Anita Vasquez vs. Child Protective Services

Anita Vasquez, 36, enters a courtroom at the Victoria County Courthouse.

A Texas Children’s Hospital physician testified on the second day of trial that he did not think a mistakenly applied HPV vaccine was the cause of an infant’s recurring illnesses.

Dr. David Paul, an endocrinologist or hormone specialist, said of the estimated 100 documented cases of babies receiving the HPV vaccine, the most severe symptoms were “fever and fussiness.”

Trial to decide custody of Victoria toddler whose mother is accused of endangerment

Paul’s testimony came a day after Victoria mother Anita Vasquez, 36, took the stand to describe changes in the personality of her daughter, 22-month-old Aniya Blu Vasquez, after the child accidentally received an HPV vaccine in December 2016. Vasquez said Aniya became distracted and lethargic, ultimately suffering reversals in her growth and development after the vaccine, which was meant for her 14-year-old son.

Attorneys for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services are suing Vasquez in an attempt to terminate her custody rights for Aniya. The mother is accused of endangering her child, according to court records.

In 2017, doctors at the Texas Children’s Hospital reported Vasquez to state officials for Munchausen syndrome by proxy, accusing her of fabricating or causing an illness in her daughter.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an international medical research group, Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental disorder in which someone falsely claims another person is sick, usually involving parents who harm their children.

Paul did not testify to any psychological changes observed in Aniya. Instead, he said the infant was admitted to his hospital on several occasions because of dangerously-low sodium levels in her blood. Those low levels could result in brain damage or even death.

Dr. James Lukefahr, a child abuse expert who assisted state officials in their investigation of Vasquez, agreed that although the source of Aniya’s health problems was unclear, one thing was for certain.

“These problems only affected Aniya when she was in the care of her mother and maternal grandmother,” he said, adding he thought Vasquez’s mother, at the very least, allowed the endangerment to happen.

While Paul said he was unsure – then and now – about what caused those sodium levels to drop, he had some theories.

In Paul’s opinion, Aniya, in some way or another, received diluted breast milk, formula or other sustenance over an extended period of time, he said.

“My fairly strong feel is that mother was not caring for baby properly,” he said.

But Vasquez’s attorney, Chris Branson, questioned why state investigators never ordered testing of Aniya’s bottles.

When Branson asked whether a hormonal imbalance could have caused Aniya’s blood-sodium levels to drop, the endocrinologist said he thought it unlikely, pointing to Aniya’s quick recovery at the hospital.

He also pointed to interviews of Vasquez’s friends and family who described her in glowing terms as an excellent and loving mother.

But throughout his testimony, Paul repeatedly emphasized he did not have all the answers, at one point describing medicine as an “art and science.”

Glenn Mutchler, a state investigator who began looking into Vasquez’s case after those bottles were disposed of, said he wished such testing had been ordered.

“I would have loved to,” he said.

But Mutchler did receive plenty of medical information regarding vaccines in the form of abundant text messages from Vasquez. He described that information as an attempt by Vasquez to manipulate his work.

Megan Morales, a caseworker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services who worked on Vasquez’s case, agreed the mother seemed focused on vaccines as the cause of Aniya’s health problems.

Sometimes Vasquez blamed doctors for the child’s poor health, accusing them of conspiring against her, Morales said.

“She did feel the doctors were all working together … against her,” Morales said.

Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached jwilcox@vicad.com or 361-580-6515.

Jon covers crime, public safety and the courts at the Victoria Advocate. Born in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism at Texas State University.