The siblings of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy whose 2019 death was originally reported as a drowning and later led to a criminal indictment of his parents also were abused by their father and mother, according to a proposed amended complaint in the case.
Evangelina Hernandez, the great-grandmother of the late Noah Cuatro, brought the wrongful death lawsuit in July 2020 on behalf of Noah’s sister and two brothers. Now that Noah’s siblings are in a secure home and in the process of being adopted by Evangelina Hernandez, one sibling has opened up to her and her son, Matthew Hernandez, about abuses he has seen his other siblings suffer, mostly at the hands of their father, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., the plaintiffs’ attorneys state in their court papers.
Jose Cuatro and Ursula Elaine Juarez were 28 and 26, respectively, when the lawsuit was filed and are still awaiting trial in their criminal case. They were indicted in January 2020 on one count each of murder and torture in their son’s death. The indictment also charges the boy’s father with one count each of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration of a child under 10, with the indictment alleging that the latter crime occurred on the same day the boy was attacked.
Noah’s mother was additionally charged with one count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death.
In papers filed Monday, April 3, with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Wesley Hsu, the plaintiffs’ lawyers state that new information was obtained in February and March that Noah’s siblings also were subjected to abuse and neglect by Jose Cuatro and that county workers breached their mandatory duty to report their “reasonable suspicion” of such conduct. The plaintiffs are seeking the judge’s permission to file an amended complaint with the new facts concerning the siblings. A hearing is scheduled April 26.
In late March, the oldest of the siblings told Evangeline Hernandez that he was often forced by Jose Cuatro to “physically fight and beat up” Noah, the plaintiffs’ attorneys state in their court papers. The same sibling also told Matthew Hernandez that he and Noah were always hungry, that he saw his parents slapping his surviving brother in the face when he was an infant, that he observed his parents fight a lot and that he was “scared of his dad because he would beat him up” by punching him and hitting him with his belt, the plaintiff’s lawyers state in their court papers.
The boy also saw Jose Cuatro hit Noah and the other two siblings, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys court papers. Evangelina and Matthew Hernandez fear that the sibling’s recent disclosures “are just the tip of the iceberg, and as time passes, more horrific disclosures will come to light,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys state in their court papers.
Noah’s parents reported a drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S in Palmdale at around 4 p.m. July 5, 2019. But the Noah’s injuries later raised suspicions about how he died, and medical staff found the trauma he had suffered inconsistent with drowning. Noah was taken first to Palmdale Regional Medical Center and then to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead July 6, 2019. His 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.
After Noah’s death, DCFS social workers made threats against Evangelina Hernandez “in an attempt to silence her,” the suit alleges. They told Evangelina 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, according to the suit.
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