School Official Allegedly Failed To Report Child Abuse

Jul 22, 2014

  A Las Cruces physician and operator of a private school is suspected of failing to report child abuse and neglect that ultimately resulted in the death of 7-month-old Shania Smith.

Ann Mercer, 69, who oversees the Mercer School at 2801 E. Missouri Ave., is charged with three misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse or child neglect.

As part of their investigation into the death of Shania Smith, Las Cruces Police detectives interviewed Mercer who oversees the Mercer School where Annette Smith’s two older daughters attended classes. Smith’s youngest daughter, Shania, died July 9 after Smith allegedly covered the infant in several layers of blankets in order to avoid hearing her cry.

Detectives learned that one of Smith’s older daughter’s, age 13, told Mercer prior to Shania’s death that her mother was refusing to feed Shania, left the toddler in soiled diapers and placed stacks of blankets on top of her for long periods of time.

Annette Smith’s daughter also allegedly disclosed to Mercer prior to July 9 that her mother would frequently hit her, and her 12-year-old sister.

Detectives learned that even though Mercer was told of the abuse, she never reported the allegations to law enforcement or to the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Mercer was arrested Tuesday, July 22, and booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center with bond set at $1,000.

New Mexico State Statute 32A-4-3 requires medical professionals and school officials, among others, to immediately report child abuse and child neglect to law enforcement.

Annette Smith, 33, was initially charged with one first-degree felony count of intentional child abuse resulting in death and one count of tampering with evidence. She has since been indicted on six additional counts of child abuse and one count of negligent child abuse. Her children – ages 18-months, 12 and 13 – are in the custody of CYFD.

Information from Las Cruces Police