Melissa Lucio Received A Death Sentence For A Crime That Might Not Have Even Happened
In 2008, Melissa Lucio was found guilty of murdering her daughter. The 53-year-old Lucio is one of six women on death row in the state of Texas and, pending new trial results, could be the first Latina executed by the state.
Many people believe Lucio is innocent. In fact, the general belief is that 2-year-old Mariah Alvarez's death was a tragic accident. Lucio's children, former death row exonerees, and Texas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have all made the case for her clemency.
Lucio's Daughter Mariah Died Two Days After Falling Down A Flight Of Stairs
On February 15, 2007, Melissa Lucio, her husband, and her children were moving to a new home in Texas. In the midst of moving in belongings and getting settled, Lucio's 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, fell down a flight of stairs. Mariah reportedly did not appear to be injured and the family continued moving into the home.
Two days after Mariah's fall down the stairs, she took a nap but never woke up. Lucio immediately called 911, but Mariah was pronounced dead at the hospital. Within hours, Lucio was taken by Texas Rangers for questioning.
Mariah Had A Physical Disability That Made Her Prone To Tripping
Lucio and her attorneys have explained that Mariah had a physical disability that made both of her feet point in one direction. The disability reportedly affected Mariah's balance and sometimes caused her to trip. Lucio believed at the time of the fall that Mariah had simply tripped and did not appear to be injured. Lucio and her defense have cited Mariah's disability as the likely cause of what became a tragic accident.
Lucio's attorney Vanessa Potkin told Elle magazine, “What we know today is this: Mariah died from medical complications after an accidental fall. She was not murdered.” Potkin is also the director of special litigation for the Innocence Project.
Police Accused Lucio Of Killing Mariah And Interrogated Her The Night Her Daughter Died
Melissa Lucio was taken in by police for questioning only two hours after Mariah was pronounced dead. According to reports, Lucio's interrogation lasted five hours, during which time she repeatedly told investigators, "I don't know what you want me to say." The interrogation finally ended around 3 am when Lucio simply said, "I guess I did it."
Lucio's lawyers have pointed out that not only was she grieving, but she was also pregnant and sleep-deprived, which increased the risk of Lucio giving a false confession. Experts would also later cite Lucio's past trauma as a significant contributing factor in her statement.
Lucio Denied Abusing Mariah More Than 100 Times During Her Five-Hour Interrogation
Throughout Lucio's police interrogation, she maintained that her daughter's death was a tragic accident and that she had nothing to do with it. In total, records show that Lucio told investigators 100 different times that she did not kill her daughter. At most, Lucio admitted to spanking, but she claimed this was a separate incident from Mariah's fall down the stairs.
In the 2020 documentary The State of Texas vs. Melissa, Lucio herself says, "I was not gonna admit to causing her death because I wasn't responsible."
- Photo: The State of Texas vs. Melissa / Hulu
Many Criticize The Interrogation Of Lucio As Coercive
Lucio's lawyers, as well as two experts in false confessions, contend that her history of sexual abuse and domestic violence made her "extremely vulnerable and susceptible" to police questioning.
Lucio reportedly began being sexually abused by family members around age 6. She got married young, only to be abused by her husband and a subsequent partner. Lucio's legal team also cited her past issues with substance abuse and lower-than-average IQ as contributing factors to a coerced confession.
According to Lucio's clemency application, some of the officers interrogating her were armed and one allegedly screamed, "[i]f I beat you half to death like that little child was beat, I bet you you’d die, too."
Lucio's Other Children Insist She Was Never Abusive Towards Them Or Mariah
All of Melissa Lucio's children have maintained that she never abused them and never saw her abuse Mariah. Lucio's son John stated in an interview, "She’s a great mother. She’s not a perfect mother," adding, "We all have imperfections. Half of me believes that she’s already saved. But then there’s also that other half that is scary still."
In Lucio's clemency application, her son Bobby Alvarez stated, "If she was executed ... I wouldn't be able to function anymore." Alvarez was 8 years old when his mother was arrested.
Lucio gave birth to twin boys while in prison, but they were put up for adoption. Lucio's other children either went to live with various family members or were placed in the foster system.