Antonio Angel

  • Age: 5 mos.
  • Born: June 15, 2011
  • Died: Nov 21, 2011
  • Location: Pueblo
  • Suspect in death: Anthony Angel, father

According to a Pueblo Police Department report, Antonio’s father, Anthony Angel, claimed the infant sustained fatal injuries when he hit his head on a bar while riding on a public bus.

Police reviewed video from the bus and confirmed Antonio did hit his head during the ride, but physicians said that incident would not have caused the death.

The injuries were caused by blunt-force trauma, which police said occurred when Anthony Angel was caring for the child.

Angel has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. His trial still is pending.

The parents — Anthony Angel and Brandi Strawn — had been monitored by child-protective staff before.

A state review of the infant’s death reported that in February 2010 Otero County Department of Social Services received a report stating that Strawn was partying and drinking and using marijuana with her daughter in the house.

Strawn told the caseworkers that Antonio Angel was making false accusations against her in an attempt to get custody of her daughter. The caseworkers investigated and decided they could not confirm the allegations against Strawn.

Otero child protective staffers already had been providing services to the family to try to help alleviate domestic violence concerns between Strawn and Angel. Those services, however, were unsuccessful and Strawn’s daughter was placed in foster care and Strawn’s parental rights were terminated on April 29, 2011.

Less than two months after Strawn lost her parental rights to her daughter, she gave birth to Antonio.

Antonio died on Nov. 21, 2011.

The state review of the child’s death further found that both Strawn and Anthony Angel were provided child protective services due to unspecified safety concerns when they were growing up.

“Both Ms. Strawn and Mr. Angel were raised in homes that did not meet their safety needs as children,” that state review found. “They had their own parental rights terminated on one child and had limited resources and relationships to turn to for their own parenting needs.”

Anthony M. Angel

Suspect in death: Anthony Angel, father



Joslyn Asberry

Joslyn Asberry

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: Feb 16, 2004
  • Died: Feb 1, 2008
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Alex Ortiz, boyfriend of mother

Joslyn Asberry was wearing five barrettes the night she died — two pink, one white, one brown and one orange. For every barrette, the coroner found three scrapes, bruises or cuts on the 3-year-old’s 28-pound body.

She had been pushed — maybe thrown — by her mother’s boyfriend into a television set Feb. 1, 2008. She stopped breathing, and then he waited an hour before calling for help.

Joslyn had been waiting for help most of her life. A year earlier, the Denver Department of Human Services noticed belt marks on one of Joslyn’s sisters from beatings administered by her mother, Keyona Gadison. She was sentenced to a year of supervised probation, but the children, five girls, were left in her care by caseworkers who believed she had sufficiently cooperated with the investigation and was on her way to improving as a parent.

At the time, questions were raised about Gadison’s boyfriend, Alex Ortiz, then 31, whose track record with police stretched back 12 years and included arrests for assault, domestic violence and drug possession, according to state records. Gadison said he did not live at her home.

Five months later, a therapist reported seeing Gadison pinch Joslyn’s sister during an appointment. Caseworkers determined that the report was unfounded. A state review of Joslyn’s death said the case was closed after interviews with the family, the child and staff at the clinic, but it offered no details as to why the report was discounted by caseworkers.

Caseworkers failed to follow up with the family’s progress. The state later found that caseworkers should have more aggressively determined Ortiz’s role with the children and documented it for supervisors.

But none of those mistakes were noticed until Joslyn was dead. When Denver police officers questioned Ortiz that morning, he said the little girl fell. Then he said someone else may have entered the home and hurt Joslyn, according to police records.

One of Joslyn’s sisters, who was sleeping in the same room, told police that Ortiz “threw Joslyn.”

When police leaned more heavily on Ortiz during a second interview, he told them he pushed Joslyn, causing her to hit her head on the TV. Ortiz admitted he made two phone calls and waited an hour before he called 911.

Joslyn died of multiple blunt-force injuries. Ortiz pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.



Loreyna Barea

Loreyna Barea

  • Age: 7 yrs.
  • Born: Aug 7, 1999
  • Died: March 9, 2007
  • Location: Evans
  • Suspect in death: Genevia Barea, aunt

When a relative called Weld County social services to complain that the children in Genevieve Barea‘s home behaved oddly and were afraid of Barea, the complaint was quickly written off.

Even if the accusations made Feb. 26, 2007, were true, they simply didn‘t amount to child abuse or neglect, county officials concluded.

A child-death review by the Colorado Department of Human Services concluded, however, that social workers violated standards by not talking to the relative to get more information.

A visitor to Barea‘s home, in Evans, would have seen an emaciated child with less than two weeks to live.

LoReyna Barea, 7, died March 9, 2007, of blunt-force trauma and acute dehydration.

She had at least 68 cuts and bruises and was so thin that her joints, ribs and spine were clearly visible. LoReyna weighed just 34.8 pounds, putting her below the 3rd percentile for her age.

Barea and husband Dan Partch had custody of Barea‘s niece, LoReyna, and her four brothers, ages 6-13. The four brothers had no reported injuries and were not malnourished.

The couple was charged with child abuse resulting in death, but Partch was acquitted and charges were dismissed against Barea. Defense lawyers argued that LoReyna hurt herself in a bike accident and would often throw herself against the wall or down the stairs.



Stonie Bridgeo

Stonie Bridgeo

  • Age: 2 yrs.
  • Born: July 12, 2005
  • Died: Jan 30, 2008
  • Location: Delta County
  • Suspect in death: Michael Bridgeo, father

Stonie Bridgeo was 2½ years old in 2008 when he spent a morning watching television in his family‘s rented Eckert home while his father, Michael Bridgeo, who had just returned from working a night shift, slept in another room.

There was a space heater in the bedroom where Stonie was amusing himself, and it caught fire. Stonie burned to death. Investigators said Stonie‘s parents had refused before the fire to let a worker hired by their landlord into the home to fix faulty wiring. Stonie‘s mother, Jacklyn Bridgeo, disputes that and said she is planning to sue the landlord.

Law enforcement authorities determined Stonie‘s death was accidental and neither of Stonie‘s parents was charged. A state Child Fatality Review Team determined Stonie died due to parental neglect and lack of supervision.

The Bridgeos had a troubled history with the Mesa County Department of Human Services when they lived in Clifton before moving to the home in Delta County. Less than a year before Stonie died, patrol officers found three children wandering and playing in a busy street. They were three of Stonie‘s four siblings and half siblings. The children were taken into protective custody and placed in a foster home for four days.

The children were returned home after the parents developed a safety plan with social workers. Jacklyn Bridgeo was cited for child neglect.

A day after the children were returned to the home, social workers were contacted again because the Bridgeos‘ 4-year-old was left at a bus stop. The social workers determined it was due to parental“miscommunication.” Less than a month later, the child-protection case with the Bridgeos was closed after social workers determined the children were being cared for and supervised.

There had been three previous reports of concerns for the children‘s safety four years prior to these incidents.

The Mesa County Department of Human Services was criticized by the state Child Fatality Review Team for failing to ascertain the living conditions of one of the Bridgeos‘ children and failing to even account for another child. The department was also cited for a caseworker‘s failure to review the written material from a previous incident after the children were found wandering in the street. The department‘s safety plan was also done incorrectly.

The department responded by creating a new instructional manual for caseworkers and by putting together a team to develop better screening criteria.

Five months after Stonie‘s death, his parents divorced. Jacklyn Bridgeo said she is writing a book about Stonie‘s death. On Facebook, Jacklyn Bridgeo wrote that she sometimes goes outside and yells“I love u Stonie” to her son in heaven.




Samantha Brown

  • Age: 5 mos.
  • Born: May 3, 2010
  • Died: Oct 24, 2010
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Jilliean Phillips, mother

Jilliean Phillips drank three cans of beer and took three shots of vodka before she laid her 5-month-old daughter in bed with her.

When she awoke Oct. 24, 2010, Samantha Brown was dead.

Phillips, whose five older children had been removed by the Denver Department of Human Services because of concerns about abuse or neglect, told police she knew there were risks when she put Samantha in bed with her, according to an arrest affidavit.

That night she was “just being lazy,” she told police.

Child-protection workers had crossed paths with Samantha’s family 11 times before her death.

Before Samantha was born, child-welfare services received seven reports that Phillips was late in either dropping off or picking up her children at school. In 2007, when the school called caseworkers, Phillips suggested that her 7-year-old son retrieve her daughter from the school.

In 2008, Phillips stabbed her husband, Samuel Brown, while her four children were in the home. Brown drove himself to a hospital with superficial wounds.

Phillips’ four oldest children were removed from the home. One year later, Phillips gave birth to her fifth child in a bathtub. The baby boy, who tested positive for cocaine and alcohol, spent the first five days of his life in a neonatal intensive-care unit.

He was placed in foster care immediately after he was released from the hospital.

A county and state review of Samantha’s death found that as allegations of neglect and abuse stacked up, so did missteps by caseworkers.

Before Samantha’s siblings were removed, child-protection workers entered incomplete notes and failed to complete interviews in a timely manner, and documents in one case appeared to be missing, the review showed.

Phillips tested positive for cocaine while she was pregnant with Samantha. When Samantha was born, Phillips and Brown agreed to take part in treatment, and Samantha was sent home with her parents.

An autopsy showed that Samantha died of sudden unexplained infant death syndrome.The manner of death was undetermined. Phillips’ decision to drink while caring for the infant and letting her sleep in a dangerous place led to charges of child abuse. She pleaded guilty to child abuse negligently causing death in May 2011.

Phillips was originally sentenced to eight years in prison but was resentenced to six years of intensive supervised probation, which she is still serving.


Torrey Elijah Brown, Jr.

Torrey Elijah Brown, Jr.

  • Age: 6 mos.
  • Born: Aug 16, 2011
  • Died: March 1, 2012
  • Location: Commerce City
  • Suspect in death: Sharriecka Page, mother

Torrey Brown Jr.’s grandmother got to keep him for one night after she told an Adams County caseworker she feared for his life. Then she was ordered to give the baby back to his mother, who police say suffocated him and threw him in the trash.

The little boy’s mother, 23-year-old Sharrieckia Page, had been saying “scary” things, recalled grandmother Corinthiah Brown and father Torrey Brown Sr.

She called Torrey Jr. a crybaby and said she was going to strangle him, they said.

Until one day last March when the baby was gone. At first, Page told Torrey Sr. she had sent him to live with relatives.

After a painstaking, 52-day search through trash 20 feet deep, authorities found Torrey’s remains May 31 in a Commerce City landfill.

Page had thrown the baby away, police said. She is charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.

The relationship between Page and Torrey Sr. had fallen apart, and he was rarely allowed to see the baby in the months before his death, Torrey Sr. said.

“I know they didn’t do enough,” Torrey Sr. said of child-welfare workers. “If there were reports about somebody trying to strangle her kid, they should do something.”

Corinthiah Brown called child-welfare authorities a few months before the baby died, she said. She told them the baby’s mother was overwhelmed and that she feared she would hurt him or his older siblings. She was allowed to keep the children overnight. Then, Corinthiah said, a caseworker “came here and told me I was overreacting.”

Corinthiah wishes caseworkers had taken her more seriously. And she wishes that, even when they didn’t, she hadn’t backed down.

“I tried to stay out of the way,” she said, tears streaking her cheeks as she sat in her Aurora living room. “I never thought it would turn out like this. This is what I get.”

A state child-welfare review of the infant’s death is ongoing.


  • Video

    Corinthiah Brown remembers her grandson Torrey Brown, Jr.
    View the video

  • Court Records

    Bond information sheet for Sharriecka Page following the death of her 6-month-old son, Torrey Brown Jr.
    View the pdf

  • Photo

    Corinthiah Brown comforts her son, Torrey Brown Sr., during a memorial service for his son, Torrey Brown Jr.
    View the photo


Nicole Clark

Nicole Clark

  • Age: 9 yrs.
  • Born: June 27, 2001
  • Died: Nov 17, 2010
  • Location: Boulder
  • Suspect in death: Patrice Clark, mother

Nicole Clark and her mother spent their last hours eating McDonald’s burritos and watching a movie in their Jeep Cherokee, parked in their garage in Lafayette.

Patrice Clark was suicidal, often drank too much and was arrested for driving while drunk shortly before she apparently parked in her garage and left the motor running.

A friend of Patrice asked police to check on her because she had not shown up for work that day. The last time the friend had seen Patrice and 9-year-old Nicole was the night before at a bar.

When police officers entered the garage the night of Nov. 17, 2010, the carbon monoxide was so thick it was hard for them to breathe, according to a police report. Shining a flashlight inside the Jeep, police saw the bodies of the little girl and her mother. They found no pulse for either of them. The keys were turned on in the ignition, but the vehicle was no longer running.

The Jeep’s movie screen was down. The bag from McDonald’s lay on the garage floor.

There were 19 calls that day from Nicole’s cell phone to the phone of her father, who was away on business in Taipei. There was one message from the girl on his voicemail, an upset and crying Nicole asking her dad to call. She also sent him a text in all capital letters: “CALL ME IF YOU CAN AND IF YOU CAN’T ANSWER ME AND TEXT ME TOO.”

Keith Clark, who was separated from Patrice, knew his wife was suicidal; he told police she would get “extremely depressed and would make several calls to him for attention.” He recalled that several weeks before the deaths, his daughter had a friend over to spend the night. She told him her mother passed out of the stairs. The girls tried to rouse Patrice, but could not.

The Boulder County Department of Human Services had heard concerns before about the family. A caseworker was assigned in August 2001, when Nicole was an infant; the case was closed in February 2003.




Angel Deherrera

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: May 24, 2004
  • Died: Feb 6, 2009
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Manuela Tooker, foster parent

Child-protection workers received nine phone calls from people concerned about Manuela Tooker’s foster home before they placed Angel Deherrera in her care.

They would receive three more before the 4-year-old was found dead in the backyard Feb. 6, 2009.

Before the Denver Department of Human Services placed Angel in Tooker’s Colorado Springs foster home, child-protection workers received an allegation that Tooker dragged a child down a set of stairs. Caseworkers closed the investigation as “inconclusive” because there were no visible injuries on the child, according to a state and county review of Angel’s death.

An allegation that Tooker threw cold water on a suicidal child was also deemed inconclusive. The review does not say how caseworkers came to that conclusion.

Angel and his two siblings were placed in Tooker’s care beginning in April 2008. The two had been removed from their parents’ home because of the couple’s drug use and continuing domestic violence.

About two months later, the El Paso County Department of Human Services received a report that Angel’s school-age sibling was punished with a belt after he kissed another child in the home, the review said. No visible injuries were found on the child, and the assessment was closed as inconclusive.

A second report of bruises on Angel’s sibling’s back was not assigned for investigation. Child-protection workers said that any evidence of the bruises would be gone by the time the assessment was opened.

No one was watching Angel while he played outside on a trampoline. Tooker sent the little boy out to play while she prepared lunch. He did not come in when she called him 30 minutes later.

Tooker found Angel on the trampoline, hanging lifeless with a cord around his neck.

The coroner determined that he became entangled in the trampoline’s net and died of asphyxia.

After Angel died, Tooker’s foster home was closed.


images... Awesome

Sanai Deleon-Pitts

  • Age: 3 mos.
  • Born: March 3, 2011
  • Died: June 11, 2011
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Amanda Deleon and Calvin Pitts, parents

Calvin Pitts could explain the burns on his 3-month-old son’s left thigh and right foot.

He could not explain the abrasion under Sanai Deleon-Pitts’ chin, the tear inside his right ear, the scrape behind his left ear or why the infant appeared to have a fractured wrist.

He did not know that the baby boy had eight fractured or healing ribs. Five on his right side. Three on his left.

Sanai died June 11, 2011, after paramedics rushed the baby from his parents’ Denver apartment on South Federal Boulevard to Swedish Medical Center.

When Sanai was 3 weeks old, someone called the Denver Department of Human Services concerned that the infant’s mother, Amanda Deleon, and her mother were smoking synthetic marijuana, or “black mamba,” around Sanai, according to a state and county review of Sanai’s death. Deleon tested negative for the drug. Her mother was later arrested for a probation violation because she tested positive.

Caseworkers continued to have contact with the parents and warned them about the negative effects of substance abuse. Pitts appeared agitated and defensive with caseworkers. It is unclear whether caseworkers addressed a report that Pitts, frustrated with Sanai’s crying, punched a hole in the wall.

Almost two weeks before Sanai died, Deleon noticed that his leg was swollen. She had adjusted his tiny legs while holding him in an effort to get him to “shut up.” Intending to decrease the swelling, Pitts put a wet towel in a microwave and wrapped it around Sanai’s leg. He told investigators that when he pulled the towel away, the back of the infant’s left thigh was burned.

Pitts dressed the burn with ointment and gauze instead of taking Sanai to the hospital, where he feared people would “think wrong of him,” according to an arrest affidavit.

When detectives asked about the burn on his son’s foot, Pitts said he was sitting next to Sanai when he fell asleep smoking a cigarette, which fell onto the tiny foot. Pitts said he treated that burn with Neosporin.

An autopsy showed that Sanai died of complications from burns and blunt-force injuries. His death was ruled a homicide.

In May, Pitts and Deleon pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death. They each were sentenced to 40 years in prison.


Daisai Derzon

Daisai Derzon

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: Aug 11, 2004
  • Died: Jan 12, 2008
  • Location: Grand Lake
  • Suspect in death: Michelle Baber, foster parent

Daisai Derzon was a 2-year-old in Cortez when her biological parents went to prison, their parental rights terminated, and Daisai and her two siblings were placed in a foster home. Within two months, the children were moved to another foster home across the state in Grand County where Daisai would die of a severe blow to the head within a year.

As new foster parents, Michelle and Robert Baber had received glowing reports from a court guardian and social services workers. About a half year after they took in Daisai and her brothers, the Babers were approved to adopt the children.

Before that adoption could be finalized, Michelle Baber called 911 in January, 2008, to report she found her then-3½-year-old foster daughter, who“does weird stuff in her sleep,” pounding her head against a wall. Three days later, Daisai was dead of a closed-head injury after being removed from life support.

For weeks, Michelle Baber stuck to the“sleepwalking” story before adding theories that Daisai might have hurt herself when she slipped in a bathtub or that Baber might have dropped Daisai while carrying her. Fifteen days after Daisai died, Michelle Baber finally admitted that she had struck Daisai in the head.

At her sentencing — 16 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death — Michelle Baber‘s attorney said her client suffered from a major depressive disorder.

After Daisai‘s death, questions were raised by the state Child Fatality Review Team about the appropriateness of Daisai‘s placement and the supervision of the foster parents by a contracting agency working with the Montezuma County Department of Social Services. That agency shut down two weeks after Daisai‘s death before the state could complete an investigation of the agency. Another contract agency took over the child placements in that part of the state.

The review team found no violations on the part of the county child protection workers.



images. girl

Kayla Dutcher

  • Age: 5 yrs.
  • Born: Jan 19, 2002
  • Died: Oct 7, 2007
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Amy and James Dutcher, parents

Legally blind, Kayla Dutcher died Oct. 7, 2007, from an overdose of Tramadol , a prescription painkiller. The El Paso County Department of Human Services determined she died of fatal neglect and an injurious environment, and listed the parents as being responsible.

An investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office resulted in no criminal charges. Kayla’s father, James, told deputies that he lost the lock to his pill bag a couple of days before the child’s death. Her mother, Amy, told deputies that her son reported seeing Kayla picking up a loose pill off the floor and eating it.

The family had been referred to child welfare caseworkers nearly a month before Kayla’s death with an accusation that the family had no hot water or gas to cook food in their motor home. The children also allegedly were not attending school.

The referral never was assessed and never was documented in the state’s database that tracks child-abuse and -neglect allegations when it should have been documented, a state review of the death found. The referral never was assessed and only was documented in the state’s database that tracks allegations of child abuse and neglect after Kayla died, a state review of the death found. The delay was a violation of state policy.

The family instead was forwarded to a program that provides services to help families become financially self-sufficient and to help keep families intact. The father declined those services five days before Kayla died, according to the fatality review stated


Jazzmin Escobar

Jazzmin Escobar

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: Nov 30, 2005
  • Died: Feb 25, 2009
  • Location: Aurora
  • Suspect in death: Jose Zapato, uncle

Three months before Jazzmin Escobar died because of what her uncle described as a tumble down the stairs to a cement floor, her older brother told a caseworker that the same uncle scratched behind his ears and whipped him.

The preschool-aged boy growled and clawed at a coffee table with his fingernails to show how his uncle made the marks.

But the uncle, Jose Cruz Zapata, told the caseworker the little boy fought with a girl at his daycare center and sometimes scratched his own ears. The caseworker’s assessment was labeled inconclusive.

That allegation was one of many against Jazzmin’s relatives, going back to before she was born. The first referral — that Jazzmin’s mom was on drugs while pregnant with an older sibling — was not investigated further because she was still “early in her second trimester.”

Before Jazzmin was 2, a caller reported two children wandering alone in the street. Her mother had fallen asleep on the couch and was awakened by police officers. She installed a safety device on the front door. The case was closed.

A year later, Jazzmin’s father, Alanm Escobar, called Arapahoe County social workers to say he needed help raising four kids after Jazzmin’s mom, allegedly still using drugs, had gone missing.

Two of the children, Jazzmin’s half siblings, went to foster care, but Jazzmin and her brother remained with their father under caseworker supervision. Then her father went to jail for traffic offenses after driving with a suspended license to take a sick Jazzmin to the hospital.

The children went to stay with their uncle — an arrangement Escobar says was approved by their caseworker.

“What happened with my daughter was an accident,” said Escobar, who keeps Jazzmin’s ashes in a box in her brother’s bedroom and a collection of angels in his living room.

“I always liked angels,” he said. “Then after my daughter, they kind of ease up the pain, you know.”

Jazzmin died of severe head trauma on Feb. 25, 2009,after falling down the outside stairs at her uncle’s apartment. He said he set her on the couch afterward. He did not call 911 for 25 minutes.

No charges were filed.

A state review of her death found no violations of policy, but reviewers were concerned caseworkers had done minimal interviews in earlier contacts with the family . They did not talk to Jazzmin’s mother’s roommates or her brother’s daycare provider about some of the allegations. The review also found law officers had failed to inform the human services department that Jazzmin’s father had a domestic violence charge.

After Jazzmin’s death, the county took her baby cousin — Zapata’s child — into protective custody. Three years later, the baby’s mother, who is no longer with Zapata, is still fighting to get her son.

“I lost my daughter and she’s losing her son,” Escobar said, as his sister wept on the couch across his living room. “Our family, we’ve been through a lot. They feel obligated to protect my nephew, but who are they protecting him from?”

Sometimes, Escobar, who is no longer in a relationship with Jazzmin’s mom, visits the stairwell where his daughter fell. A piece of the carpet, taken during the police investigation, hasn’t been replaced.

“I remember her smile, and it carries me,” Escobar said. “I guess I go look there for her smile.”



Andres Estrada

Andres Estrada

  • Age: 6 yrs.
  • Born: Sept 26, 2003
  • Died: Aug 24, 2010
  • Location: Federal Heights
  • Suspect in death: Myrna Estrada, mother

No one was watching Andres Estrada when he died.

By the time the 6-year-old peddled his tricycle into traffic, Adams County caseworkers had received 11 calls from people concerned about the safety of Andres and his siblings. Four of those reports were warnings that the children routinely — unsupervised and underdressed — wandered around the busy Aurora parking lot, according to a state and county review of Andres’ death.

Six of those calls were never assigned to caseworkers for investigation.

The Adams County Department of Human Services met Andres and his family in May 2007, after someone reported his mother, Myrna Estrada, was leaving her young children alone. In October 2007, police officers found Andres’ then 3-year-old sibling wandering alone on a busy street corner.

A caseworker met with Estrada, who said she was able to watch her children from inside her apartment. The caseworker and Estrada discussed appropriate ways to supervise her children and Andres and his siblings were left in the home.

More than a year later, in December 2009, staff at Andres’ school called child protection workers. Andres, then 6, was still not potty trained. Caseworkers confirmed that Estrada had kept all of the children’s doctors appointments, but three months later they received another report she was missing appointments. The second referral was not investigated.

Four months later, a report that Estrada was not getting Andres to his dental appointment, was also not investigated.

Caseworkers received their last referral about Andres 18 days before he died. Estrada left Childrens’ Hospital with Andres before he could have his dental surgery. It was the only referral that was founded for neglect.

Estrada was not charged in Andres’ death.

While Andres was alive, caseworkers violated state policy in handling his case twice. They failed to both correctly fill out a safety assessment of the home and left the case open longer than state policy allows.



images (93)

Elijah Exilasse

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: Sept 13, 2007
  • Died: Sept 13, 2012
  • Location: Florida
  • Suspect in death: Wilfred Exilasse, father

The day that would have been Elijah’s fifth birthday, his 27-year-old father, Wilfred Exilasse, was arrested by Orange County, Fla., law enforcement authorities on child abuse charges in connection with the child’s death.

Elijah died Sept. 1 of complications caused by blunt-force head trauma.

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported that child protective authorities in that state had investigated the father before. In 2010, when he was at his father’s, the boy’s aunt allegedly discovered Elijah alone and crying, the newspaper reported. Florida caseworkers determined the boy was malnourished and recommended that he live with his mother, Felicia Lubin.

Lubin moved from Florida to Colorado Springs in 2010 after that investigation was closed.

While in Colorado Springs, Lubin received a court petition stating Exilasse wanted to see his son every summer and alternating holiday. Lubin told the Sentinel she sent Elijah to his father in May because she thought she would get in trouble if she didn’t comply with that petition.

Three weeks later the child was hospitalized with head injuries.

A neurosurgeon said the father’s stories about how the injuries were caused were improbable. That neurosurgeon concluded the child’s injuries only could have been caused by blunt force trauma.

Lubin stayed at the bedside of her unconscious son for nearly two months. In July, he was flown to a Colorado Springs hospital, where he eventually opened his eyes. Although physically responsive, he remained bedridden and unable to speak.

The child was discharged in August and sent home with medical equipment he needed to survive. Weeks later he died. The death was ruled a homicide.

Two charges of aggravated child abuse are pending against Wilfred Exilasse in connection with the death.

The Colorado Department of Human Services has not released the child fatality review of Elijah’s death. State officials confirmed that child protective workers in Colorado received five referrals about Elijah from November 3, 2011 through May 4, 2012.


Laniece Fletcher

Laniece Fletcher

  • Age: 22 mos.
  • Born: July 21, 2009
  • Died: May 28, 2011
  • Location: Aurora
  • Suspect in death: Karen Pena, mother

Laniece Fletcher, the youngest of four, was always trying to keep up with her brothers and sisters. The day she was run over by a van in the parking lot of her apartment complex, the 22-month-old was playing outside with three of them — only she was too small for the van‘s driver to see.

Laniece‘s mother was inside the apartment, in her bedroom, looking at Facebook, according to police reports. Her oldest sister, who turned 12 that day, was at Walmart picking out a birthday present with her uncle.

It was typical, some neighbors said, to see Karen Pena‘s children running around outside without supervision.

“The mom is never around, she always just let‘s them play in the parking lot, kids running around with no shoes on, in their diapers, and the 12-year-old is doing everything,” neighbor Antoinette Thomas told police. “There are times I have told her, go grab them some shoes, some pants, and a diaper, and I‘ll change their diaper, I‘ll put on their shoes and stuff so they can play down here.”

Sometimes, the boys threw bricks at cars buzzing down Alameda Avenue. The night before the accident, neighbor Katie Whyte saw Laniece running around outside, by herself, wearing only a diaper.

People concerned about the children‘s safety had called the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services twice in the 13 months prior to Laniece‘s death. The calls were “screened out.”

In April 2010, a caller told the child-welfare division that Pena‘s 6-year-old daughter was allowed to visit her father‘s hotel room, filled with crack and prostitutes. Police were unable to find the man, so child-protective workers didn‘t open a case. And that July, someone called to say Pena‘s 2-year-old son had gone to an emergency room three or four times due to injuries. The referral did “not rise to level of abuse or neglect as defined by law,” child-welfare workers said.

The van was in the apartment complex to drop off a disabled child on May 27, 2011. Several other children were still inside the van when it ran over Laniece. The driver thought it was a speed bump until she looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a child on the ground.

The child being dropped off, 14-year-old Deon McCarty, ran inside his apartment to call 911 and get his stepfather.

“She was lifeless,” recalled Travis Windom, Deon‘s stepfather. “She was barely breathing. She was pretty much gone then.”

Laniece‘s mother pleaded guilty to child abuse causing death and was sentenced in October to five years of probation.



Ashaquae Foster

Ashaquae Foster

  • Age: 12 yrs.
  • Born: Sept 14, 1996
  • Died: Aug 21, 2009
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Karren Foster, father; Tranquileta Foster, stepmother

El Paso County Department of Human Services received numerous reports that 12-year-old Ashaquae Foster was being abused and mistreated.

She died from choking after going into cardiac arrest Aug. 21, 2009. Her nose had been bleeding throughout the night, but she could do nothing because her family had locked her in a room she shared with a developmentally disabled aunt. The child’s mattress was soaked with urine, according to police.

Her stepmother, Tranquileta Foster, told police she and Ashaquae’s father, Karren Foster, waited for nearly six hours to seek medical assistance because they feared they could get into trouble for locking the child in the room, which was 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

El Paso County child protective workers had received reports as far back as 1999 alleging various relatives had hit Ashaquae, that her stepmother and father routinely locked her up in her room, and that the child was pulling out her own hair.

The El Paso County Department of Human Services also was told in 2003 that Ashaquae had been seen malnourished, digging through the trash and eating raw meat.

She told a teacher in 2006 that her stepmother hit her, and in 2007 she wrote on the back of one of her school assignments, “I am ugly girl mom hates me.” She told a teacher that her stepmother had called her ugly and yelled names at her and had punched her in the nose.

Nine allegations of abuse or maltreatment were made, but only one resulted in a finding of neglect and failure to supervise the child. In that instance, child protective caseworkers determined Ashaquae’s stepgrandmother had improperly left her with the developmentally disabled aunt who then hit the child. Ashaquae, however, remained in the home.

The state review found that child-protective staff had not properly assessed the safety of Ashaquae and had not investigated allegations of abuse that should have been investigated. No criminal charges were filed against Ashaquae’s father and stepmother.

During a recent tour of the exterior of the home where the family once lived, Karren Foster denied that he and his wife were negligent or abusive. The house is now shuttered up and back on the market after a foreclosure.

Looking out over the yard, Karren Foster recalled basketball games with Ashaquae, a girl he said would never quit. He remembered how she used to dress the family poodle up and put the dog in a baby stroller.

Tranquileta Foster, in a later interview, said her husband stopped her from calling for emergency help the fatal morning because he thought they could fix the problem on their own.

She said the family struggled to care for Ashaquae, a child she described as having special needs. She said she and Karren locked Ashaquae in her room for her own protection because the child wandered outside late at night and snuck trash from neighbors despite getting regular meals.

When child protection workers visited the home before the death, they focused on the wrong issues, such as whether there was food in the refrigerator.

“I needed help,” Tranquileta said. “I was asking for help. I didn’t know how to get it. It was like everyone turned their back on us.”

After Ashaquae died, the El Paso County Department of Human Services removed Tranquileta Foster’s children from her for nearly a year and placed them in the care of other relatives. She said the children were returned to her after she took therapy for depression.



Neveah Gallegos

Neveah Gallegos

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: Aug 1, 2004
  • Died: Sept 24, 2007
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Angel Ray Montoya, mother’s boyfriend

Miriam Gallegos promised her mother she wouldn’t leave Neveah alone with her boyfriend.

Gallegos knew that her boyfriend, Angel Ray Montoya, was a registered sex offender. She knew he was accused of choking and hitting another little boy in his care. She knew that days after Montoya gave her daughter a bath, Janet Gallegos rushed her 3-year-old granddaughter to the hospital for vaginal bleeding.

She knew. She promised. She left her daughter with him anyway.

Nine months before Denver police found Neveah’s body, stuffed in a white trash bag, dumped in a gulch and covered with garbage, child-protection workers for Denver County had closed an investigation into allegations of abuse of Neveah.

Miriam Gallegos was in therapy and parenting classes, according to a county and state review of Neveah’s death. Inconclusive medical findings and an “inability to interview” Montoya — whose whereabouts were unknown — led child-protection workers to declare that allegations of sexual abuse were “unfounded.” Investigators with the Denver Police Department determined that there was a lack of evidence and insufficient probable case to arrest Montoya, the review said.

A state review of Neveah’s death determined that caseworkers failed to document concerns about Gallegos as a caregiver. Those concerns would have been basis for intervention, the review said. Neveah might have been removed from her mother’s care in time.

“They didn’t do anything to help Neveah, and she was the one who needed it,” Janet Gallegos said.

On Sept. 24, 2007, Miriam Gallegos returned to her Denver apartment after work and found her child dead. Instead of calling police, she helped Montoya stuff the girl’s body into a garbage bag. Gallegos told police that Neveah had been kidnapped.

An autopsy report included three pages of traumatic injuries found on Neveah’s 30-pound body. The coroner could not determine which of them led to her death.

“It’s just the pain she went through. There’s nothing I could do to make it better,” Janet Gallegos said of her granddaughter. “I wish I could hold her and tell her it’s OK. A tragedy like that you’ll never get over.”

Montoya, 26, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Miriam Gallegos, 24, pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.



Zoe Garcia

Zoe Garcia

  • Age: 7 yrs.
  • Born: Nov 10, 2000
  • Died: Dec 6, 2007
  • Location: Johnstown
  • Suspect in death: Heather Trujillio, Zoe’s sister; Lamar Roberts, Heather’s boyfriend

Her mother, Dana Trujillo, often left her care up to her oldest daughter, then-16-year-old Heather, and her daughter‘s live-in boyfriend, Lamar Roberts, then 17, who beat Zoe to death.

There had been 14 child abuse and neglect complaints made to at least five Colorado counties and another in New Mexico about Trujillo‘s home.

One of Zoe‘s younger siblings had a skull fracture in the summer of 2006. The following year, Zoe told caseworkers that, “My sister beats me up a lot.” Trujillo worked nights and used methamphetamine.

But an assessment by Weld County social workers was “inconclusive” for abuse.

In the months leading up to Zoe‘s death, a Weld County caseworker documented bruises on her arms, shoulders and face. Some were yellow and fading; others were dark and fresh.

Then someone complained in October 2007 to the county that Roberts poked the kids in the head with a stick, threw them in the air but didn‘t catch them, and tried to get them to use marijuana. Heather and Lamar had gotten Zoe drunk.

When a caseworker went to the home Nov. 5, Trujillo was asleep. She denied drug use. The assessment was founded for a lack of supervision, minor severity.

Zoe died Dec. 6 before a long-term caseworker was assigned to the family.

On that day, a drunken Lamar hit, kicked and body slammed the child for letting Heather in the house even though she didn‘t get the vodka he had demanded, according to records.

When Lamar kicked Zoe from behind, she fell to the floor and didn‘t get up. Soon after, she wasn‘t breathing and died.

