Boy, 4, found dead in swimming pool after he was 'tortured and raped by his own dad'

  • 4 months   ago
Boy, 4, found dead in swimming pool after he was 'tortured and raped by his own dad'

Great-grandmother of boy, 4, who was 'tortured, raped and killed' by his parents files wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles child services accusing agency of failing to act on reports of abuse

The great-grandmother of a California boy whose parents have been charged with torturing and killing the four-year-old has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing Los Angeles County child services and a non-profit organization of ignoring multiple reports of abuse. 

Jose Maria Cuatro Jr, 28, and Ursula Elaine Juarez, 25, were indicted in January on one count each of murder and torture in the July 2019 death of their son, Noah.

Cuatro is also accused of sexually assaulting the boy just hours before his death, then falsely claiming that the child had drowned in a community pool. 

Eva Hernandez, Noah's great-grandmother who had cared for him for two years before he was returned to his parents, on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services on behalf of herself and the victim's three surviving siblings.

The complaint cited by KTLA alleges that the agency failed to act on a court order to remove Noah from his parents' custody directly leading to his death, even after receiving multiple reports of abuse.

'Instead of protecting Noah and his siblings, DCFS continued to place the children with their abusive parents, where the children continued to be abused over the course of several years,' the court filing alleges. 

The lawsuit also names as a defendant Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, a non-profit organization that has worked with the county providing mental health services.     

According to the great-grandmother's complaint, Hathaway-Sycamores knew of, or suspected, the abuse happening in Noah’s home after the boy was sent to the agency by DCFS for mental health assistance, 'but failed to report the abuse.' 

Cuatro and Juarez are both accused of killing their son on July 5, 2019, at their apartment in Palmdale. 

'Jose Cuatro allegedly sexually assaulted his son on the same date,' a statement from the district attorney's office read. 

Over the course of four months leading up to Noah's killing, the parents allegedly tortured the child, according to the indictment. 

Cuatro and Juarez took him to the hospital on the afternoon on July 5, claiming that he had nearly drowned in their apartment complex swimming pool. 

 

But medical staff soon became suspicious after they found signs of trauma on the four-year-old's body. Noah died at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles the next day.

Just days after his death, Noah's great-grandmother spoke with multiple news outlets telling reporters that Noah had been taken from his parents' care a number of times, beginning when he was just a baby. 

He had spent the first few months of his life in and out of foster care before Hernandez was able to gain custody of him at six months, after Juarez was accused of fracturing 'the skull of an infant she was related to,' according to the filing. 

DCFS allegedly substantiated the violence claim but placed Noah back with his parents anyway.

But just a year later, Jose and Ursula lost custody once more with officials determining that Noah had been neglected.

Police documents claim that he was so malnourished that he couldn't walk.

After another stay in foster care, Hernandez cared for him for two years until November 2018, when he was return to his parents for the last time despite his desperate pleas. 

'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.'

Noah was returned to his parents in November 2018, and Hernandez cried that by the time she saw him again six months later, the little boy was clearly in need of help.

Between March and April 2019, several reports of suspected child abuse involving Noah came to light, with one report claiming that the child had gone to the hospital with bruises on his back.

The following month, a caseworker filed a 26-page request to again remove Noah from Jose and Ursula's custody, following accusations the boy's father had kicked Ursula and their children in public.

Even though a judge granted the request, Noah was never returned to foster care. 

The lawsuit alleges that DCFS 'willfully' ignored the request and the court order, and left Noah with his parents, despite the agent's own assessment that he was at a 'very high' risk.

'Had said Defendants fulfilled their mandated and legal duty of care, Noah Cuatro would not have been harmed and/or continued to be harmed,' the complaint reads.

The DCFS previously issued a statement addressing Noah's death, which read in part: 'at any given time, the Department of Children and Family Services serves more than 34,000 families and vulnerable children in Los Angeles County with an unwavering commitment to pursue child safety every day in our communities.'

The lawsuit further alleges that after Noah's death, caseworkers threatened Hernandez, who has been outspoken in her criticism of DCFS, 'in an attempt to silence her.' 

According to the complaint, the social workers told Hernandez that if she made any public statements about Noah’s case or talked about potential legal action, she would lose her request for guardianship of Noah's sister and two brothers, and would never see them again.

Cuatro and Juarez were arraigned in February on one count each of murder and torture.

The father also faces one count each of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration with a child under the age of 10, while Juarez faces an additional count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death.

If convicted at trial, Cuatro faces up to 47 years to life in state prison and Juarez could be looking at up to 32 years to life in prison.   

 

Read more:

Relatives file wrongful death lawsuit in torture killing of 4-year-old Palmdale boy Noah Cuatro

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