A Fort Worth woman was convicted of injury to a child last week in a suspected Munchausen syndrome by proxy case in Tarrant County.
In August 2021, 22-year-old Sarah Melgar was charged with three counts of injury to a child based on evidence that she lied to doctors about her baby’s medical problems and caused him to have unnecessary, painful medical procedures, according to an arrest warrant affidavit from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
On June 29, Melgar was sentenced to eight years of community supervision, according to court documents. She was granted deferred adjudication, meaning she may have the conviction wiped from her record after the eight years. The court also ordered Melgar not to have contact with her child or other minors during her sentence.
According to the arrest warrant, Melgar’s child had multiple spinal taps done because she insisted to medical professionals that her child was seriously ill. Spinal taps, in which a needle is inserted into the space between two vertebrae, were done on the baby to test him for sepsis once in October 2020 and twice that November, according to the affidavit. Melgar also told family members that her baby had heart defects, hearing problems and Down syndrome.
Melgar’s baby was removed from her care in April 2021 and was placed with his great-grandparents. According to the affidavit, the baby is eating normally, did not have Down syndrome and had no medical problems.
A Child Protective Services’ case worker first reported to a Tarrant County sheriff’s detective in March 2021 that she suspected Melgar was faking her child’s symptoms at Cook Children’s Medical Center, according to the affidavit.
Melgar first told health professionals that her baby had health problems in October and November 2020, the affidavit says. She brought the baby, then 1 month old, into the hospital and said he was not eating and would projectile vomit if a bottle was fed to him.
She told the baby’s father in Facebook messages that the baby had two heart defects and a fever of 102.5, according to messages cited in the affidavit. A doctor later said those claims were not true, the affidavit said. Medical staff became suspicious of Melgar’s claims about her baby’s health because her reports of illness were inconsistent and did not match staff’s interactions with the child.
For example, nurses at the hospital said while Melgar claimed her baby would not drink from a bottle, one of them was able to feed him a full bottle without problems, the affidavit says. One nurse noted that it seemed like Melgar would not keep the bottle completely in the baby’s mouth while feeding him and would pull the bottle out of his mouth every two to three swallows even when the baby was trying to drink from the bottle.
In March, Melgar told staff the child was dehydrated and wouldn’t eat. As is often the case with young children, medical staff relied on Melgar to give them an accurate medical history for the baby so they could treat him correctly. She told them he had a history of not eating, and a feeding tube was placed into the baby’s nose based on the medical history Melgar gave for the baby.
Melgar’s stories to medical staff and her family members grew increasingly intense and unlikely, according to the affidavit. Family members told Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office Detective Michael Weber they had suspected Melgar was making up her baby’s health problems “to draw attention,” the affidavit says.
Melgar’s case was investigated as a suspected case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy — also known as factitious disorder imposed on another. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental health disorder in which a caretaker — usually a mother — fakes another person’s illness.