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Thread: Homicide Detectives Investigating Suspicious Death of 4-Year-Old Palmdale Boy, Noah Cuatro

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    Homicide Detectives Investigating Suspicious Death of 4-Year-Old Palmdale Boy, Noah Cuatro

    https://ktla.com/2019/07/09/homicide...mdale-toddler/

    The death of a young Palmdale boy initially reported as a drowning last week is now the subject of a suspicious death investigation, officials announced Tuesday.

    The parents of the child, identified only as "baby Noah," told authorities he drowned Friday in a community pool on the 1200 block of Avenue S, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Mendoza said in a news briefing.

    Noah was taken to a children's hospital in Los Angeles area, where he was pronounced dead just after 8 a.m. the next day. However, medical staff there found trauma on the boy's body that was inconsistent with drowning, Mendoza said.

    Although investigators initially described the boy as 3 years old, they later said he was 4.

    Authorities did not immediately release many details on the case, which was first made public Tuesday afternoon.

    Mendoza said detectives still "don?t have a lot of the facts clear.?

    The child's parents are being questioned but have not been arrested, according to Mendoza. The lieutenant said he believes they are the boy's biological parents.

    The family lives at the address where Noah was reported to have drowned, Mendoza said, indicating the pool is part of a residential complex.

    L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger made a general statement about foster children and reunification with their parents, but said she could not confirm whether or not Noah was ever in foster care.

    ?The goal within the county is to always do family reunification,? Barger said. ?When you look at what the county?s role is, family reunification is first and foremost.?

    Barger said Noah has siblings, and Mendoza said three other children in the home have been taken into protective custody.

    Investigators are working on getting Noah's case file from the county's Department of Children and Family Services. Mendoza said he believes there are "previous reports," but detectives are still trying to obtain them.

    Investigators plan to have more information in the coming days.

    Barger said authorities are working to gather facts before jumping to conclusions.

    ?This is a deep dive, as we do on all our cases ? as we did on Gabriel, as we?ve done on Anthony,? she said, referring to Gabriel Fernandez and Anthony Avalos, two young Antelope Valley boys who were killed in homes they had been placed in by the Department of Children and Family Services.

    Avalos' mother and boyfriend are facing capital murder charges in the Lancaster boy's death, while Fernandez's mother received and lifetime prison sentence and her boyfriend was sentenced to death after a jury found they tortured and killed the boy.

    Barger promised to monitor the most recent case closely to "ensure transparency and accountability, something that Noah deserves.?

    The county supervisor called Noah?s case a ?chilling reminder that government alone cannot do this,? and said child welfare was ?a shared responsibility.?

    ?We also know that nothing will change without the support and involvement of everyone around us and everyone in our local communities,? she said. ?Change happens from the bottom up.?

    Barger asked the public to help her ?in looking for a way to improve child welfare.?

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    Palmdale Boy Who Died Begged Not to Be Reunited With Birth Parents, Great-Grandmother Says

    https://ktla.com/2019/07/10/great-gr...birth-parents/

    The great-grandmother of a Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances last week said Wednesday that she cared for the child for years between stints in foster care, and he had begged not to be returned to his parents.

    Noah Cuatro, 4, was in his birth parents' care when he died last Saturday. The parents took him to a hospital after they say he drowned in a pool at their Palmdale apartment complex, but investigators say medical staff found trauma on the boy's body that was inconsistent with drowning.

    Eva Hernandez, the child's great-grandmother, told KTLA Noah was first taken from his mother at birth. After that, he was in and out of foster care until he was put in Hernandez's custody at 3 months old, she said.

    The courts decided Noah should be returned to his parents at 9 months old, but he was again removed from their home about a year after that because of neglect and malnutrition, according to Hernandez.

    Noah was then placed in foster care until a social worked called Hernandez and asked if she would take him back. She says he lived with her for more than two years in very stable conditions.

    But the last November, the boy was again returned to his mother and father — despite his own protests, Hernandez said.

    “I told the social workers, ‘Please, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me,’ Hernandez told KTLA. “He would hold on to me and say, ‘Don’t send me back, grandma.’ I don’t know. I couldn’t do anything. I just had to send him back.”

    After that, Noah's mother allegedly wouldn't let his great-grandmother see him until 3 months ago, when Hernandez says she saw the child for the last time.

    “He was not the same little boy anymore," Hernandez said. "He looked so sad and withdrawn.”

    Hernandez said she got the sense that Noah wanted to tell her something was wrong but was unable to.

    “He didn’t have the chance. She was just looking at him, and he wouldn’t say anything,” Hernandez said of the mother. “He would say, ‘Grandma,’ then he would just shut down. I kept saying, ‘What’s wrong? Tell me baby,’ and he wouldn’t say it.”

    Hernandez claims she got a tip from other relatives that Noah was being mistreated after she last saw the boy 3 months ago.

    The great-grandmother says that prompted her to file a complaint with the county's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), asking social workers to make an unannounced visit to the home. But when the agency called her back, they allegedly said they let the mother know they were coming and reported that everything was OK in the home.

    “If they would have taken him out of there, he would still be here,” Hernandez said. She lamented that "the kids don't have a voice."

    Investigators say three children were removed from the home after the 4-year-old's death and placed into protective custody.

    According to relatives, Noah's siblings include an older brother who was also in an out of foster care, a 2-year-old sister and a 1-month-old baby boy.

    In a statement released Wednesday, DCFS Director Bobby Cagle said the department is unable to provide any information on the case due to privacy restrictions.

    "We join with the community in expressing our deep sadness over the tragic death of this child," Cagle said.

    Noah's parents told authorities he drowned last Friday in the pool at their complex on the 1200 block of Avenue S before they took him to a Los Angeles-area hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 8 a.m. the next morning, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

    But other relatives say the pool area at the building is locked, and Noah would have been too small to gain access on his own, according to Hernandez.

    Detectives have not described the injuries found on Noah's body, other than to say they don't appear to be drowning-related.

    The boy's parents have been questioned, but as of Wednesday afternoon neither had been arrested.

    L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Tuesday that reuniting a child with his or her birth parents is always the ultimate goal of DCFS intervention.

    “When you look at what the county’s role is, family reunification is first and foremost,” she said.

    Sheriff's investigators said Tuesday that they were still working to obtain Noah's case history.

    Noah's is the third high-profile case involving an Antelope Valley boy who died in the home he had been placed in by DCFS, following Gabriel Fernandez and Anthony Avalos.

    Avalos' mother and boyfriend are facing capital murder charges in the Lancaster boy's death, while Fernandez's mother received and lifetime prison sentence and her boyfriend was sentenced to death after a jury found they tortured and killed the boy.

    The department is also facing a lawsuit from the family of a 2-year-old Westchester boy who was allegedly killed by his mother's boyfriend after relatives say social workers ignored evidence he was being abused. Josafat Bonifacio, 27, has been charged with murder in Damien Ventura's death.

    Barger says county officials alone can't be answerable for the welfare of children in their care and the community must share in that responsibility, saying "Change happens from the bottom up."


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