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Mar 15, 2013 1:57 AM by Nathan O'Neal

Psychotherapist: child abuse often "a family secret"

TUCSON - A Tucson couple is behind bars, charged with child abuse against their 18-month-old twin daughters.

Police arrested 25-year-old Kristepher Benavidez, who is accused of beating his twin girls so bad that one stopped breathing.

Detectives claim the girls' mom, Monique Gaxiola, was also arrested and knew about the abuse but did not report it.

Tucson Police say this is one of the most serious cases of child abuse they've seen in recent history.

Both twins were sent to the hospital, one with life-threatening injuries while the other is expected to survive. A 7-year-old sybling did not have obvious injuries. All the children have seen been taken into custody by Child Protective Services.

Marcellina Rojas was in her home Wednesday afternoon when Benavidez came knocking for help. One of his baby girls was unconscious, with visible wounds all over her body, she said.

Rojas performed CPR on the child until Tucson Fire arrived and took the child to a local hospital.

"She was cold with her eyes open. She wasn't alive. She didn't have a heart beat or a pulse, but had a heart beat when CPR was put in place for her.

Police suspect the father had been abusing both babies for some time and, inexplicably, the mother did not stop or report it.

"It breaks my heart, it makes me sick to my stomach just knowing that that was happening just right down the street," said Anjelica Gaxiola, a neighbor who lives down the street. She could never imagine what was going through the parents' minds.

"There's the fear of anybody else knowing, so often, this becomes a family secret," said Alice Steinfeld who works as a Psychotherapist.

Steinfeld has a better understanding of how these situations work, insisting that the parents must have had very deep rooted problems.

"I think they're so out of control in their heads and their minds that they're not thinking clearly," Steinfeld said.

As for the mom who stood by, Steinfeld said it is common for people in her situation to have "fears of being alone, of being abandoned, of being left."

That's something that law enforcement has seen time and time again.

"The wife might know that the children are going to be taken away and doesn't want to report it... there's also in some cases, the wife protective of the husband and not wanting the husband to get in trouble," said TPD's Sgt. Chris Widmer.

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