She had more than 20 bruises on her body, a broken wrist, bleeding and swelling in the brain, and other internal bleeding. Lamar later told his friends that his hands were registered as lethal weapons.

Heather pleaded guilty to child abuse negligently causing death and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. That sentence will be suspended if she completes a 6-year youth-offender program. Lamar was sentenced to 36 years in prison for a conviction of child abuse causing death.


  • Video

    Heather Trujillo remembers her sister Zoe Garcia.
    View the video

  • Police Report

    An incident report from the Johnstown Police Department, detailing a December 2007 call at Zoe Garcia’s home.
    View the pdf

  • Police Report

    A report from the Johnstown Police Department detailing evidence found and interviews completed the night 7-year-old Zoe Garcia died.
    View the pdf

  • Police Report

    A report from the Johnstown Police Department detailing an interview with Zoe Garcia’s mother and some of the families contacts with social services.
    View the pdf

  • Police Report

    An report from the Johnstown Police Department about a caseworker’s meeting with Zoe Garcia’s family before her death.
    View the pdf

  • Police Report

    Incident report from the Johnstown Police Department about the death of Zoe Garcia in December 2007.
    View the pdf

  • Police Report

    A report by the Johnstown Police Department including letter written by Heather Trujillo after she was arrested in the death of her sister, Zoe Garcia.
    View the pdf

  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS fatality report for Zoe Garcia, filed on April 15, 2008.
    View the pdf


Rosalia Garcia-Quintana

Rosalia Garcia-Quintana

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: Dec 6, 2002
  • Died: Oct 30, 2007
  • Location: La Junta
  • Suspect in death: Salvador Quintana, father; Carmen Guerra, stepmother

Rosalia Garcia-Quintana died in her La Junta home of infection on Oct. 30, 2007 two and a half weeks after an anonymous caller reported to the Otero County Department of Social Services that Rosalia was being abused. An autopsy showed she also had pneumonia, was malnourished and had numerous bruises, abrasions and infected skin ulcers on her body.

Social workers had twice gone to the home where Rosalia lived with her father, Salvador Quintana and his girlfriend, Carmen Guerra Marquez, to investigate the reported abuse. No one answered the door. The complaint was determined to be unfounded after Salvador Quintana called social workers to say that he had taken Rosalia to Texas with him to visit his ill father.

There had been other reports of abuse of Rosalia prior to her death. Two occurred in 2004 but details of those reports and any actions taken are not available because the reports do not pertain to the death. Five months before Rosalia’s death there was a report that she had been abused while living with her biological mother. That report was determined to be unfounded.

The Colorado Department of Human Services found that case workers did not take the proper actions in the case because they did not complete a face-to-face interview with the victim and her siblings instead of relying on the father’s word. They also did not assess the condition of the other children in the home.

Salvador Quintana, was sentenced to 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to negligent child abuse resulting in death. Carmen Guerra Marquez pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and was sentenced to six years in prison.

In imposing the sentences, District Judge Michael Schiferl told the court that Rosalia’s death represented “a tremendous failure” of the system that was meant to protect her.

“The department of social services was given notice of a problem and doesn’t do anything?” the judge said.




Alex Gilmore

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: July 2, 2008
  • Died: April 15, 2012
  • Location: N/A
  • Suspect in death: None

Alex’s death is still under investigation and few details are available.

The Colorado Department of Human Services is investigating the 3-year-old’s death.

The report has not been released to the public.


Adam Gonzales

  • Age: 9 mos.
  • Born: Oct 7, 2010
  • Died: Aug 5, 2011
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Amanda Lujan, mother; Frances Garcia, mother’s girlfriend

Amanda Lujan found her 10-month-old son where he was left the night before — swaddled in a blanket on the closet floor, tucked away next to a teddy bear and an old speaker.

On Aug. 5, 2011, Lujan and her partner, Frances Garcia, told investigators that Adam woke up early that morning crying, according to an autopsy report.

Garcia got out of bed to give Adam a bottle. She placed it in his mouth, threw a blanket over his head to muffle his cries, closed the closet door and went back to sleep.

That morning, Lujan found Adam on the floor “unresponsive and cold,” according to the report.

The blanket was still draped over his head.

During the two years prior to Adam’s death, social services in Jefferson and Denver counties had a total of five contacts with Lujan, according to a state and county review of his death. In three of those referrals, callers were concerned that Lujan was not properly caring for her older son.

In one investigation, a doctor agreed with a caller and said that the little boy was not gaining enough weight. Two months later, caseworkers received a call alleging that Lujan “whacks” the 1-year-old on the head when he cries. Still the little boy was left with Lujan as she moved in and out of her mother’s home and later became pregnant with Adam.

The morning Adam died, Lujan and Garcia could not find a phone to call paramedics, so Garcia ran to a neighbor’s apartment and called 911. Adam was pronounced dead at the west Denver home.

Investigators found a bottle and other miscellaneous items scattered across the closet floor.

The cause of death remains undetermined, but asphyxia deaths can occur with no findings,the autopsy report said.

Only after Adam died did caseworkers find that his older half-brother had two black eyes and several suspicious bruises on his back. Another child in the home said that Garcia had hit the boy.

Lujan, 25, pleaded guilty to accessory to child abuse resulting in death, a felony. She will be sentenced on Dec. 6.

Garcia, 24, pleaded guilty to child abuse negligently causing death and was sentenced to four years in prison.



Jocilynn Graham

  • Age: 13 mos.
  • Born: Oct 21, 2010
  • Died: Dec 9, 2011
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Melissa Alexander, father’s girlfriend

Jocilynn Graham was 13 months old when she was removed from life support on Dec. 9, 2011.

Melissa Alexander, a live-in nanny and girlfriend of the father, pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to 36 years in prison. The prosecution said Alexander brutally shook the child once, left the room and returned to shake the child again. The injuries sustained during the shaking put the baby into a coma on Nov. 9.

Alexander gave police several explanations for what occurred, including a statement that she threw a cup at the child.

At the time of the fatal injuries, Jocilynn’s father, Fort Carson soldier Matthew Strickland, was training in Louisiana and preparing for deployment, The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs reported.

The state’s review of Jocilynn’s death found three prior referrals to the El Paso County Department of Human Services.

In March of 2011, child protective staffers were told her mother, Kayla Graham, was seen screaming at Jocilynn, who had a red mark on her face. A caseworker determined the allegations were unfounded, and the family was referred to the Family Advocacy Program on Fort Carson.

A little over five months later, another individual reported to the El Paso County Department of Human Services that the mother was not cleaning the baby’s bottles and formula was caked in the bottle. That person also alleged the child had a bruise on a cheek. Another allegation was lodged accusing the father of picking up Jocilynn without having the necessities needed to care for her and of having a home without the proper conditions for a child.

In September of 2011, the father was given custody of the Jocilynn. The child died a little over two months later.



Dolci Gryshayeva

Dolci Gryshayeva

  • Age: 2 yrs.
  • Born: May 25, 2009
  • Died: Sept 9, 2011
  • Location: Lakewood
  • Suspect in death: Nick Ruiz, mother’s boyfriend

Her grandparents on her mother‘s side are noted Russian gymnastics coaches who immigrated to the United States.

Her father was just 22 years old when he died, running from police.

