Relatives of Slain Palmdale Boy demand speedy trial against county

Relatives of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy whose 2019 death was initially reported as a drowning – but later led to a criminal indictment by his parents – are demanding a speedy trial of their death suit wrongful claim against Los Angeles County due to the age of the minor plaintiffs.

The Pomona Superior Court lawsuit stems from the death of Noah Cuatro. His great-grandmother, Evangelina Hernandez, brought the case in July 2020 on behalf of herself and the boy’s sister and two brothers, all of whom are minors.

Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services was named as an additional defendant, but was dismissed from the case in January by Judge Peter A. Hernandez. Hathaway-Sycamores knew or suspected the abuse and misconduct at Noah’s home after the boy was referred to the agency by the County Department of Child and Family Services for mental health services , but did not report the abuse, according to the lawsuit.

However, the judge concluded that while the case was ‘certainly tragic’, there was no evidence that alleged negligence on the part of Hathaway-Sycamores was the ‘legal or proximate cause’ of the boy’s death. . The plaintiffs appealed the judgment.

In court documents filed Tuesday, plaintiffs’ attorneys say the case is expected to go to trial in early 2023 for the benefit of Noah’s siblings, ages 2, 4 and 9. The attorneys say in their court papers that the Code of Civil Procedure gives trial preference to any litigant in a personal injury or wrongful death case under the age of 14, unless the court finds that the party “does not has no substantial interest in the case as a whole”.

Over time, it will be difficult for the younger siblings to remember the events, court documents from plaintiffs’ attorneys also say.

“Equally importantly, plaintiffs’ level of trauma is more likely to be exacerbated by an impending trial date in the future, which can cause them a greater amount of triggers and trauma as they are kept stuck in the period. abuse and murder of their brother without the ability to begin to move on and cope,” plaintiffs’ attorneys say in their court documents.

A hearing on the motion for preferred trial is scheduled for June 14.

Noah’s parents, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., and Ursula Elaine Juarez, were 28 and 26, respectively, when the lawsuit was filed. They were charged in January 2020 with one count each of murder and torture in the death of their son.

The indictment also charges the boy’s father with one count of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration of a child under the age of 10, with the indictment alleging that the latter crime occurred on the same day the boy was attacked.

The boy’s mother was further charged with one count of child abuse in circumstances likely to cause death.

Noah’s parents reported a drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S at around 4 p.m. on July 5, 2019, but the boy’s injuries later raised suspicion as to how he died. Medical personnel found that the trauma he had suffered was inconsistent with drowning.

The youngster was first taken to Palmdale Regional Medical Center and then to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead on July 6, 2019.

Noah’s death came after several reports of abuse had already been made to the county’s Department of Child and Family Services, according to the lawsuit.

“Instead of protecting Noah and his siblings, DCFS continued to place the children with their abusive parents, where the children continued to be abused for several years,” the suit alleges.

DCFS previously released 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 keeping children safe every day in our communities,” the report says. communicated. “Our 9,000 employees are committed to this mission and we seek to do everything we can to protect the children in our care.”

After Noah’s death, DCFS social workers made threats against Hernandez “in an effort to silence her,” according to the lawsuit. They told Hernandez that if she made any public statements about Noah’s case and/or potential lawsuits, she would lose her claim for guardianship of her other three great-grandchildren and would never see them again, the lawsuit says.

Elna M. Lemons