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Woman struck child with hammer, authorities believe

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- A George, Iowa woman charged Tuesday with child endangerment may now be looking at assault charges, according to Lyon County Sheriff Blythe Bloemendaal.

Nikki Moreno, 26, was charged with class D felony child endangerment, but Wednesday night that charge was elevated to a class C felony. The child endangerment charge stems from not getting medical attention for the boy.

"I'm comfortable we are now going to file charges on top of that for the assault of using a hammer to strike the child," Bloemendaal stated.

The victim in the case is Moreno's 5-year-old son, who is currently hospitalized and being treated for lacerations to the head from multiple blows from what appears to the claw-end of a hammer. The child has a possibly fractured eye socket, stab wounds to the back, a volleyball sized scab on the back that appears to be from a burn, plus numerous cigarette burns, bruises and bite marks.

"When we went into the basement, there was a lot of blood everywhere -- on toys and on the walls," Bloemendaal said. "It appears as if the two (children) are pretty rambunctious and fight with each other."

"We were kind of thinking if an adult had struck (the child) with the hammer, the damage would be deeper or death," Bloemendaal said. "When the mom attributed it to the 6-year-old, it was plausible, but now we have found that it was probably the mom who struck him with the hammer. I'd say that in the next two days charges will be filed."

Moreno's husband, Juan Carlos Moreno, 24, who is not the boy's biological father, was charged Wednesday night with child endangerment in the case.

"We believe he viewed deep gashes on (the child's) forehead at least a day before the child got medical attention," Bloemendaal explained. "He was going to give the boy a haircut, saw the gashes, decided he better not and put the hat back on (the child's) head.

"It appears the mom knew about the injuries, but dumped the boy on a second party. A third party saw the child and was astounded by the sight," Bloemendaal said. "That person took photographs, I think with a cell phone, and contacted authorities."

While the matter is still under investigation, authorities think this may not be the first time children were removed from Nikki Moreno's custody.

"Only two of the five were living in the household -- the others had been farmed out to relatives. We took the remaining child away, and the 5-year-old is still hospitalized in Sioux City," Bloemendaal said. "I just find the whole thing incredibly despicable -- I can't even fathom it. If you saw the injuries you would just gasp."

Bail was originally set for Nikki Moreno at $5,000, but the bail was raised to $10,000 when the charge went from class D to class C felony. A court appearance is scheduled for April 10. Juan Moreno's bail was set for $10,000.