- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LONG BEACH, CALIF. (AP) - Cecilia Villanueva sat helplessly in the backseat and watched her 10-year-old daughter turn blue as her husband raced them to the hospital in a panic.

Earlier, the fifth-grader, Joanna Ramos, had come home from school vomiting and complaining of a headache after a fight with another girl.

Before she passed out on the family couch, she told her mother an 11-year-old girl had punched her in the head.

“I could see her lips turning purple and I got so scared. I tried to do CPR,” her mother said Tuesday, choking back tears. “I tried my best, but when we got to the hospital they said her heart was stopped. They tried, they tried so hard.”

Joanna was pronounced dead on Friday night after undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain, her 17-year-old sister, Vanessa Urbina, said.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office labeled the case a homicide and said Joanna died of blunt force trauma to the head. Police said they have made no arrests and were conducting an investigation that will be presented to prosecutors when it’s completed.

The girl’s family and friends are stunned and struggling to understand how a schoolyard fight over a boy could end in death for a bubbly girl who loved to dance and sing, religiously followed soap operas on TV, and had a penchant for curling her long, dark hair. Joanna would have turned 11 on March 12.

Villanueva said she is certain her daughter didn’t tell her the whole story, and she is wary of believing the rumors that have been circulating among Joanna’s classmates.

“I told the doctor what happened and he said, `One punch is not enough, the way that she is right now,’” Villanueva said. “My daughter told me one punch, only, just one. And the doctor said, `Hmmm, I don’t think so. One wouldn’t cause too much damage.’”

Police have said the fight in an alley after school on Friday lasted less than a minute, involved no weapons and no one fell to the ground.

Villanueva, 41, said that before Joanna lost consciousness, she told her mother the other girl was her “enemy” but offered no further explanation.

“I said, what happened, and she said, `a girl punched my head,’ and I said why, and she said, `I don’t know Mom. We are enemies,’” Villanueva recalled. “I asked her, you don’t have any enemies. Why, Joanna? She told me, `I don’t want to talk, I’m tired and I want to go to sleep.’”

“After that she didn’t say anything no more,” the mother said.

While the circumstances of Joanna’s death are tragic and extremely unusual, medical experts said a blow in just the right spot can often prove fatal.

“This is rare, in that I’ve never seen it in a female, certainly not in a female adolescent,” said Dr. Keith Black, a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Story Continues →