PHOENIX (AP) — The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a sick girl with leukemia deepened Wednesday after her father said his 11-year-old daughter is being treated in Mexico and authorities considered bringing child neglect charges against the family.
Phoenix police have been looking for Emily since surveillance video one week ago showed the girl's mother walking her out of Phoenix Children's Hospital a day before the child was set to be released.
Authorities are searching for the girl in Arizona, California and Mexico, where the family has relatives, as doctors say she could contract a potentially deadly infection if not returned for treatment.
The girl underwent about a month of chemotherapy and had been treated for an infection that forced doctors to amputate her arm, police said. Doctors had inserted a tube through her chest to deliver medications through her heart. Her mother unhooked the tubing from an IV and left with the girl, leaving her susceptible to infection.
Phoenix police said the parents could face criminal neglect charges if they didn't return the girl.
U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped the father, Luis Bracamontes, 46, as he crossed into Arizona from Mexico over the weekend, but the man denied any involvement in removing his daughter from the hospital and said he didn't know where she was.
However, in an interview this week with NBC News, Bracamontes said his daughter was safe and being treated by doctors in Mexico.
"She is well and she is fine," he said while declining to reveal where the girl was being treated.
Bracamontes blames the Phoenix hospital for the loss of his daughter's arm and says the family was being pressured over mounting medical bills. He displayed photos of the girl both before and after the surgery and talked on his mobile phone to a girl and a woman he claimed were his daughter and wife.
The hospital cannot comment on Emily's condition due to health privacy laws, but in a statement Wednesday said decisions about patient care are not based on ability to pay.
"Phoenix Children's Hospital is deeply concerned about Emily's safety and well-being and continues to cooperate with law enforcement," the hospital statement read. "If Emily's family has questions about her care, we encourage open communication and discussion of options with the care team."
The girl's grandfather, Luis Bracamontes, said he has not talked to his son in 15 days and doesn't know where the girl is — including if she is even in Mexico.
"We are worried because we don't know what's going on," said Bracamontes, 76, in Spanish from his home in San Jose, Calif.
He doesn't know why the girl was taken from the hospital but said the amputation might have had something to do with it. He said some of his relatives are assuring him that the girl is fine and getting good medical attention.
Bracamontes said his son sometimes lived in San Jose and sometimes in Phoenix. The family is originally from Mexico.
Phoenix police, meanwhile, say the story of the girl's father raises even more red flags. Continued...