FORT WORTH, Texas — A mother and her girlfriend were arrested yesterday on capital murder charges in connection with the death of the woman's 4-year-old child, the Fort Worth Police Department announced today.
At approximately 4:35 p.m., on March 19, 2020, the Fort Worth Police Department responded to a medical call at 3313 Bonaventure Boulevard where 4-year-old Stetson Blackburn was not breathing and unresponsive.
Blackburn was transported to Cook Children's Medical Center where, two days later, on March 21, 2020, he was pronounced deceased after being declared brain dead.
After an exhaustive investigation and a July 8th medical examiner's ruling that Blackburn's death was a homicide caused by blunt force injuries with complications, police obtained arrest warrants for the child's mother, 23-year-old Shannon Gray, and her girlfriend, 24-year-old Reyna Marie Sanchez.
Yesterday, the Fort Worth Police Department's Fugitive Unit arrested Sanchez and Tennessee authorities arrested Gray.
A doctor at Cook Children's Hospital, who treated Blackburn, noted he suffered cardiac arrest, acute respiratory failure with hypoxia and hypercpania, Glasgow coma scale, shock, subdural hematoma, acute coagulopathy, multiple bruises, traumatic brain injury, and brain death.
An arrest warrant affidavit further details the abuse which led up to Blackburn's death.
"Shannon said that the previous night she gave Stetson an 'ass-whooping' because he was lying," states the affidavit. "Shannon said that she overdid it."
Gray told investigators that she spanked Blackburn with a belt 35 to 40 times on the butt, laid him down and spanked him ten more times, then Sanchez instructed her to strike him on the head with the belt, to which she complied and struck him approximately 20 more times on the head.
She then told investigators she felt bad so she stuck him in a cold shower. Sanchez made him raise his hands above his head while he was showering, according to the affidavit. Then, after he got out of the shower, Sanchez shoved Blackburn to the ground and kicked him in the stomach two or three times because he wasn't drying off fast enough.
Blackburn screamed, stiffened up, acted nauseous, and appeared "out of it," states the affidavit.
"Shannon said that she told Reyna that they needed to go to the hospital but stated Reyna told them that they couldn't go," continued the affidavit.
The following day, Sanchez told police Stetson began vomiting and became unresponsive, according to the affidavit. She then took Blackburn to the shower and ran cold water over him but, he remained unresponsive. She then called Gray and told her Blackburn was unresponsive. 911 wasn't called until Gray returned home.
Gray admitted to investigators this wasn't the first time that she or Sanchez had struck Blackburn with the belt sating that Sanchez had strangled Blackburn on one occasion, told her that she wasn't disciplining Blackburn hard enough, and that Sanchez told her she had thoughts of killing Blackburn.
Sanchez, in her interview with detectives, admitted to picking Blackburn off the ground by his neck on one occasion, admitted to striking him while she made him take cold showers with his hands above his head, and admitted to kicking him after the shower the night before his death — telling detectives she kicked him as hard as she could, so much so that she hurt her big toe.
"Due to Shannon Gray, her failure to provide a reason for the victim being injured that is consistent with the medical examiner's findings; and numerous inconsistencies of the events surrounding the victim's injuries, and her admission to repeatedly abusing Stetson clearly indicates that Shannon Gray is responsible or is a party to the death of Stetson Blackburn," concluded the statement of facts in Gray's arrest warrant affidavit — the same stated in Sanchez's arrest warrant.
"[Crimes Against Childs Unit] detectives did an exhaustive investigation," read a statement from the Fort Worth Police Department. "Two search warrants were executed at the offense location, in addition to canvasing the trailer park for witnesses."
"Five search warrants were executed for cell phone records and social media accounts," continued the statement from the department. "Multiple interviews were conducted with the suspects, Medstar, Fort Worth Fire Department, patrol officers, Child Protective Services (CPS), family members, friends and co-workers of Sanchez and Gray, medical personnel, and the Medical Examiner’s office."
Throughout the investigation, the department says investigators have been in communication with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office regularly.
In his death, Fort Worth police say Blackburn help save countless others as several of his organs were donated through LifeGift — a designated organ procurement organization (OPO) for North, Southeast, and West Texas. For more information about LifeGift and organ and tissue donations, visit LifeGift's website, here.