Infant drowns in bathtub at Plant City home while mom sleeps, detectives say

PLANT CITY — Sheriff’s detectives are reviewing home video as part of their investigation into the death of an 8-month-old infant who drowned in a bathtub while his mother was sleeping, according to court records.

Mateo Montoya was pronounced dead the night of Sept. 5 at South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives.

About an hour earlier, the child’s mother, 23-year-old Yesica Boxtha, had called authorities to say he had stopped breathing.

She told deputies who answered the call that she had placed the boy in the bathtub, run the bathwater and left the bathroom, according to the affidavit. She became distracted and eventually fell asleep while the water continued running.

The father, Miguel Montoya Cerro, 27, arrived home about 30 minutes later and woke Boxtha, asking about the child, the affidavit said. She entered the bathroom to find the child unresponsive in the tub.

The death occurred at 20 Chestnut Drive, according to the affidavit, in a mobile home park north of Interstate 4.

Boxtha is a second-grade teacher at Burney Elementary School in Plant City and listed the address as her home in personnel records. She was hired by the Hillsborough County School District in August 2019 and remains on the job, with no previous disciplinary actions on her record.

No one responded at the home when a reporter visited. There was no response, either, to a written message left there or to phone calls made to a number listed for Boxtha.

An investigation into the death is still underway, Amanda Granit, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said Tuesday. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office said it could not provide preliminary findings from the infant’s autopsy, citing the ongoing investigation.

Detectives said in the search warrant affidavit that they are looking into a possible charge of aggravated manslaughter in the case.

Detectives obtained the search warrant Nov. 1 to inspect recordings stored in a digital video box beneath a television inside the home. Home video cameras may have been wired into the box.

“A review of the digitally stored material/surveillance contained within the DVR box would assist with developing evidence for the investigation,” the affidavit said.

It appears the child’s death was listed on a database kept by the state Department of Children and Families. The database does not include names, but an entry at the time of Mateo Montoya’s death reads, “8-month-old infant was pronounced deceased after he was found unresponsive in the bathtub where he was left unattended.”

The entry said the Department of Children and Families had no previous involvement with the family.

*story by Tampa Bay Times