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Mar 20, 2014 1:30 AM by Nathan O'Neal

Cause of brain damage unclear in child abuse case involving foster care mom

TUCSON - A foster parent remains in custody after she was charged with child abuse as police investigate how the child sustained permanent brain damage.

Griselda Badilla, 34, remains in custody until Immigration and Customs Enforcement can verify she has the proper documents to remain in the country. Badilla had custody of 2-year-old Anthony Armenta when he was taken to the hospital for choking on March 11.

Further medical examination found Anthony sustained permanent brain damage and remains hospitalized.

"It got to the point where his brain was filling up with blood and his brain was shifting. We could have lost our child," said Michael Armenta, Anthony's biological father.

The interim complaint found the head injury was consistent with "non-accidental" injuries.

Anthony and his baby brother were taken into foster care when their mom, Shannon Whitley, tested positive for painkillers. Both parents are going through court-ordered parenting classes to regain custody of their boys.

Badilla's has only been a foster care parent for six months. Her attorney, Rafael Gallego, insists that Anthony's injuries were self-inflicted.

"We have to find out how it happened and I'm telling you that we are very optimistic to show that Griselda had nothing to do with this," Gallego said.

Gallego said Anthony would have temper tantrums and hit his head against the floor.

"He was very easily bruised. He had issues with regard to pulling his hair. He would pick on his skin," Gallego said.

However, Anthony's parents maintain that abuse was an ongoing problem since he was placed into foster care.

"He never threw a temper tantrum such as the ones that they claim," Michael Armenta told News 4 Tucson.

Anthony's mother, Shannon Whitley, said even if those claims were true - that it's still no excuse for what happened.

"Why didn't they get protection for his head if that was happening? And why did we just barely find out what was happening?" Whitley said.

Anthony's father is asking the community to pray for his son's recovery.

"They neglected my child," Michael said, adding: "My son had all the love in the world and he still does and he still will."

News 4 Tucson reached out to Child Protective Services multiple times but has not received a response.


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