Father of toddler found dead on base speaks out

YUMA, Ariz. –  Mario Matus fights back tears as he discusses the loss of his only daughter, 22 month old Celine. “That’s my daughter! She meant everything to me,” he says.


Celine lived on base at MCAS Yuma with her mother and her step father Lance Corporal Jared Cardwell. On May 19th she was found unresponsive and Cardwell was arrested for the crime.  Cardwell has been charged with unpremeditated murder and manslaughter.

“Manslaughter? I think he should just go down for murder. He had no reason to do what he did,” Matus says.

The Marine Corps says the investigation is ongoing and said they were unable to comment on anything related to the case. The family says they’ve met multiple times with investigators. They say they were told the cause of Celine’s death was blunt force trauma to the head.




“Written down right there it said the cause of death was head trauma and acid burns,” Alba Matus says describing a paper she says investigators gave to her.

The Marine Corps confirmed an autopsy has been done but said details from it were not immediately available.

Another issue the family brought up was a Go Fund Me Page in honor of the man being held for Celine’s murder. Jared Cardwell’s father created the page asking for donations.  According to the page it said the Cardwell’s were having money troubles after the loss of their daughter. The site never mentioned Cardwell was arrested in connection with the death. The page was quickly taken down and can no longer be found.

For now Mario says he just wants to focus on the healing process, but says he doesn’t know if it will ever get better. “I will miss her everyday for the rest of my life.”

Lance Corporal Jared Cardwell remains in Marine Corps Custody. A trial date has not been set.




About The Author

Eduardo Santiago joined the FOX 9 and ABC 5 news team in February, 2012. That’s the same year KECY launched its very first local newscast. He has been covering local news in Yuma and the Imperial Valley since his start as a KYMA photojournalist in 2006. During his decade in broadcasting, Eduardo has covered some of the biggest stories in the Desert Southwest – from President Bush’s visit to Yuma, Ariz. to the uncovering of drug tunnels that span the US-Mexico border. One of the most memorable stories Eduardo covered was the 2010 Easter Earthquake that rocked the Imperial Valley, Mexicali, and Yuma. Eduardo, along with his news team, won an award from the Associated Press for best coverage of an ongoing story following the quake. Before he made his move to TV, Eduardo was just a kid born in East Los Angeles, where he spent his early childhood. His parents moved him to Mexicali, B.C. Mexico, where he did most of his elementary school education. He finally landed in El Centro, where he graduated from Central Union High School in 2005. Eduardo is currently a student at Imperial Valley College. You can find Eduardo hanging out in the Imperial Valley and Yuma with his family on any given weekend. His off-screen passion is playing guitar and sports.

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