September 30, 1995 in Nation/World

Dead Girl’s Mom, Boyfriend Jailed After Surrendering Child, Sister Lived In World Full Of Violence, Evidence Shows

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Six days after 2-year-old Christina Campanelli died, both her mother and her mother’s boyfriend have been locked behind bars.

Eileen Campanelli and Federico “Rick” Cortez turned themselves in to Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies Friday morning.

Warrants for their arrest were issued the night before, charging them with injury to a child.

Christina died at Sacred Heart Medical Center Sunday. The cause of death was “significant trauma to the head.”

Doctors say such trauma is caused by severe shaking, a blow to the head or being thrown against something, Detective Kent Johnston said Friday.

Both Eileen Campanelli and Cortez have told police they did not hurt the toddler. But investigators, neighbors and court records paint a picture of the little girl and her older sister growing up in an angry and violent world.

The 2-year-old appears to have been the focus of the violence, Johnston said.

“It was like Christina was the vulnerable one,” said Katrina Francis, a neighbor who baby-sat the girls.

Christina Campanelli and her sister, Maria, 5, were raised primarily by Eileen Campanelli - a 31-year-old unemployed waitress. The girls have different fathers.

On Sept. 20, Cortez and Campanelli brought Christina to Kootenai Medical Center.

She was unconscious. Bruises darkened her eye, chin, arm, back and buttocks. Her brain was bruised and bleeding.

Christina died four days later.

Maria has since been sent to live with her grandmother in California. The girl has told investigators that she and her sister were abused by both their mother and Cortez.

It isn’t the first time the two adults have been accused of hurting someone.

Eileen Campanelli was living in Sagle, Idaho, in 1992. She was twice charged with battery for attacking Kevin Dammerman - her boyfriend who soon became Christina’s father.

In one incident she was accused of cutting Dammerman’s leg by throwing a power saw at him.

In another, deputies found Dammerman with a gashed cheek, according to a Bonner County Sheriff’s report. He told deputies Campanelli had thrown a knife at him. She was three months pregnant with Christina at the time.

Campanelli became so enraged when officers arrived, she picked up Maria’s highchair tray and hurled it at her boyfriend and a deputy, according to the report.

Although Dammerman described Campanelli as a “very violent person” who had previously attacked him with a vacuum cleaner and a gun, he later asked that all charges be dropped.

Cortez, 34, is an unemployed stone mason and firearms dealer. In 1993, he was charged with battery for allegedly biting off part of a man’s ear during a fight. The trial ended in a hung jury.

Christina, Maria and their mother lived in a Coeur d’Alene apartment earlier this year. Neighbors say Campanelli dated Cortez off and on then.

“(Eileen) would get mad at her children and she would scream at the top of her lungs,” said a woman who then lived in the apartment next door. “It got to the point where I couldn’t stand it any more.”

Katrina Francis, who baby-sat the children, said she noticed fingerprint-shaped bruises on Christina’s arms, back and buttocks.

“The bruise on her neck looked like someone choked her,” she said.

“There were bruises everywhere,” another witness said. The woman, who asked that her name not be published, said the injuries seemed to show up when Campanelli was dating Cortez and stop when they broke up.

Francis said she also saw marks on the older girl, though not as often.

One day in late August, Maria lifted her nightgown to reveal welts on her thigh where her mother had hit her. Francis said she heard Campanelli apologize to the girl for hitting so hard.

The family recently moved to Rathdrum to live with Cortez. That’s where detectives believe the violence against Christina came to a deadly end.

Cortez told officers that Christina fell and hurt herself two days before he brought her to the hospital. He insisted she was fine afterward, except for throwing up.

But Detective Johnston said the couple has given at least five versions of how the girl was hurt.

Investigators believe Christina may have received the fatal injury as long as four days before she was brought to the hospital, Johnston said.

The couple have declined to comment on the case. But Johnston said, “They attributed all the bruising to the clumsiness of the child.”

They are being held at the Kootenai County Jail on $250,000 bail each.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email