Mom charged in death of son enters not guilty pleas

Rena Santiago. Photo: Manitowoc County Jail

MANITOWOC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A woman charged in the death of her two-year-old son entered "not guilty" pleas during her arraignment hearing.

Rena Santiago appeared before a Manitowoc County judge Aug. 7. The 27-year-old is charged in the death of her two-year-old son Gilbert A. Grant II.

Court records show Santiago has a Settlement Conference scheduled for September and a Plea Date scheduled for October. Settlement Conferences are scheduled when there is a desire to settle a case before trial.

Santiago is charged with Physical Abuse of a Child, Repeated Acts Causing Death; Physical Abuse of a Child, Repeated Acts Causing Bodily Harm; Chronic Neglect of a Child; Prostitution; Possession of THC; and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

Santiago's roommates, David R. Heiden and Bianca M. Bush, are also charged in the death of Gilbert Grant.

On April 26, police were called to 2110 E. River St in Two Rivers for a report of a two-year-old boy who was not conscious and not breathing. Crews arrived to find the boy with no pulse and cool to the touch. He was pronounced dead. He had large bruises on his forehead, cheeks, face, legs, buttocks, back feet and arms.

David Heiden told detectives about months of abuse inflicted on Gilbert Grant. Heiden admitted to treating the boy "poorly." When asked why, he responded, "he's not my kid ... I didn't care," according to the complaint.

Heiden said Bush was "the worst" to Gilbert and that she would "lose it on him like five times an hour." Heiden said he had seen Bush spank Gilbert about 50-to-60 different occasions. She would sometimes spank him up to 15 times per occasion, Heiden said. He also witnessed her hit the child in the face, chest and head. He said Bush would throw bottles and toys at Gilbert.

Heiden says the boy's mother, Rena Santiago, would do the same things Bush did but "not as frequently." Heiden saw Santiago hit and spank her son and throw bottles and toys at him. The mother was also seen shoving her fingers in the boy's mouth to make him gag.

Heiden told officials that Santiago was a prostitute and Bianca Bush was Santiago's "pimp." He said Santiago would have sex with customers in her child's bed.

Santigo admitted that she, Bush and Heiden "discipline" Gilbert. She said Bush "sets and decides the discipline and tells her what to use" on Gilbert. Santiago said that she "always approves of the discipline" and that Bush and Heiden always ask her to make sure it's OK with her.

Santiago also confirmed that they gagged the child and that Bush made Gilbert eat his own vomit.

Santiago admitted to prostitution and having sex in the apartment for money, according to the criminal complaint.

Santiago told police she was aware of the bruises on her son and that's why she would not take him to the doctor for check ups.

An autopsy was completed by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office. Gilbert's cause of death was determined to be from contusions; internal bleeding, a hemorrhage in the bowel; extensive lacerations; and hemorrhage around the head of the pancreas.

Investigators also found signs of older injuries to the abdominal area and small bowel.

Bianca Bush is scheduled to return to court Aug. 16 for a Plea Date.

David Heiden is scheduled to return to court Oct. 4 for a Plea Date.

Rena Santiago's Plea Date is scheduled for Oct. 31.