrested her father, Brian Hopf, 25, on suspicion of child abuse. Hopf is being held in a Maricopa County jail on a $500,000 cash bond.
Aug. 21: A 5-month-old boy was taken to the hospital with a broken leg. His father, Michael Dunn, was arrested on suspicion of child abuse after admitting he shoved the child’s ankle toward his head four times while yelling for him to stop crying.
Aug. 26: A 2-year-old boy who was in the care of his mother’s boyfriend was found dead. The 20-year-old man and boy’s mother give police conflicting statements.
Aug. 31: Schala Vera, 3, was allegedly beaten to death with a belt by her mother’s boyfriend, Dauntorian Sanders. Schala’s mother, Susan Witbracht, was also arrested.
Sept. 8: A 3-week-old girl was hospitalized with skull fractures, brain swelling, broken ribs and injuries consistent with sexual assault. Her father was arrested on suspicion of child abuse.