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Pueblo parents charged with child abuse after son is severely burned

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Two Pueblo parents accused of severely burning their own child are currently out on bail. 27-year old Zalissa Abeyta and 26-year old Bret Seeley were each charged with felony level child abuse for an incident involving a bathtub that occurred back in December.

According to arrest records obtained by 13 Investigates, Abeyta told police she was bathing the child and left the child alone to go change a diaper in the other room. Seeley found the child screaming in the bathroom, and Abeyta told police the child's skin was bubbling.

Investigators believe the earliest the child could have been burned occurred around 1:17 p.m. on December 19th of 2020. Then around 1:54 p.m., Seeley texted a friend 'what kind of cream do you buy if you burn you butt leg and hands in hot water?'. It wasn't until 3:30 pm that the child was brought to St. Mary Corwin Medical Center.

According to police records, investigators says Zalissa Abeyta's version of events would consistently alter. After being checked in, hospital staff asked the child what happened, and the child said, “I fell”. Zalissa proceeded to say the child did not fall, and urged the child to “tell them what happened”. 

The little boy was airlifted to Children's Hospital Denver's burn unit and was treated for second degree burns on his feet and butt. However, police say those weren't the child's only injuries. A child protection team noticed the child possessed bruising in the posterior calf and hand, as well as a fractured tooth.

Seeley and Abeyta's arrest affidavit states: “There was a concern with the bruise on the *redacted* as it was similar to bruises seen in cases in which the care provider pinches the *redacted* out of frustration with potty training and accidents,”. Police say the child was still in the process of being potty trained. 

The child's great-aunt - Rachel Abeyta - has been looking after the him since the incident, and is relieved to see that her niece is charged.

“It really eased my mind. I felt like I didn't have a whole lot to worry about," said Rachel.

13 Investigates has been following the fate of Zalissa and Bret's children for more than year. Ever since 15-month old Aiden Seeley died while in the care of Pueblo County's Department of Human Services. Prosecutors say Aiden was tortured while inside a Pueblo West home with his two siblings.

The toddler's foster mother recently plead guilty to aiding in the alleged murder, while her boyfriend is accused of killing him. The boyfriend's trial is currently scheduled for April.

Three days after Aiden's passing, District Court Judge William Alexander ordered both of Aiden's siblings to be returned to their parents - Zalissa Abeyta and Bret Seeley. This is according to a report obtained by 13 Investigates that was submitted into a District Court by the Pueblo County Department of Human Services. Two months later is when Aiden's older brother got burned.

This isn't Abeyta's or Seeley's first run-in with child abuse charges. Those same DHS reports obtained by 13 Investigates show a history of child abuse.

According to the report, a call was made to DHS in September 2019. The caller said Abeyta was abusive with the kids: 'throwing them off the couch grabbing and choking them when she is angry.' Child abuse charges were filed against both Abeyta and Seeley in November 2019. Court records show the two parents plead guilty to those charges the following year.

In May 2020, DHS said they received a report from the Pueblo Police Department stating that Abeyta was seen in a Dollar General grabbing her son off of a shopping cart and throwing him on the floor. The Pueblo Police Department told DHS caseworkers the incident was caught on camera. Criminal charges in connection to the incident were filed in December of 2020, the case is still pending.

Not long after the incident at Dollar General, their three children were placed into the care of DHS.

Despite gaining sole custody of Abeyta's son, Rachel says the courts still permit Abeyta to see her son for visitation. Rachel insists that the visits aren't healthy for the child or any member of their family.

“These visitation are actually causing more harm right now," said Rachel Abeyta. "Unfortunately, we are still fighting. With (the courts) kind of babying the parents. Giving the parents what they want without paying any regards to how this is hurting Aiden's siblings."

13 Investigates could not reach Zalissa Abeyta's attorney for comment. Bret Seeley's attorney declined to comment.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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