Santa Fe woman facing new charges of physical, sexual abuse in stepson’s death

Melynie Tyalan-Curtis

A Santa Fe woman charged in the September death of her 5-year-old stepson is facing new counts accusing her of physically and sexually abusing the boy in the weeks before his death.

A Santa Fe County grand jury indicted Melynie Tyalan-Curtis on seven new charges Wednesday, including five counts of child abuse, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and criminal sexual contact of a minor.

Tyalan-Curtis, 21, had called 911 on Sept. 22 to report she had found her stepson, Jayden Curtis, unconscious in a bathtub. The boy was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where medical personnel told police his injuries were not consistent with Tyalan-Curtis’ story that Jayden had drowned. He had marks on his body suggesting abuse, authorities said, and appeared to have been choked to death.

Jayden never recovered from his injuries, and his parents took him off life support Sept. 25.

Tyalan-Curtis was then charged with intentional abuse of a child under 12 resulting in death, which carries a possible penalty of life in prison.

According to court records, she eventually confessed that the boy hadn’t drowned in the bathtub, as she had claimed, and that she had “gotten angry with him and strangled him.”

According to the new indictment, Tyalan-Curtis is accused of having inflicted physical and sexual abuse on Jayden in the two weeks before his death.

A search warrant affidavit filed in the state District Court in Santa Fe in February said a police officer found evidence on her cellphone that she might have abused Jayden before Sept. 22. Photos on the phone taken earlier that month showed red marks on the boy’s face and scratches and other marks on his neck, the affidavit said.

Officials at Jayden’s school had questioned Tyalan-Curtis about the marks on his neck, the affidavit said, and she told them the boy had suffered a reaction from a recent dental visit.

A doctor who later reviewed the photographs told police the red marks might be consistent with strangulation, but not with an allergic reaction, the affidavit said.

The boy also was hospitalized at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for a broken clavicle just two days before he was fatally strangled, authorities have said. That prompted an investigation by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, but the agency’s investigation hadn’t been completed and forwarded to law enforcement by the time Jayden was hospitalized for the last time.

A state Office of the Medical Investigator report on Jayden’s autopsy said in addition to signs of strangulation, he had “blunt force injuries indicative of non-accidental trauma,” such as bruising on his lower back and buttocks, and contusions and abrasions on his anus and genitals, “including a testicular hemorrhage,” according to online court records.

James Hallinan, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said in an email Thursday, “The case was originally indicted on a single count because of the 10 day rule and at that point all we knew was that [Jayden] died as a result of strangulation.”

He was referring to a rule on how quickly prosecutors must hold a preliminary hearing in a criminal case after bringing charges.

“At that early juncture, the investigation was still ongoing and developing,” Hallinan said. “The new charges stem from the investigation as it developed in the months after [Jayden’s] death.”

Tyalan-Curtis is the mother of three other children, one of whom was 2 weeks old at the time of Jayden’s death.

According to court documents, she gave birth to her first child at age 15 and has a history of mental illness and postpartum depression.

Until late last month, she was being held without bond in the Santa Fe County jail, in part because of a judge’s concern that she might harm herself. On June 24, she was released to house arrest on electronic monitoring, according to court records.

Jury selection in her case was scheduled to take place in October, but her attorney, Public Defender Todd Farkas, said Thursday the new charges likely will result in postponement of her trial until next year.

Farkas declined to comment further on the case.