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A Glendale mother who is accused of smothering her baby to death with a blanket had a history with the Arizona Department of Child Safety, according to an agency representative.

Amber Sagarnaga, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 5-month-old Mary Dias on June 9, court records show. 

DCS has since taken custody of Sagarnaga’s two other children, ages 2 and 3 years old.

It was the very thing Sagarnaga’s fiance feared, according to police accounts: After finding the baby unresponsive in a pack-and-play crib, he told Sagarnaga to clean the apartment “because he didn’t want his children taken away.”

Officers called to the home about an unresponsive baby described the apartment as being “extremely dirty and cluttered.” 

Family last had DCS contact in December 

DCS had last been in contact with the family in December, when the agency received a report of neglect regarding Sagarnaga and use of marijuana while she was pregnant with Mary.

Both mother and baby tested negative for the drug at the time. During a previous pregnancy, Sagarnaga had given birth to a child who tested positive for marijuana, according to Darren DaRonco, a DCS public information officer.

DaRonco said DCS was alerted to the incident in October 2015. As a result, Sagarnaga was provided in-home services, substance-abuse treatment and was enrolled in the agency’s Healthy Families program, he said.

While Sagarnaga was participating in these services, representatives from the DCS and service providers visited the home a few times per week, depending on the family’s needs, DaRonco said.

For the first 60 days, the in-home service providers check in a minimum of three times per week, according to an in-home services document.

According to DaRonco, the department offered a few other family services to Sagarnaga, all of which she declined except CarePortal, which connects families in need of resources with local churches seeking to provide assistance.

Since December, the DCS had not received any further reports in relation to Sagarnaga until Mary’s death, DaRonco said.

Mom battled depression, police say 

Arriving officers found the father performing CPR and took over until the Glendale Fire Department arrived and took the infant to a nearby hospital. The baby was pronounced dead an hour later, said Tiffany Smith, a Glendale Police Department spokeswoman.

Police say Sagarnaga admitted to placing a heavy comforter over the crying baby and pressing down on the infant’s face. Sagarnaga told officers she has battled depression her entire life but that it’s worsened since she began having children. Her fiance told police she self-medicates with marijuana.

She was initially booked into jail Saturday on suspicion of second-degree murder. 

Sagarnaga was being held Wednesday in a Maricopa County jail on a $500,000 bond. Her next court date set for June 16.


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