Recording shows woman admitted to abusing child in death case
CHAMBERLAIN -- Donika Gonzales admitted to law enforcement in February 2013 that she abused 4-year-old Mason Naser for wetting his pants, a recording showed Monday during a trial in Brule County.
The recording was from an interview conducted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation immediately following the death of Mason Naser. The jury listened to a two-hour tape interview between Gonzales and Guy DiBenedetto, an agent with DCI.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him, or be mean," she told DiBenedetto in the February 2013 interview. "He wouldn't use the potty. I got kind of mad and kicked him in the back a couple of times. That's when he lost his breath and I was trying to help him."
Gonzales, 23, is charged with second-degree murder of Naser, two alternate counts of first-degree manslaughter, one count of aggravated assault and one count of felony child abuse.
She is standing trial for the death of Naser, the child of Tyler Naser Sr.
Gonzales was Tyler Naser Sr.'s live-in girlfriend when Mason Naser died Feb. 21, 2013, as a result of blunt force injury to the abdomen due to alleged abuse. Gonzales is not the boy's mother. Monday was the second day of an ongoing trial that is expected to last throughout the week.
DiBenedetto started the interview at about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 22, 2013, at the Chamberlain hospital.
Gonzales progressively changed her story during the interview, eventually telling DiBenedetto that she hurt Naser.
Gonzales first told DiBenedetto Naser's injuries were caused by falling off a bunk bed in his room. Then she said didn't know what caused other injuries on Naser's body.
"Donika, how did this child get bruises all over his body? It didn't happen because he fell off a bunk," DiBenedetto said on the recording.
"I don't abuse my kids," she responded.
Once DiBenedetto approached the subject of abuse, Gonzales admitted she grabbed Naser's arms because he wet his pants. She said it made her mad that he wet his pants because he'd been potty trained.
Naser had bruises on both sides of his arms. Gonzales said in the interview those bruises were probably caused when she grabbed him.
She said he wet his pants and she told him to stand up. When he wouldn't stand up, she grabbed one of his arms. He tried to swing at her with the other arm, so she grabbed that one and placed him in timeout.
"I got mad and pushed him," Gonzales said on the recording.
That's when Naser fell on the floor, hit his head on the floor and would not get up, Gonzales said on the recording.
Gonzales told DiBenedetto she then kicked the child in the back twice, but was not wearing shoes.
DiBenedetto asked about other bruises on Naser's body, including bruises on his face, inner thighs, back and stomach.
Gonzales told DiBenedetto she slapped Naser for wetting his pants on Feb. 21, which is where the large bruise on his left cheek originated. She said the bruises on his inner thighs were caused when she stepped on his legs because the child wouldn't stand up after he wet his pants. Then she stomped on his back, twice.
"What made you so mad today?" DiBenedetto asked on the recording. "Have you ever hit, slapped or kicked Mason before?"
She responded, "I was angry because it is hard for me to take care of that many kids by myself with no help."
Gonzales also told DiBenedetto she slapped Naser another time the previous weekend for pooping in his pants. She also threw a portable DVD player at Naser for pooping in his pants while they were in a vehicle, she said.
DCI's interview with Gonzales concluded around 2:30 a.m., after which Gonzales was arrested for felony child abuse. She was transported to the Brule County jail.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. today at the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain.