CYFD cover-up alleged in boy’s death


Two months in advance of he was beaten to death, James Dunklee Cruz was taken to an urgent care with a shoulder and other injuries. This image, taken from a law enforcement lapel digicam video clip, was attained by attorneys suing the condition Young children, Youth and Households Office for wrongful loss of life. (Supply: Sara Crecca)

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A previous state Little ones, Youth and Families investigator has testified that she tried out in vain to remove a 4-12 months-previous boy from an abusive and everyday living-threatening home situation, and was directed by her supervisors to erase and edit her circumstance notes soon after he was killed by his mother’s roommate.

The allegations of a cover-up are the most current in the ongoing civil lawsuit submitted in opposition to CYFD by the estate of James Dunklee Cruz. The boy experienced been the issue of 10 referrals of kid abuse or neglect prior to he was uncovered unresponsive Dec. 10, 2019, in an East Central Avenue condominium shortly following his mother still left for operate

He was beaten to death by a person they ended up keeping with, Zerrick Marquez – a man CYFD warned the mother not to are living with. Marquez pleaded guilty to youngster abuse resulting in death on May possibly 5 he has since indicated he would like to withdraw his plea.

At difficulty in the civil situation is why baby welfare employees never submitted for legal custody of the boy, even right after he experienced endured a shoulder personal injury, sexual abuse and informed law enforcement and social workers that he was currently being damage by men in his mother’s lifestyle.

A online video taken though James was currently being interviewed by police and the social worker reveals him sitting down on a desk at an urgent treatment centre, his arm in a sling, politely answering questions and participating with the grown ups. Two months later on, he was useless from new accidents.

As an alternative of taking James into CYFD custody in the very last 3 months of his lifestyle, CYFD personnel relied on his mom to adhere to a collection of “safety plans” to direct wherever he would stay with his mom with out making certain his extensive-expression basic safety and properly-getting, states the lawsuit.

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“His entire body spoke for itself. The injuries speak for on their own. On prime of the physical evidence, the doctors’ problems, the accidents, the stories that don’t insert up, we experienced a four-calendar year-previous expressing to the grown ups, he was becoming hurt. What extra does it get to know that he needs to be taken absent from that ecosystem?” mentioned Sara Crecca, just one of the lawyers who submitted suit from CYFD.

A CYFD spokesman mentioned Friday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The Journal has claimed extensively on the case and the lawsuit’s claims. But new aspects of the CYFD investigation and allegations of a CYFD go over-up surfaced for the duration of an April 25 sworn deposition of the guide investigator on the scenario, Jessica Etoll.

Now a certified social worker in personal exercise, Etoll was named as a defendant in the wrongful loss of life lawsuit, which was filed by Crecca and legal professional Rachel Berenson of Albuquerque.

The new revelations prompted the lawyers to file a movement in court Thursday to amend the state district court docket lawsuit. A duplicate of the proposed amended lawsuit was submitted as an exhibit.

“Ms. Etoll knew James was being severely abused and believed CYFD must quickly get custody of the little one,” in accordance to the show. But Etoll required her supervisors to talk to the CYFD authorized division to initiate the paperwork to file authorized custody.

Just one supervisor instructed her to “calm down,” and another, a county situation supervisor who had the authority to approve having him into custody, dragged her toes, but lastly relented, the show alleges. By that time, James could not be positioned.

At the time of his death the boy was in Albuquerque dwelling with Marquez, Marquez’s girlfriend Pamela Esparza, and his mom, Krista Cruz, who was 22 a long time aged at the time.

Cruz, who herself had been in CYFD foster treatment, was homeless and had been being with different friends for months.

The Place of work of Professional medical Investigator identified the boy died of blunt trauma to his head and his torso. An autopsy also unveiled therapeutic jaw fractures and other therapeutic head trauma that happened “at a time substantially before (weeks) than the acute accidents,” the show states.

Upon understanding of the boy’s dying, Etoll’s supervisors resolved to modify her investigative notes “to eliminate direct evidence of CYFD legal responsibility,” the show states.

In accordance to Etoll, supervisors Marvin Paul and Melissa Garcia asked the place her notes were regarding the Dunklee Cruz investigation. She advised them she hadn’t but formally entered them into the CYFD info method but experienced them on her function pc, the show stated.

She alleges she was explained to to provide the supervisors with copies of the notes and then was directed to “make a quantity of precise deletions and edits prior to moving into them into the official (CYFD) system,” the show states.

She was also directed to erase the portion of the notes that discovered that her supervisor, Garcia, experienced decided to get started the method of having James into CYFD custody, the exhibit alleges. By that time, even so, the boy could not be positioned and was not taken into CYFD custody.

“Mr. Paul and Ms. Garcia triggered Ms. Etoll’s notes to go through extensive modifying modifying how she worded her observations and getting rid of notes they did not want to be recorded in the long term (CYFD) history because of to James’s loss of life and the expected investigation into their steps and inactions,” the exhibit alleges.

The first and unedited duplicate of her observations and conclusions was saved on the difficult push of her do the job pc, the motion states. At the time, Etoll had supplied her two-weeks discover that she was resigning she had made the decision to go away just before James’ dying. She turned the laptop into CYFD on her final working day of work, Dec. 14, 2019, 4 times immediately after James died.

She also turned in her CYFD cellphone, which contained images, textual content messages to and from her supervisors, a further investigator and Krista Cruz. “Upon info and perception, CYFD brought about a `factory reset’ of Ms. Etoll’s cellular phone to happen, somewhat than protect this substance proof, even as the agency was opening its possess investigation into James’s death,” the show states.

The exhibit also alleges CYFD reset Etoll’s perform pc, “erasing the only copy of her investigation notes that were not redacted and revised by her supervisors.”

Depositions of Garcia, who no for a longer time performs for CYFD, and Paul have not yet been scheduled in the scenario. Neither Garcia nor Paul could be attained for comment Friday.

In reaction to Journal issues on Friday, CYFD spokesman Charlie Pabst-Moore issued a assertion through e mail, “This child’s dying, as any child’s demise, is a tragedy. Zerrick Marquez has pled responsible to abuse resulting in the death of this innocent little one. The Department does not remark on pending litigation, but does be aware that the Section is confident in its place and remains fully commited to improving New Mexico’s baby welfare procedure and avoiding incidents like this from occurring.”

Meanwhile, Cruz and Esparza are awaiting demo on prices of reckless child abuse ensuing in loss of life.

Four-year-previous James Dunklee Cruz sits on a desk at a Duke Town Urgent Treatment on Oct. 18, 2019, following becoming addressed for a shoulder personal injury. Albuquerque law enforcement had been identified as to the scene to investigate the circumstance as feasible boy or girl abuse. (Supply: Sara Crecca)

Lifetime filled with abuse

The lawsuit alleges James Dunklee Cruz’s limited everyday living “had been filled with abuse, the two sexual and bodily, by many guys his mother had left him with.”

A single caller documented to CYFD that James was wandering all around a Rio Rancho apartment complicated in September 2019 “on a day by day basis for hrs at a time and would inquire folks for food.”

A month later on, James was brought to a Duke City Urgent Treatment with several accidents, the lawsuit states, “including an hurt shoulder, and bruising on the shaft of his penis, and a black eye.” He disclosed to a person who termed CYFD that his mother’s boyfriend at the time touched him inappropriately even though he was in the shower.

The show states right after receiving the allegations of abuse or neglect, CYFD imposed “safety plans” and other verbal directives on Cruz pertaining to his care. Every approach needed her to satisfy certain obligations “specifically in exchange” for CYFD declining to physical exercise its authority to just take him into legal custody.

For instance, she was not to reside with Marquez or his girlfriend, Esparza, in Oct 2019 and she had to area her son in day care for his protection while she was at do the job.

The condition Legislature, by enacting the point out Children’s Code, has emphasised holding a family members together each time probable. But Crecca told the Journal on Friday that CYFD is dependable below the regulation to look into suspected kid abuse and neglect and evaluate the chance of long run harm to the youngster.

“Something spectacular demands to change,” Crecca informed the Journal. “The administration has acquired to pay back consideration to this these children need to have to be a priority.”


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