Grandmother arrested after shooting of Modesto baby

etracy@modbee.comNovember 5, 2012 

Maria Elena Hernandez

Maria Elena Hernandez 10-09-55

UNKNOWN — Modesto Police Dept

— The grandmother of a 1½-year-old Modesto girl who was shot Sunday afternoon has been arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.

Maria Elena Hernandez, 57, was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail late Sunday, hours after she brought her granddaughter to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto with a gunshot wound to the torso, said Modesto police Lt. Rick Armendariz.

Police responded to the hospital after family members told employees there that the girl was the victim of a drive-by shooting at their south Modesto home. However, detectives who went to the home on Stone Leaf Court found no evidence of a drive-by shooting and neighbors said they heard nothing. There were no shell casings in the street or bullet holes in the house.

Armendariz said the family has been uncooperative, and detectives are trying to determine where the shooting occurred and how.

Family members continue to provide conflicting statements and have been reluctant to explain the circumstances that led to the shooting, Armendariz said.

The toddler was flown to a Bay Area children's hospital, where she remains in critical condition but is expected to survive.

Hernandez was arrested because of her conflicting statements and unwillingness to explain how the child was injured while under her care, police said. The child's mother was at work at the time of the shooting.

Shortly after the child was born last year, her father was arrested on suspicion of homicide.

Saul Hernandez, 34, was arrested in August 2011 in connection with the shooting death of 16-year-old Alberto Beraza.

Father jailed in homicide

Beraza was gunned down in front of Boomers Car Audio on Crows Landing Road south of Hatch Road. About seven hours later, Hernandez turned himself in at the Sheriff's Department on Hackett Road.

The family lived on Morgan Road in Ceres at the time but, after Hernandez's arrest, moved to Stone Leaf Court in Modesto.

The small cul-de-sac was full of cars and people Monday afternoon. TV news vans were stationed near the family's home, where five vehicles were parked out front.

A Bee reporter who knocked on the door of the family's home was received by a woman who opened the door a sliver. When questioned about the child's shooting, she simply said, "No," and shut the door.

Eight children played football in the street while parents watched from a porch. They were doing the same thing Sunday morning; several kids and parents said they saw cars speeding from the home shortly after noon, but no one saw the baby girl.

No one heard gunfire either.

Police want to talk with anyone who may know about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Those with information are encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward. Tipsters can text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Just type "TIP704" along with the message.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209) 578-2366.

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