The mother of a nine-year-old girl who died earlier this month has been arrested for allegedly murdering her daughter, according to police.
Elizabeth Holloway’s mother, Crystal Cardenas, 25, was arrested as she walked in the 1600 block of Canyon Road in Spring Valley at 10.25 a.m. Monday.
"I knew she did it,"said Veronica Rios, Cardenas' cousin. "Her stories were not matching up, she showed no emotion."
Rios told NBCSanDiego in a phone interview that Cardenas originally told family members Holloway had stomach problems.
"She was complaining of stomach pains all day,"Rios said Cardenas told family members. "She said she took her (Holloway) to the doctor and the doctor prescribed her pepto bismal, and that's when the light went off in my head because doctors don't prescribe that."
Rios said she immediately confronted Cardenas. "I told her on Facebook, you'd better admit it, but she just ignored my messages."
After family members got the autopsy report, suspicions grew even more intense.
"The autopsy report said Elizabeth was either punched or kicked in the stomach,"Rios said.
Rios described Holloway as a fun and energetic little girl who was loved by everyone. But she was a different girl when she was around her mother. "She was quiet."
Cardenas was booked into Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility on one count of murder.
On Monday, someone painted the words "Baby Killer" on the hood of Cardenas’ car. A note was left on the door of their home that read in part, "why did you do this?"
Officers received a report of a non-breathing child at a home in the 300 block of Milbrae Street on January 17. The family told police Elizabeth did not appear to be breathing and had “sort of a fixed look in her eyes.”
"She had her daughter in her arms and she was telling me to come here. When I went out there she laid her daughter in the doorway and her daughter was just passed out,” said neighbor Lajahnique Webster during an interview earlier this month.
“I was just giving her CPR and she just wasn't waking up," said neighbor Sagirah Means. "Just like cold and turning blue and purple. She was just lifeless and I just wanted to save her."
Officers and paramedics arrived on scene.
"I was screaming, I was crying, they kept telling me to move back," said Means.
Elizabeth was transported to Rady Children’s Hospital, where she died at 11:56 p.m.
An autopsy revealed that the girl died from blunt force trauma, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. Police called it a “concentrated blow".
“Every case is really sad. But cases that involve children, they take that to another level. Children are innocent. They’re pure. They don’t do things to people. And it’s very sad when they die,” said Lt. Rooney.
Cardenas and her 27-year-old boyfriend were home when officers were called to the scene, police said.
“For the nine years that she lived, she lived about seven and a half of them in the Los Angeles area with her biological dad,” said Lt. Rooney.
Elizabeth had been living in San Diego with her mother for about a year and four months when she died. Her family had just moved into the Milbrae Street apartment, police said.
“She moved around a few times, changed schools a few times and then obviously an awful ending,” said Lt. Rooney. “It’s a very sad story.”
Police say they have been interviewing people she went to school with, neighbors and relatives.
“As you can imagine, we tried to cast a pretty wide net,” said Lt. Rooney. “I don’t think it was a fun year and four months.”
George Long, a Community Service Officer at Emerson/Bandini Elementary School says Elizabeth started out the school year at Emerson/Bandini Elementary but has attended two other schools since then.
"Elia, as we knew her by, was just a bubbling, outgoing, very beautiful, charismatic student. She would meet me at the gate every morning and always had a smile, always glad to be here," said Long.
Child Protective Services took Elizabeth’s siblings, a 1-year-old and 7-year-old.
Rios is hoping Cardenas stays behind bars for a long time. "I want her to go to jail and stay there, I want her to do life in prison."