GILBERT, Ariz. — A grandmother visiting from Texas was arrested on suspicion of child abuse after detectives said she enlisted her 9-year-old granddaughter in a drug-oriented plot to gain custody of the child.
SanJuanita “Janey” Carbajal, 58, is accused of giving the girl cocaine and other drugs to plant in her father’s pickup truck in hopes of framing him in a plot that police said is highly unusual.
“I haven’t personally seen a case like this. It is truly unfortunate an adult is using a minor child to further her goal,” said Lt. John Lyle, a Gilbert police spokesman. “Rather than creating specific harm, it’s exposing the child to significant danger.”
Lyle said police are relieved the little girl, a student at Gilbert’s Pioneer Elementary School, did not ingest the drugs.
But the girl became a willing participant in the plot, lying to police and a school principal about finding them in her father’s truck, according to a police report released Thursday.
When police asked the girl with whom she wanted to live, she replied, “Grandma Janey,” the report said.
“We believe she was given directions by the grandmother on how to carry out this plot,” Lyle said.
Instead, Carbajal was arrested by police on Wednesday in Phoenix, where she had been staying in a hotel while visiting the 9-year-old. The girl eventually admitted to police that Carbajal handed her baggies containing the drugs in a hotel room on Sunday and gave her instructions on how to set up her father, according to police.
The girl’s father told detectives that the girl has been the focus of a “long drawn out court custody battle,” fighting with the father and her own daughter, according to the police report. He said he had never married the girl’s mother and didn’t know she was pregnant when he left Texas.
The father told police that he and the girl’s mother had joint legal custody of the girl, but that he had residential custody. He said that Carbajal used to have custody and now has custody for one weekend per month.
Carbajal had attempted to gain custody of the 9-year-old but had been unsuccessful, the father told police, according to the report. The girl’s mother told police that her mother’s sisters are drug dealers and that she suspects that her mother tried to set her up in the same manner as the father.
The girl’s mother told police that her father tried to kill her by firing shots from a car while she walked near her apartment complex in Texas, but the shots missed and he eventually shot himself to death instead.
Police said the girl’s mother was not involved in the plot that ended in Carbajal’s arrest.
According to the report, the plot came to light on Monday, when the girl came to principal Mike Davis’ office and handed him a baggie containing a white powdery substance.
Police were called and tested the substance, which was confirmed as cocaine. The girl told Davis that she was putting on her socks in the backseat of her father’s truck, dropped one and found several bags under a seat.
Police called the father to the school and he denied using drugs, insisting that cops search his truck. Police determined the girl’s story was fabricated, because it would have been impossible for her to drop a sock under the seat while sitting in the rear of a crew cab because the Dodge pickup has a solid front seat.
Police found no drugs in the father’s truck on Monday. But on Tuesday, the father called police and reported that he found baggies of drugs in the side pocket of a door after taking his daughter to school.
Under questioning by police, the girl admitted that Carbajal gave her the drugs, explained the plot and that she cooperated in hopes of living with her grandmother.
Jim Walsh, The Arizona Republic