ODESSA — The search for a missing 2-year-old boy ended in tragedy Sunday when his mother found him floating in a lake just steps away from the home of a family friend.
Tristan Valenzuela was pronounced dead at 8:30 p.m. Monday at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, more than 30 hours after his mother waded into Odessa’s Echo Lake to retrieve him, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Wednesday.
The county Medical Examiner’s Office determined the toddler died from the lack of oxygen to his brain in the time before he was resuscitated.
News of the death emerged in a brief listing on the child fatality database kept by the state Department of Children and Families.
The drowning occurred as the toddler and his mother, Haley Lauren Eaton, 23, were visiting a friend’s lakeside home at 16314 McGlamery Road in Odessa.
Eaton told investigators that her son and a 3-year-old child were playing with dogs in the unfenced yard while she and her friends were building a backyard deck. The mother left the boy with the friends and went inside the home, the report said.
When the other child came inside without Tristan about five minutes later, Eaton walked out to find the boy had disappeared.
At about 1:45 p.m., as Eaton searched for her son, her friends called 911 to report a missing child, the Sheriff’s Office said. She spotted the boy floating in the lake near an overturned boat about 10 feet from shore.
As a crew from Hillsborough Fire Rescue was arriving, Eaton waded through about 7 inches of water to retrieve the boy.
Eaton attempted to perform CPR, and medics transported the toddler to St. Joseph Hospital’s North Emergency Center in Lutz. Doctors treated the boy before he was flown by helicopter to St. Joseph’s main hospital in Tampa.
Tristan was the only child of Eaton and Daryan Carlos Valenzuela, 26. The couple met in January 2014 and married in June 2016, five months after Tristan Valenzuela was born, records show.
But according to court documents, the couple’s relationship was marred by conflict, culminating in Daryan Valenzuela’s arrest Oct. 15 on charges of battery/domestic violence and tampering with a witness. Valenzuela was bailed out of jail the day his son was pronounced dead.
According to the Department of Children and Families database, there was an open investigation into Tristan’s parents at the time of his death "due to concerns of domestic violence between the parents."
Court records show Eaton complained that her husband’s drug abuse caused him to hallucinate and prevented him from providing for his son.
She describes one incident Oct. 13 where he attacked her as she tried to stop him from pawning the couple’s vacuum cleaner. She escaped alone to a Tampa police station and returned with officers to find her husband had left with Tristan and the vacuum.
"He would not tell me where my child was," Eaton wrote in a petition to the court. "He eventually took our son to his grandmother’s."
Shortly after her husband’s arrest, Eaton and Tristan moved in with her mother, Catherine Eaton, in Tampa’s Forest Hills neighborhood, court records show.
Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.