Warrant: Mom of dead toddler lied to Stamford police about being held captive by child’s dad

A Stamford mother charged in connection with her 2-year-old son’s homicide lied to police about being held captive by the child’s father, among other things, according to the arrest warrant for Iris Rivera-Santos.

Marissa Alter

Feb 22, 2023, 1:08 AM

Updated 453 days ago

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A Stamford mother charged in connection with her 2-year-old son’s homicide lied to police about being held captive by the child’s father, among other things, according to the arrest warrant for Iris Rivera-Santos.
Rivera-Santos was arrested Feb. 3 on charges of risk of injury to a minor, hindering prosecution, tampering with evidence, and cruelty to persons. Her warrant was initially sealed, and police would not comment on what led to the charges.
The unsealed 26-page warrant disproves several aspects of the initial narrative Rivera-Santos gave police— one that led police to name the toddler’s father, Edgar Ismalej-Gomez, as the chief suspect in his death.
Rivera-Santos led police to Liam Rivera’s shallow grave in Cummings Park on Jan. 2, telling them that on the night of Dec. 28, Liam wouldn’t stop crying which “maddened” Ismalej-Gomez, according to the warrant. She told police Ismalej-Gomez hit Liam several times, after which he went quiet. Rivera-Santos told police that the next morning, when they discovered Liam was dead, Ismalej-Gomez wouldn’t let her call an ambulance. He then put the child in a plastic bag and pulled a gun on her, forcing her to go to the park with him where he buried Liam, the warrant said. She also told police he held her hostage for several days, even driving her out of state, until she was able to escape and buy a new phone since he took hers.
But according to the warrant, police concluded Rivera-Santos was never kidnapped. Text messages show she was in full control of her phone and communicated with relatives and friends, never attempting to contact police or ask for help. Witnesses also confirmed seeing Rivera-Santos without Ismalej-Gomez during the time she claimed she was kidnapped, the warrant said.
Investigators interviewed Rivera-Santos' 7-year-old son who said he was playing with his brother sometime after Christmas when he accidentally pushed Liam, causing him to fall and hit his head. The boy told police his brother later died after no one called for help or took him to the doctor.
News 12 asked police if they thought the 7-year-old was accidentally responsible for Liam’s death. Lt. Douglas Deiso would not comment on the child’s statement but said police are taking all statements into account as part of the investigation. Police previously said an autopsy determined Liam died from multiple blunt force injuries to his head. The warrant lists cause of death as “blunt impact injury of the head with subdural hematoma.”
According to the warrant, police also interviewed Ismalej-Gomez's brother, German Ismalej-Gomez, who said his brother and Rivera-Santos told him about his nephew's death the day it happened, saying that when they woke up on Dec. 28, Liam was dead in his crib and had vomit around his mouth. They allegedly asked Liam's uncle if he wanted to say goodbye to the toddler, which he declined.
The warrant also said cameras show after that conversation, Ismalej-Gomez and Rivera-Santos together took Liam's body to Cummings Park to bury him, during which Rivera-Santos was “a willing participant.”
Police wrote in her warrant, "Rivera intentionally deceived and mislead investigators when originally reporting the incident. The differences to Rivera's story do not appear to be lapses of memory by Rivera, rather they appear to be distinct, calculated statements preventing investigators from discovering the truth of what happened." It concluded, “In Rivera’s version of events, she portrayed herself as a victim of Ismalej, which provides her with a defense for not being able to report the death of the victim. Furthermore, Rivera used this story to insulate herself from any culpability, portraying Ismalej to be in full control of herself and the victim. Rivera also has a history of falsely reporting an incident, in order to benefit or protect herself.”
Police also obtained Liam’s medical records which included notes about doctors’ concerns over his sudden severe weight loss, according to the warrant. One doctor wrote that it might be due to abuse, neglect, or a combination of both, the warrant said. Medical noted that Liam’s height had not increased in six months, as well.
The warrant also said Rivera-Santos invited Ismalej-Santos to live with them despite a judge ordering he have no contact with Liam. Ismalej-Gomez was convicted last year of breaking Liam’s arm when he was an infant. Ismalej-Gomez served 60 days and was on probation, which included abiding by that standing protective order. He allegedly violated probation in several ways including giving probation officials a fake address and a non-working phone number, not attending court-mandated parenting classes, and not reporting to probation. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for violation of probation on Jan. 3. Police caught him in the back of a taxi, allegedly on his way to New York. He’s being held on $3 million bond but is not charged with Liam’s death. He’s due back in court March 30.
Rivera-Santos is set to return to court March 23. She’s being held on $1 million bond.


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