Local News

Autopsy: Fayetteville toddler died of 'non-accidental' head injury

Posted May 21, 2015
Updated May 22, 2015

— A Fayetteville toddler who died in January had severe head injuries and earlier injuries on her body that had healed, prompting authorities to charge her mother and her mother's fiancé on Wednesday with murder.

A nationwide manhunt ended Wednesday night when Vanessa Ariana Sanchez, 20, and Andrew Tyler Tomczak, 21, were found inside a residence in El Paso County, Colo., and were taken into custody.

Colorado investigators said a woman recognized a picture of the wanted pair on Facebook and turned them in.

Fayetteville police responded to 528 Lambert St. on Jan. 29 after 18-month-old Violet Sky Cortez was found unresponsive in a bedroom. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy report released last Friday showed Violet died of "significant closed head injuries" and had extensive bleeding around her brain.

"These injuries are deemed to be non-accidental in nature," the medical examiner wrote in the report, noting the Violet also had earlier bruises and scrapes on her face, scalp, chest, back, arms, legs and genitals.

The medical examiner also pulled a nickel from the girl's throat during the autopsy, according to the report, and toxicology tests showed caffeine in her blood.

Sanchez gave a much different account of her daughter's death during a 911 call in January.

"We came in here to come check on her, and we found her on the floor, and she doesn't look like she's breathing. Her face is all bloody ... like she fell off the bed," she told a dispatcher.

"You need to go to your daughter and see if she's breathing," the dispatcher said.

"We tried. She's not," Sanchez said.

A man who was renting a room to the couple in Colorado Springs, Colo., told CBS affiliate KKTV that Sanchez and Tomczak had their clothes packed and were planning to leave Thursday. Authorities told the station that, had they left, it was unknown if they would have been caught.

Fayetteville investigators said they have filed extradition paperwork to return the couple to North Carolina. If the pair waives extradition, police said they could be back in Fayetteville next week.

Sanchez made her first court appearance in Colorado Springs on Thursday, when she refused to waive extradition. Her next court appearance is scheduled for June 11.

Tomczak waived extradition in connection with a probation violation charge he faces in Wake County. He is scheduled to have his first appearance on the murder charge next Tuesday.

A former student at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, Tomczak was convicted in March on a Wake County charge of assault by strangulation and was placed on probation for two years, according to court records. The state Department of Public Safety considers him an absconder because he left the state without contacting his probation officer.

He also has three previous convictions on drug charges dating to 2011, court records show.


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  • Patrick Demby May 22, 2015
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    Just end both of them, the same way they did that poor girl. Some people don't deserve to breathe.

  • K Hope Capps May 22, 2015
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    That beautiful little baby. I don't understand how people can do that.

  • Angie Cox May 22, 2015
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    so sad. this just makes me so sick to my stomach! RIP lil angel!

  • Diane Thornton May 21, 2015
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    Poor precious baby, needed her mother protection, the guy she picked either didn't care as well.

  • Bonita Rose May 21, 2015
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    Please NC court system. Please see that beasts such as this, ones entrusted with the lives of innocents.........are locked away forever and a day. They have no right to breathe the air that this innocent child was denied. My heart breaks for this child....a new angel for heaven. Please...no mercy. Period.

  • Derric Fuller May 21, 2015
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    Stories like this that involve the deaths of innocent children always tear the heart out of me.