Crime

North Miami-Dade father beat his fussy baby daughter to death, police say

Harlow Gonzalez
Harlow Gonzalez Facebook

Harlow Gonzalez was born premature and died just four months later of injuries so catastrophic no baby could survive.

Her ribs, arm, leg, and skull — all fractured. The baby suffered “severe brain injuries,” according to a Miami-Dade police report. Her left arm had been pulled clean from its elbow socket, an autopsy revealed.

To blame, police say: her own father, Juan Antonio Gonzalez, 24, who was booked into jail late Tuesday on a charge of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse causing great bodily harm.

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Police say that after changing his stories several times, Gonzalez eventually admitted beating her to death. In a chilling moment, Gonzalez — using a baby doll in a Miami-Dade police interview room — even demonstrated how he picked up the tiny infant by her onesie outfit and smashed her onto the tile floor, a law-enforcement source told the Herald.

A Miami-Dade circuit court judge on Wednesday ordered Gonzalez be held with no bail.

The attack happened March 23, and little Harlow lingered in the hospital for days before dying Sunday.

“It’s so incredibly disturbing. There are no words,” said the baby’s maternal aunt, Honey Rodriguez. “She was only four months old.”

The baby’s mother, Avis Rodriguez, 38, who has battled alcohol abuse for years, was committed to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after the baby’s injuries. She is not facing charges stemming from her baby’s death.

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The child’s death was the latest episode in what her family said was Avis Rodriguez’s long-troubled life.

The woman’s first daughter was born with alcohol-fetal syndrome. The girl, now almost 5 years old, is severely disabled and must be fed through a tube, her family said.

Avis Rodriguez never had custody of her first child. The woman’s mother legally adopted her and for years, Avis had had minimal contact with her family while holding occasional waitress jobs.

At a halfway house in recovery is where she met Gonzalez, whom investigators describe as a salesman who peddled perfumes from the back of his car.

On Facebook and to her relatives, Gonzalez described himself as a former Army “combat medic.” Law-enforcement investigators believe that to be false.

He had multiple minor arrests for domestic battery, shoplifting and giving police a false name, cases that never resulted in significant jail time.

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In September 2013, Gonzalez was arrested after Miami police said her smashed his pregnant girlfriend’s head into a wall. The case was dropped within weeks, which is not unusual when domestic-violence victims decline to testify.

He later left that woman and wound up with Avis Rodriguez.

Harlow was born premature, small but healthy. “She was very alert for her age,” said her aunt, Honey Rodriguez. “She was only 6 1/2 pounds but very alert. We would keep her on the weekends.”

The two lived in a small efficiency on the 1100 block of Northwest 118th Street, police said. On March 23, according to police, Avis Rodriguez had gone to shower when she returned and found the baby “unresponsive.”

After the baby was rushed to the hospital, Gonzalez told detectives that he was outside carrying the baby and tripped and fell, pinning his weight on her.

At the hospital, he told the baby’s relatives various versions of what happened, according to Harlow’s aunt, including blaming the injuries on an attack from a dog.

“He said he was a medic, but then said he didn’t know how to give the baby CPR,” Honey Rodriguez said.

But after the baby died on Sunday, the autopsy revealed the much-worse injuries. Confronted with the medical evidence, Gonzalez told various stories of what happened before finally admitting the baby was fussy and he got so aggravated he slammed her on the tile floor, a source said.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families said the agency had not had any contact with Harlow in the past. The department is now conducting a death investigation.

“The circumstances surrounding this baby’s death are absolutely tragic,” said DCF spokeswoman Michelle Glady.

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