And Dolci Gryshayeva‘s own short life likewise was filled with drama.

Dolci died Sept. 9, 2011, of what the Jefferson County Coroner‘s office determined were head injuries caused by blunt-force trauma; her mother‘s boyfriend, Keith Nick Ruiz, has been charged in her death and is awaiting trial.

The blows that killed her weren‘t the only ones she suffered.

When Dolci died, she was 2 years and 3 months old. She had long black hair, brown eyes,pierced ears, chipped red nail polish on her fingernails and healing rib fractures, according to the autopsy report.

She also had bruises on her forehead and scrapes on her chin, the back of her head and the right side of her face.

There was a 6-inch-long bruise across the middle of her back, two more on her bottom, along with a cut nearly 2 inches deep, according to the coroner‘s report. There was hemorrhaging in her optic nerves.

In the course of her life, any number of people who crossed paths with Dolci could potentially have spared her that abuse.

Her paternal grandmother confronted the little girl‘s mother, Anastasia Gryshayeva, about injuries she saw but apparently accepted the explanations Gryshayeva gave her.

Three months before Dolci died, her paternal grandmother took her to the emergency room because Dolci was walking funny. It turned out she had a broken leg. Jefferson County human services investigated, and Gryshayeva denied ever leaving Dolci in the care of her new boyfriend — Ruiz. The county referred Dolci, her mom and Ruiz to the Child Abuse Prevention team at the Kempe Center, but they were unable to determine how the injury happened. They decided it was most likely accidental.

Almost a year earlier, Adams County Human Services looked into whether Ruiz abused his own two children, which he had with another woman. The county concluded the allegations arose from a custody dispute.

In December 2011, Anastasia Gryshayeva had another baby girl. Earlier this year, the state‘s child-fatality review team reported that Jefferson County was providing services for Gryshayeva and her baby. “There are no safety concerns,” the report concluded.



Michael Ryan Harris

Michael Ryan Harris

  • Age: 21 mos.
  • Born: April 14, 2009
  • Died: Feb 2, 2011
  • Location: Brighton
  • Suspect in death: Donald Scarlett, mother’s boyfriend

Roseanna Key heard her son crying — screaming — from behind the door.

But between the blows, as she listened to her boyfriend allegedly beat 22-month-old Michael Harris until she heard “the breath go out” of the toddler and his cries fall silent, Key never opened the door. She did not check on her son all night and left him alone with her boyfriend, Donald Scarlett, the next morning when she went to work.

The next time she saw her son, doctors warned that the little boy likely would not survive the injuries to his kidney, the lacerations to both his spleen and pancreas or the fracture to his skull.

They were right.

Michael died from his injuries on Feb. 2, 2011.

Michael had been waiting for someone to step in and help most of his life.

The day Michael was born, he and his mother tested positive for marijuana, according to a state and county review of Michael’s death. Key admitted that she had made a mistake and the case was closed. One month after Michael’s first birthday, on May 27, 2010, Adams County caseworkers were called back to Key’s home, which was found to be so cluttered it was difficult to walk through. Multiple choking hazards and drug paraphernalia were in the reach of Key’s three young children.

Key admitted to smoking marijuana and said that her parents and roommate — who often cared for the children — also smoked marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the review. The children were removed from the home. Michael’s oldest brother went to live with his father while the two younger children were placed in foster care.

Four months later, Key’s two youngest sons were returned to her, after she completed therapy, parenting classes and substance abuse classes. But before her children were returned, Key also began a relationship with Scarlett, who would watch the boys while she was at work.

After Michael’s death, Key told investigators that she and Scarlett would fight about Michael’s crying. Once, Scarlett accused Key of “babying” Michael.

The morning Scarlett called 9-1-1 to report that Michael wasn’t breathing, doctors found bruises behind and in his ear, on his forehead and on his chest. Scarlett said the marks were made when Michael wedged himself between two pieces of furniture.

Scarlett pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death on Sept. 7. His trial is scheduled to begin next year.

Adams County caseworkers did not close one assessment in Michael’s case for five months, one of two policy violations they made before he died.




Summer Moon Hawk

  • Age: 24 days
  • Born: Jan 1, 2010
  • Died: Jan 25, 2010
  • Location: Loveland
  • Suspect in death: Kaylynn Davis, mother

Summer Moon Hawk was the first child born in Loveland in 2010. A newspaper article heralded the occasion.

But her birth was remarkable for yet another reason: She also had THC in her system.

It wasn‘t that surprising that Summer‘s mother, Kaylynn Davis, had been smoking weed shortly before the child entered the world.

Since 2007, when Davis gave birth to Hawk‘s half sibling, Larimer County caseworkers had been warning her about using drugs around her kids and while she was pregnant.

A complaint the next month, in January 2008, indicated that Davis was smoking marijuana in front of the baby and not dressing her properly.

The complaint was deemed inconclusive after she denied smoking marijuana in front of her child. Caseworkers offered Davis help, though, and while she agreed to a drug test she did not complete any treatment.

When THC was found in Summer‘s system in 2010, Davis admitted using marijuana throughout her pregnancy.

A caseworker visited Davis where she was living — in a garage converted into a bedroom — and deemed it suitable. The room was heated by a small space heater. The caseworker told Davis she should go outside to smoke dope.

Davis missed a voluntary meeting with her caseworker Jan. 19, 2010. Six days later, on the day the social worker was planning to go visit the home, Summer died of pneumonia.

A state review into Summer‘s death found the baby had been sick for 10 days before she died but her mother never sought medical treatment.

Davis was charged with child abuse, negligently causing death. She pleaded guilty to of a reduced charge of negligence and was sentenced to 10 years of probation

Summer Moon HawkSummers mother Kaylynn Davis




Dominic Hildago

  • Age: 7 mos.
  • Born: Dec 20, 2008
  • Died: Aug 1, 2009
  • Location: Alamosa
  • Suspect in death: Delia Malouff, mother

A month after she successfully completed a Nurturing Parent Program, teen mother Delia Malouff was four-times-the-legal-limit drunk when she rolled over on her 8-month-old baby in her bed and suffocated him.

Liquor bottles and marijuana were scattered around the Alamosa home when paramedics arrived. Dominic Hidalgo Jr. had been dead for some time, lying face down in the bed, before he was found by Malouff‘s friends. He was dirty, his stomach was completely empty and his penis was infected. Friends told authorities that when they found Dominic dead, Malouff was more concerned with throwing away liquor bottles before law enforcement arrived than with her dead baby.

Two months earlier, Malouff‘s father had told the Alamosa County Department of Human Services that the 16-year-old Malouff was using drugs and alcohol heavily. Dominic‘s paternal grandmother also expressed concerns, but social workers did not document what they were.

Social workers, who had investigated two other potential abuse or neglect reports connected to Malouff, went to her home and determined that Dominic looked healthy and happy. His mother‘s urine tested clean for alcohol and drugs. Social workers noted that the mother had participated in the parenting program and was receiving support from a women‘s resource center and a nurse partnership program. The assessment was closed.

The department still had an open case with Malouff at the time because she was considered an“out of control” minor. The weekend Dominic died, she was supposed to be under the supervision of her parents, but her father had gone to Las Vegas and her mother said she was working long hours and did not have time to stay with Malouff and the baby.

