March 17–NANTUCKET — The woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter earlier this week believed God had instructed her to stick a rose in the young girl’s throat to ward off the devil, according to documents filed in Nantucket District Court.
Dora Alicia Tejada Pleitez, 26, of 13B Pine Tree Road was held without bail pending a mental competency hearing following her arraignment Tuesday on a murder charge. She was taken off the island Tuesday for the evaluation and is scheduled to appear in Nantucket District Court on Monday for a pretrial hearing.
The police were called to the family’s home at about 12:40 p.m. Monday, according to a six-page narrative describing police interviews in the investigation.
Officers found Pleitez’s daughter, Nicole Garcia, lying on a table inside the home and attempted to resuscitate her until paramedics arrived.
The girl was taken to Nantucket Cottage Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at about 1:18 p.m.
During an interview shortly after Garcia’s death, Pleitez, who is originally from El Salvador, began singing and praying, telling investigators through a Spanish interpreter that the Holy Spirit could speak through her.
Pleitez told the police that she had been seated on a couch in the living room of the Pine Tree Road home earlier in the day with her daughter and son.
She described a mundane scene, trying to get nail clippers away from her son and covering her daughter with a blanket after she complained of being cold. She asked her sister-in-law, who was in the kitchen, to bring candy for her son, Pleitez told the police.
Pleitez said she went to sleep at one point and fell to the floor with her daughter. The next thing she remembered was waking up with people in the home asking whether anyone had hurt her daughter, according to what she told the police. Pleitez said she had been away on a religious retreat for the past several days and could not say whether her daughter had recently hurt herself.
Pleitez’s story appears to have unraveled as the police interviewed other family members.
Her sister-in-law Deonila Tema told investigators that Pleitez repeatedly called her into the living room to join her in prayer.
“Tema said that she became uncomfortable with the situation so she went outside and called her husband,” investigators wrote.
Tema waited outside for about 20 minutes until her husband, Amilcar Antonio Tejada, arrived.
Tejada called Pleitez on his way to the home, and she asked him to pray on the phone with her, he told the police.
During the telephone conversation, Pleitez told her brother that their dead sister Maria Elena was in the room with her.
“(Amilcar) Tejada said that while on the phone (Pleitez) told him that from now on they would be calling Nicole, Maria Elena,” the police wrote.
Pleitez had previously told her brother that God had given her the ability to see people that had died, according to Tejada.
When Tejada arrived at the home, his sister was holding Nicole and would not let him take her away.
“Tejada said that (Pleitez) told him to look at Nicole because she thought that Nicole’s face looked like Maria Elena’s,” the police wrote.
When Tejada reached out and touched the girl’s leg, he realized she was dead, he told the police.
When Pleitez returned to the police station later in the night, she was left alone in an interview room, where “she placed her arms out in a cross like manner and stood there for several moments.”
She agreed to speak with investigators at first but then changed her mind. Before she left, an investigator observed a mark on her hand with a piece of skin hanging off, and Pleitez was taken to Nantucket Cottage Hospital for medical attention.
During her treatment, Pleitez said she stuck a rose down her daughter’s throat because God told her to, according to a police officer stationed at the hospital who reported overhearing a conversation between Pleitez and her translator.
She put the rose in her daughter’s throat because demons were inside the girl, according to the translation, the officer said. Pink roses and rose petals were found on the floor of the home’s living room, according to the police.
Pleitez’ son may also have been in danger.
Through the translator, Pleitez said she had “thought about fighting the demons out of both children and that at one point had a child in each arm.”
Father Carlos Patino Villa, who holds a Spanish language service at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle on Federal Street, told investigators on Tuesday that he spoke with Pleitez shortly after the death of her daughter.
“Patino Villa stated that (Pleitez) told him that she was forcing a rose down Nicole’s throat in an effort to ward off the devil,” according to investigators. “Patino Villa stated that (Pleitez) then told him that she realized the rose was actually her fist and that ‘the devil’ bit her hand through Nicole.”
The priest said he observed injuries on Pleitez’s hand consistent with what she said.
“I’m sure that a mental evaluation will play a critical role in the path that her case is going to take in the court system,” attorney Peter Kyburg, who represented Pleitez during her arraignment, said in a brief telephone interview Wednesday.
Kyburg declined to comment further on the case, citing attorney-client privilege.