In recently-released interrogation tapes, a Florida mother charged with killing her 13-month-old daughter can be heard telling investigators she never noticed the child was abnormally thin despite weighing 2 lbs. fewer than she did at birth.
Last fall, Kristen Meyer-Aleman, who has 10 other children, allegedly told detectives she realized her daughter “was small,” but emphasized she “didn’t realize she was that small.” The mom also denied intentionally starving the toddler.
Court records obtained by PEOPLE confirm that Meyer-Aleman and her husband, Alejandro Aleman, face aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder stemming from the April 2016 death of Tayla, who is likened to a concentration camp survivor in audio released by the Florida State Attorney’s Office.
The couple, who are also charged with animal abuse, were arrested in September and have entered not guilty pleas. A trial is scheduled for January, and each parent faces the death penalty if convicted.
PEOPLE was unable to reach attorneys for the defendants.
Court filings indicate that Tayla died from exhaustion caused by neglect. In addition, medical examiners determined that, at the time of her death, the child was infected with multiple strains of influenza. She also had E. coli, pneumonia, and a bacteria known to cause skin infections.
Police claim that none of Tayla’s teeth had come in.
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According to records obtained by PEOPLE, the couple’s home in Loxahatchee smelled of human waste. Police who searched the home found a dog in a cage, standing in waste two inches thick. They also uncovered a 5-foot pile of urine-stained laundry.
Police allegedly found no food in the home and say the home’s carpeting was stained black with excrement.
Officials allege in court records that 9 other children lived in the home with the defendants. All of the children were home-schooled and some allegedly could not speak; others did not know their names.
During their investigation, detectives spoke with neighbors who said the couple’s children came to their homes begging for food. Court records show the couple received $1,600 a month in food stamps
As he was being interrogated, Aleman allegedly told police he had never held Tayla before asking officers if a law existed, requiring “that your baby has to go to the doctor?” A detective replied, “Yes. It’s called medical treatment.”
During the interviews, the father expressed frustration when detectives told him he would be charged with his daughter’s death.
“Aggravated child abuse of my daughter and murder of my daughter — wow,” Aleman says in the audio. “That’s a nasty charge, a really nasty charge.”
All 10 of Tayla’s siblings — one of whom was born after she died — are now under the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Meyer-Aleman allegedly told police she treated all of her children equally and explained that Tayla’s death “threw my family into a turmoil.”
She said she was heartbroken over the little girl’s death: “I don’t think anybody understands what it has done to me. It has killed me inside.”
But the detective questioning her showed little sympathy as the mother wept.
“I don’t think you are an animal and I don’t think you are a monster,” the detective is heard saying, “but only an animal and a monster would sit there and let their child shrivel up and die like that.”