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We never saw child, mom's landlord says

The Little Havana couple who rented a room to Ana Marie Cardona, the woman accused of beating her 3-year-old son and abandoning him to die, say they never saw tiny Lazaro Figueroa, now known as Baby Lollipops.

The landlords, Luis and Alba Piloto, said they often saw Cardona's 10-year-old son, Juan Puente, and 5-year-old daughter, Taimy Cardona.

But the Pilotos question whether Lazaro lived with Cardona in the $300-a-month room she rented from them two months ago. The small rental was one room in the Pilotos' house -- with a bathroom and a kitchenette. Cardona shared the room, which had one double and one twin-sized bed, with her children and her companion, Olivia Gonzalez-Mendoza. Gonzalez is also charged with murder and child abuse.

Cardona never talked about Lazaro, her landlords said.

"She never brought that son here, " said Luis Piloto. "She lived here with an older son and a little girl who played with my children all the time. I don't think there is any way she could have had that baby here because we would have heard something. And there was no place she could have kept him because even the closet in that room is very small."

"I never saw her treat her children badly, " Alba Piloto said. "They spent a lot of time in my house playing with my children. They always seemed like they were eating well, and they were always clean."

Miami Beach Police say they think Lazaro did live with his mother.

"It was a small place she was renting for X amount of people, " said Maj. Alan Solowitz. "Maybe she kept from them the fact she had a baby. Maybe it's true the baby didn't live there, but I don't think so."

Juan Puente, Cardona's oldest child, attended Fairlawn Elementary, which is across the street from the house at 5976 SW Third Street. "She seemed to be a concerned mother, " said Principal Laura Bethel.

"Nobody here ever saw her with a baby."

Cardona went to open house and conferences with Juan's teacher, Bethel said.

Dade Public Schools administrators say Juan was unable to read when he entered public school for the first time in 1989 -- when he was old enough for the fourth grade. He moved into the second grade this year because of his age, even though he lacked the skills of a typical second-grader.

The boy transferred to Fairlawn from South Hialeah Elementary in September. There is no record of him attending private school before 1989.

Juan's teacher, Bethany Addison, described him as "a happy child who was always clean and neat and well taken care of." She said Cardona visited the school several times to see how the child was progressing.

Addison said she called Cardona after Juan was absent four or five days in the second week of November.

"She said he was sick. A couple of days later he came back for one day, and he said the same thing, " Addison said. "After that he didn't return."

Juan was officially withdrawn from the school Nov. 28.

The Pilotos said Cardona and Gonzalez told them in the early part of November they were going away for a few days to take care of Cardona's ill mother.

"They came back for one night, and then they left again without saying anything, " Luis Piloto said.