CHARLOTTE — Search warrants reveal a mother told police she believed her 2-year-old son was possessed by demons, and that’s why she’s accused of letting him drown at a south Charlotte park.
Police found Jonathan Suero’s body in a pond at Park Road Park last March. At the time, a warrant said the boy’s mother, Natalia Suero, 29, gave investigators “vague and inconsistent statements” about what happened.
According to the warrant for her apartment complex, Suero said she “blacked out” and couldn’t give an “estimated timeline around the incident.” However, police said they consulted an expert who told them the mother’s story of how the child died “was not supported by science.”
Another search warrant, this time for Suero’s phone, shared more details about the investigation.
According to police, investigators interviewed Suero at her apartment the day Jonathan was killed. She told police she and her son were on their way to the store when she decided to take him for a walk in the park, saying he loved to run and loved the water.
Suero said she was getting Jonathan’s stroller out of the car when he started running down a hill toward the water. She said she couldn’t catch up with him, and said he dove into the water and did a “freestyle swim,” noting he had never taken swim lessons, before he went underwater. She said she couldn’t find Jonathan and so she went to find a police officer. She said she left her phone at home the whole time.
Detectives checked her search history and discovered a Google search for “possessed child.”
Then, when detectives interviewed Suero a second time, her story changed. She said she was on her way to Publix when she stopped, but couldn’t say where one was nearby. There are no Publix stores near the park, detectives noted, and she also had to drive past a Harris Teeter to get to the park.
In her second interview, Suero said she did make it to her son in the water and grabbed his arm, but said he struggled and got away from her, floating away at a point where the water was above his head.
“When confronted with some of the discrepancies, she stated that the victim was teleported from her to where he was found by Jesus,” the warrant reads. “She stated that she believed he was possessed by demons and that she knew how to get rid of them. She advised detectives that she was glad that he was in a different place.”
An aquatics death expert told detectives there were several inconsistencies in Suero’s first interview, including the fact that he was last seen underwater and was then found floating face-up.
Detectives revisited the scene and found that the hill Jonathan supposedly ran down didn’t have its own path. It was filled with holes, fallen trees and a large amount of leaves and sticks, which would have slowed him down enough to catch him. They also found that the water would have been over his head at about 10 feet into the pond.
The medical examiner told detectives Jonathan’s body had been in the water for an estimated one and a half hours based on his body temperature.
Detectives said based on the timeline and the discrepancies in Suero’s story, as well as the information from the aquatics death expert and the medical examiner, they had enough probable cause to charge her with murder.
Police took out the warrant on Suero’s phone in an effort to support the murder charge or corroborate her story.
“My first thought was this sounded like post-partum psychosis,” said Mitchell Mackinem, who is a professor of criminal justice and sociology at Wingate University and studies cases like this.
Mackinem said in the rare cases of post-partum psychosis, mothers show a pattern.
“A very common delusion that they experience is that they, as the mother, are going to damage the child in such a way that the child’s life is going to horrible -- it’s just going to be just the worst possible life,” he explained. “And that they can save the child from themselves by giving the child to Jesus.”
Mackinem said drowning is a common manner of death in these cases, and believes there could be a likely defense.
“It would be not guilty by reason of mental insanity,” he said.
Natalia Suero’s case is due back in court next week. She won’t be there, but her attorneys will meet with prosecutors to check in on how the case is progressing. We do know the district attorney’s office will not seek the death penalty in this case.
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