Crime

Report reveals details about alleged abuse of boy now in coma

Martha Franco, the 42-year-old South Dos Palos woman accused of beating her disabled son into a coma, admitted to police that she abused the boy, but said she was careful not to kill him so she wouldn't lose a $2,000-a-month government subsidy she received for his well-being, according to a report made public Wednesday by the Merced County Sheriff's Department.

The specifics of the report included charges that Franco heated water in a microwave before pouring it over her screaming son and that he was struck so hard that the left side of his brain was shoved to the right side of his head.

Social welfare agencies, who may have been monitoring the autistic boy, said they couldn't comment because of confidentiality rules.

According to the report, Franco first told police her 4-year-old son had caused his extensive injuries himself. She later admitted to beating, burning and biting the boy, the report says.

"[The detective] asked Martha if she was trying to kill [her son] when she was slamming his head into the sink and she said, 'No,' " the report reads. "Martha said she wanted to punish him. ... Martha said she is not stupid; if she had killed him, she would lose the money."

Franco was arrested at her home on the 21000 block of Squire Avenue on May 22, a day after she called 911 to report that her son was unresponsive.

The boy, who is not being named because he is a minor, remains in a coma at Children's Hospital Central California in Madera.

Authorities say he was born with several mental and physical disabilities, including heart and respiratory defects and severe autism, and was unable to talk or walk on his own.

His doctors say he recently contracted a brain infection and is not expected to survive.

Franco is in custody in lieu of $1 million bail. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated mayhem, child endangerment and bodily injury to a child. If the boy dies, a homicide charge could be added to that list.

Franco's appointed attorney, Sean Howard, did not return phone calls Thursday.

The boy's father, 39-year-old Jose Franco, was also arrested in May. He is facing criminal charges for failing to intervene when the alleged abuse occurred and has been released on $50,000 bail.

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