PALMDALE – Relatives of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy, whose 2019 death was originally reported as a drowning but later led to a criminal indictment of his parents, have filed a wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit stems from the death of Noah Cuatro. His great-grandmother, Evangelina Hernandez, brought the case on behalf of herself and the boy’s sister and two brothers, all minors.
Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services is named as an additional defendant. Hathaway-Sycamores knew of or suspected the abuse and misconduct occurring in Noah’s home after the boy was sent to the agency by the county Department of Children and Family Services for mental health services, but failed to report the abuse, according to the suit.
The boy’s parents, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., 28, and Ursula Elaine Juarez, 26, were indicted in January on one count each of murder and torture in Noah’s death.
The indictment also charges the boy’s father with one count each of assault on a child causing death and a newly added count of sexual penetration of a child under 10, with the indictment alleging that the latter crime occurred on the same day the boy was attacked.
The boy’s mother is additionally charged with one count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death.
Noah’s parents reported a drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S around 4 p.m. last July 5, but the boy’s injuries later raised suspicions about how he died. Medical staff found the trauma he had suffered inconsistent with drowning.
The youngster was taken first to Palmdale Regional Medical Center and then to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead last July 6.
Noah’s death occurred after multiple reports of abuse had already been made to the county Department of Children and Family Services, according to the suit.
“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 suit alleges.
The DCFS previously issued a statement regarding Noah’s death.
“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 statement read. “Our 9,000 employees are committed to this mission, and we look to do everything possible to safeguard the children entrusted to our care.”
After Noah’s death, DCFS social workers made threats against Hernandez “in an attempt to silence her,” the suit alleges.
The social workers told Hernandez that if she made any public statements about Noah’s case and/or potential lawsuits, she would lose her request for guardianship of her other three great-grandchildren and would never see them again, the lawsuit states.
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