A woman charged with stabbing her mother to death during a fight appeared in court on Monday, where her odd behavior prompted a Miami-Dade judge to order a psychological evaluation.
The family tragedy played out Sunday when Sonia Santiesteban, 65, asked her 40-year-old daughter to leave her South Miami-Dade home at 17360 SW 232nd St. Santiesteban lived in a mobile-home park with three children she had adopted.
Angered, Yudenia Rodriguez pushed her mother, who frequently used a wheelchair, to the ground and began hitting her. Santiesteban’s 15-year-old granddaughter witnessed the attack and tried to call 911, but police said Rodriguez took the phone from the teen and slapped her several times to keep her from calling for help.
Rodriguez then grabbed a kitchen knife and began stabbing her mother, killing Santiesteban, Miami-Dade police said.
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Rodriguez was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, child abuse and tampering with a witness.
On Monday, Rodriguez made a bizarre appearance at bond court, asking a judge to remove her handcuffs, correcting the judge and saying her mother “did not die” and falling asleep in mid-hearing. Rodriguez remains in Miami-Dade County jail without bond.
Now, Santiestaban’s three grandchildren are with relatives until a hearing is held to determine who will now care for them. Santiesteban told el Nuevo Herald last year, when she was featured in the newspaper’s holiday-giving Wish Book series, that she had adopted the children eight years ago to prevent them from being separated and sent into the foster-care system. The two youngest were half-siblings to the teenage granddaughter who witnessed the murder.
Santiesteban’s oldest son had lost custody of all the children after he landed in prison on drug-related charges. The children’s mother also lost custody, leaving Santiesteban the closest adult who could take them in.
In her interview in December for the charity program, Santiesteban said the children had changed her life.
For Christmas, the family wanted the community to help them repair the mobile home they lived in, where the floor and walls were slowly falling apart. Santiesteban had bought the trailer for $16,000 several years ago.
Yudenia Rodriguez was not living with the family at the time, but Santiesteban indicated that she suffered from mental and emotional problems. It’s unclear why she moved in with her mother.
The Cuban-born grandmother had spent decades cleaning houses and hotels until she suffered a fall on the job in 2011 and broke her hip. Since then, Santiesteban could not get around without a wheelchair.
Santiesteban and her family lived in Boston for years until she decided to leave her abusive husband and head for Miami, she told the newspaper. The family had arrived from Cuba in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift. She made the trip with her ex-husband, her son and the daughter now accused in her murder.
Miami Herald news partner CBS4 contributed to this report.