Boyfriend charged in connection to 5-year-old’s death appears in court

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HOUSTON — Santiago Esparza Jr., the man charged in connection to the death of his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter, made his first appearance in court Monday.

Esparza is charged with tampering with evidence in the death of Sierra Patino, whose body was found in an apartment closet on Labor Day.

On Monday,  Judge George Powell set bond conditions for him that include no contact with the girl’s mother, Priscilla Torres, no weapons, no drugs or alcohol, and if he does bond out, he’ll be required to wear a GPS ankle monitor.

His lawyer asked for his bond to be reduced, saying that for what he’s charged with, his bond is too high.

The prosecutor asked the judge to not reduce the bond for several reasons, including his history of child abuse and assault. Esparza was charged with injury to a child in 2007 and endangering a child in 2015 and has a couple of assault charges as well.

The prosecutor also mentioned Esparza’s affiliation with the gang Tango Blast as a reason not to reduce the bond.

Powell agreed that this is a high bond for the tampering with evidence charge, but he said for a number of factors, including public safety and Esparza possibly being a flight risk, he kept the bond at $100,000.

According to court records, Esparza has some kind of mental illness or intellectual disability, which could affect how this case is prosecuted.

Esparza is due back in court on Nov. 7, which is just one day after Priscilla Torres is due in court. She is also charged with tampering with evidence.

Sierra’s death is still under investigation. Prosecutors said that once autopsy results are back, its possible that more charges are coming.

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