Mother of slain child found in attic makes 1st appearance

LAWRENCEVILLE - The mother of a toddler whose body was found in a Lawrenceville attic last summer faced a Gwinnett County judge for the first time Wednesday, following her disappearance of more than two years.

A joint effort by local and federal authorities to locate Amy Ruiz and her husband was fruitless until she turned up in Brownsville, Texas, last month.

Authorities said Ruiz was caught there trying to cross back into the United States. Her family contends the U.S. citizen was helped across by Mexican authorities after she'd escaped her husband, Christian Vasquez, who had held her captive in central Mexico.

Ruiz was extradited from Texas and booked into the Gwinnett County Jail on Monday. A grand jury indicted her last year in absentia on charges of child cruelty, second degree, and concealing the death of another.

The indictment alleges Ruiz failed to seek medical attention for her slain daughter, Prisi Vasquez, 2.

Christian Vasquez, Ruiz's husband, is charged with killing his daughter by striking her head with a blunt object. He was indicted on counts of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children, first degree. His whereabouts are unknown.

Ruiz's family said Vasquez flew into a rage and beat the toddler to death with a pole in early 2007, hiding the child's body in the attic of their Stillwater Lane apartment. He'd threatened to harm Ruiz if she sought help, then forced her to flee the country with him, her family says.

The issue of bond for Ruiz was not discussed in court Wednesday, as is typical in preliminary hearings, said her Buford attorney, Stan Sunderland.

Sunderland wouldn't say if he sides with the family in the opinion that Ruiz is a victim, acknowledging only that she appeared "quite thin" in jail garb on Wednesday.

"My personal feelings in the matter are not relevant," he said. "I have a job to do, to see that her rights are adequately protected."

Federal authorities teamed with local police and prosecutors to search for the couple after their daughter's body was discovered June 20 last year.

The body lay hidden in the attic for about 16 months, while unrelated occupants lived in the apartment beneath. Ruiz had called her father in Gwinnett to tell him where the body was, and he went to police with the information, authorities said.

A bond hearing for Ruiz is scheduled for Oct. 16.

"This is an unfortunate case," Sunderland said.