Real Name: Maria Rosa Hernandez
Aliases: Rosa Hernandez
Wanted For: Murder, Child Abuse
Missing Since: March 1991
Details: On July 25, 1990, paramedics rushed four-year-old Ashley Berman to the hospital in Los Angeles; she was unconscious and barely breathing. A short time later the doctor made a stunning accusation: she had been physcially assaulted, and the prime suspect was her nanny, Maria Hernandez. Her parents, Jeff and Sharon Berman, were stunned; they had met Maria when she applied to be Ashley's nanny when she was two. When they first met, Maria's cousin came with her to translate and although she was highly recommended, they wanted Ashley to decide; she felt an immediate and special connection with Maria. She moved in the week later and she and Ashley were inseperable and everything worked well for a year, until Ashley began having a series of mysterious injuries. Maria claimed that they happened at school, but in February 1990, Ashley received a large gash on her head that required several stitches. She said that Ashley had tripped and fell, which caused it, and she also said Ashley was suffering frequent blackouts and seizures. Although the Bermans never witnessed the episodes themselves, they feared that Ashley had a severe physiological disorder; tests proved, however, that she was a healthy child. A few months later, Jeff came home to find that she had been severely injured again, and Maria explained that she had fallen down the stairs, and he believed her. Then, just nine days later on July 25, Ashley had her frightening brush with death, where her physician, Dr. Gillingham, suspected that she was abused and that her injuries were similar to those suffered in "Shaking Baby Syndrome". A search through previous records showed that Maria had taken care of a child who apparently died from child abuse. Two years earlier, in 1988, Dr. Gillingham had treated a 17-month-old boy who had gone under cardiac arrest and died several hours later. The Bermans knew that Maria had cared for him, but they had heard that he had choked on a hot dog. An autopsy revealed that he had a fractured skull with internal bleeding and his death was ruled a homicide. However, in 1988, authorities did not have enough evidence to charged her in his murder. Now, with Ashley fighting for her life, police believe they had a case against Maria and she was charged with child abuse and murder. In March 1991, she pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child abuse and was soon released on her own recognizance, despite the Bermans' protests, and she promptly disappeared. Meanwhile, Ashley made a full recovery and has now been able to tell the police and her family how she was horribly abused by Maria, and hopes she will be brought to justice. Maria Hernandez is 5'3", 133 pounds, has brown hair, brown eyes, speaks broken English, has burn scars on her right forearm, and would today be 53 years old.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 28, 1997 episode. The re-enactment featured well-known actress Cheryl Hines as Sharon Berman.