At 12:20 AM on Monday, August 24, 2020, Harris County police deputies responded to the Cape Colony apartment complex at 15035 Westpark Drive in Houston, Texas on a call about an unresponsive infant.
The baby, nine-month-old Savayah Mason, was treated by EMTs before being rushed to a nearby hospital, but tragically, she did not survive her injuries. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office immediately opened an investigation into Savayah’s death.
During the investigation, detectives interviewed Savayah’s father, 23-year-old Luis Luna, who lived in the Westpark Drive apartment with his three brothers. He said he and his brothers had been caring for Savayah for the weekend, although he insisted the baby had not left his sight during that time.
When questioned, the baby’s mother, Ya’Niece Mason, said that when she dropped her daughter off at the apartment on August 21, the only injury her daughter suffered was a diaper rash.
According to Luis, his daughter slept in her car seat next to his air mattress in the apartment’s sunroom. He said he had awakened to find Savayah unresponsive and tried to administer CPR. At a probable cause hearing in magistrate court on September 1, officials stated: “When he laid her down, he buckled the straps the same way as if she was riding in a vehicle and believed he may have had the straps too tight and that maybe is what caused her death.”
Acting on a search warrant the day after Savayah’s death, officers found bloody baby wipes in a garbage bag in the apartment’s sunroom, where Luis and the baby had been sleeping. “There was no diaper in the bag where the wipes were recovered,” the probable cause document read.
An autopsy performed at the Harris County Institute of Forensics revealed that Savayah died from asphyxiation that occurred while she was being sexually assaulted. The forensic pathologist also found ligature marks on Savayah’s legs.
Based on their investigation, detectives believe Savayah’s father was the perpetrator of the assault that caused the baby’s death. Luis is accused of “unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly” causing Savayah’s death by blocking her nose and mouth with his hand or an unknown object and by applying pressure to the baby’s throat and neck with his hand or an unknown object. He was charged with capital murder and arrested without incident on the evening of Monday, August 31 and booked into Harris County jail with no bond.
After Luis’s arrest, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted, “Heartbreaking. Worst type of cases. May this little angel rest in peace. Good job by our investigators and all involved.”
Attorney Mark Hochglaube has been appointed to defend Luis, and the magistrate judge deferred a bond ruling to criminal district court. In the meantime, Luis is being held without bond in the mental health unit at the Harris County jail’s 1200 Baker Street location.
Ya’Niece Mason has created a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for her daughter’s funeral. As of this writing, the campaign has exceeded its $8,000 goal, although it is still open for donations.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Savayah’s case.
Sources: Click 2 Houston, KIRO7, Office of Harris County District Clerk website, Harris County Sheriff’s Office website