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Last updated on Tuesday, September 24, 2013
(INDIANAPOLIS) - The man accused of beating a young girl to death pleaded guilty Monday morning.
Jose Cruz is charged with one count of murder in the August 2012 death of three-year old Carmen Ellis. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says Carmen Ellis was tortured while she was alive.
Under a plea agreement, Cruz will be sentenced to 75 years in prison on charges of murder and aggravated battery. Cruz was ordered to have no contacted with family members of the girl or any contact with minor children.
The plea agreement also states that if Cruz is deported from the United States and then returns to the country, he will be required to serve out the remainder of his sentence and will waive extradition from anywhere within the United States.
Cruz also waives the right to appeal any sentence imposed by the court.
Critics have said Indiana's child welfare system could have done more to help Carmen Ellis, because it learned of ongoing abuse allegations a month before the child was murdered.
The Department of Child Services closed that case, less than a month before police say Carmen was brutally beaten by Cruz, who was her mother's boyfriend.
Police found Carmen Ellis' lifeless body with bruises from head to toe in August. Cruz faced life in prison if he had been convicted.
Samantha Ellis, the girl's mother, faces felony neglect charges.
Chasity Parksey, whose sister lived with Ellis and Cruz at the time, says DCS didn't do enough to help Carmen when abuse allegations first surfaced.
Parkey says there were bruises on the girl's fact, bite markes on her stomach and a hickey on her neck.
During the investigation, the Department of Child Services was informed of ongoing abuse Carmen was receiving weeks before her death.
The same day they got the call, the Department of Child Services sent a Family Case Manager to interview Jose Cruz, the man now accused in the brutal beating death of the little girl.
Cruz told DCS that he wasn't sure how Carmen got the bruises and that "she plays rough all the time."
DCS also spoke with Carmen's mother Samantha, who said "Carmen has severe temper tantrums and tends to be clumsy."
The case manager also asked Carmen herself what happened. The three-year-old would only say "the bruise happened because of Abby," another little girl that had lived with the family months prior, but had not had any contact with at the time.
That same night, a doctor with the Riley Child Abuse Team stated, "Carmen did not need to be seen. No medical treatment was needed." She was sent home with her grandmother.
A month later in August, that grandmother told DCS that she had "no safety concerns with Mr. Cruz."
Based on those statements DCS ruled "physical abuse is unsubstantiated against an unknown perpetrator and due to "lack of evidence."
Two weeks later, Carmen Ellis was dead. Police say Jose Cruz admitted he "lost it" after Carmen soiled her diaper. DCS, after closing the original case, did make Samantha Ellis agree to a safety plan, which included not exposing her daughter to domestic violence.
But after Carmen's death, her mom admitted she didn't protect her because she was in fear of Cruz.
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