Dominic‘s father, Dominic Hidalgo, had gone to prison three months earlier.

Malouff was found guilty of negligent child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to two years in juvenile detention.

State child-fatality reviewers found that county social workers erred in doing assessments relating to Malouff as an at-risk child rather than Malouff as a mother. The investigation also determined the same caseworker should not have been assigned to evaluate Dominic‘s death because that caseworker had previous involvement with others in the family.


Grayson Hunt

Grayson Hunt

  • Age: 2 mos.
  • Born: July 9, 2009
  • Died: Sept 18, 2009
  • Location: Thornton
  • Suspect in death: Krysta and Jeffery Hunt, parents

Grayson Hunt died in filth.

The 2-month-old’s mother, Krysta Hunt, left the infant on a bed between two pillows while she made a phone call. When she returned 15 minutes later, Grayson was not breathing. He was lying on his stomach with his face smothered in one of the many dirty, plastic bags that littered the family’s Thornton home, according to a state and county review of Grayson’s death.

Grayson died on Sept. 18, 2009.

It was not the first time caseworkers from Adams County were alerted to the mess the Hunt family was living in. Almost two years before Grayson died, caseworkers were called to the home after a fire broke out in May 2007.

Discarded diapers and garbage were scattered throughout the home. Hunt and her husband told caseworkers that they had had the flu and had fallen behind in cleaning the home. Child protection workers made a finding for medium neglect on the parents, offered voluntary services and closed the assessment.

When caseworkers returned to the home the day Grayson died, rooms were so cluttered it was hard to walk without tripping, according to the review. Dirty dishes and half-eaten food were scattered throughout the house and about four inches of standing water was left in an upstairs bathtub.

In the bedroom where Grayson died, plastic garbage bags, wire and batteries cluttered the room. A roll of plastic wrap was left on the edge of the bed where Grayson was sleeping.

Grayson died of asphyxia by suffocation. The manner of death was ruled to be an accident.

In July 2010, Krysta Hunt pleased guilty to child abuse negligently causing death. She was sentenced to five years supervised probation.



Ashya Joseph

Ashya Joseph

  • Age: 16 mos.
  • Born: Sept 25, 2006
  • Died: Jan 28, 2008
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Maria Gardner, mother

Maria Darlene Gardner , distraught over the suicide of her husband, was in no shape to continue caring for her five young children. A community services provider warned an El Paso County child welfare caseworker that Gardner was making funeral arrangements for herself and the children.

The caseworker tried to “problem-solve” with Gardner, and came up with a strategy to get a babysitter so Gardner could go to a crisis center to talk with a therapist, a state review found. That night, the therapist called the caseworker and said Gardner had been sent home and did not need hospitalization.

Five nights later, Gardner gathered her five children in her Colorado Springs bedroom, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire.

Four of the children survived, including an 8-year-old boy who could be heard screaming during the 911 call, “Why did you? You killed them. Why did you kill them. I loved them.”

Ashya Joseph, who was 16 months old, did not survive the blaze. She died of smoke inhalation and burns to her body on January 28, 2008.

Gardner is now serving 85 years in prison.

A state review of Ashya’s death found El Paso County child welfare caseworkers had been alerted to problems in the home six other times. There were allegations of bruises and black eyes and cuts on the eyes of the children. In addition, the father shot a gun at his wife in their yard with all of the children present, and then he killed himself four days later after returning to the home.

That shooting incident, along with the other abuse allegations, did not prompt any intervention, the state review of the death found. Nearly four months after her husband fired the gun, Gardner set her children on fire.

Gardner, in an interview, said she will live in pain for the rest of her life.

“It kills me every day to have to hear my children screaming,” Gardner said. “To know I’ve hurt them so much. For my youngest daughter to not be alive now because of what I’ve done. Not a day goes by, not one, where I don’t think about what I’ve done.”

She said she blamed the caseworker for not intervening.

“They should’ve taken my children from the home, and, ultimately, I say, put me on at least a 48-hour suicide hold,” she said. “Don’t just tell me I have to go somewhere for an evaluation.”

Shirley Rhodus, the administrator over child welfare for the El Paso County Department of Human Services, defended the county’s actions. She said her review of the casework found no mistakes in practice.

“Well, we certainly didn’t have information to suggest something so heinous was going to take place,” Rhodus said.

What looks clear in hindsight is anything but clear at the initial stages.

“It is much more difficult looking forward than looking backward,” Rhodus said.



Anahi Juarez

Anahi Juarez

  • Age: 10 mos.
  • Born: Oct 8, 2009
  • Died: Sept 7, 2010
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Arnoldo Rostro, cousin

Almost every week, Marciela Gonzalez and Jesus Juarez visit their daughter’s grave. Gonzalez wipes away tears as she plucks blades of grass from around the polished headstone; her husband kneels next to her, staring at a photo of his daughter.

Anahi Juarez’s parents still do not know the details of how their daughter died Sept. 7, 2010.

Six months before Anahi’s death, Denver Human Services opened an investigation because an intoxicated Juarez drove his son to the emergency room. Juarez admitted to driving drunk but explained that his son was having a hard time breathing and there was no one else to take the boy.

Juarez and Gonzalez accepted visits from child-protection workers after the drunk-driving report and appeared to be making progress as a family, according to a state and county review of Anahi’s death.

The last time the couple saw Anahi, she smiled, they said. Juarez left for work that morning. Gonzalez had a doctor’s appointment, and the two left Anahi and her older brother, Jesus, in the care of Juarez’s then-17-year-old cousin.

That morning, the teenager fell asleep.

The cousin told investigators that while he was sleeping, Jesus, almost 2 at the time, went into the bathroom and turned on the bathtub faucet. He told authorities that the 10-month-old Anahi must have then fallen into the tub and drowned.

To this day, Anahi’s parents, who speak only Spanish, can only speculate about whether that is true.

The coroner’s report lists drowning as the cause of death, and the manner of death was determined to be accidental. A copy of the report and other investigation details have not been given to her family, they said.

The teen was charged as a juvenile in the case, and his case file is sealed.


  • Autopsy Report

    Autopsy report for 11-month-old Anahi Juarez, released by the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner in October 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS fatality report for Anahi Juarez, filed on Jan. 3, 2011.
    View the pdf

  • Photo

    Anahi Juarez Gonzalez’s parents, Jesus Juarez and Maricela Gonzalea, and their children Jesus and Carolina, visit Anahi’s grave.
    View the photo


Sailor Serenity Raine Kuhn

Sailor Serenity Raine Kuhn

  • Age: 6 mos.
  • Born: April 2, 2011
  • Died: Nov 1, 2011
  • Location: Cortez
  • Suspect in death: Dylan Kuhn, father

In 2011, Sailor Serenity Raine Kuhn spent her first, and last, Halloween with her grandma while her teenage parents and their friends set out to “create havoc on the town” of Dolores, according to police reports.

But Sailor’s mother, April Coleman, told police those plans fizzled, so the group dropped a skeleton made of PVC pipe into a lake “to scare people,” rented a horror film, picked up Sailor at around 1:30 a.m. and headed home.

Coleman’s brother and another friend who spent the night at the apartment told police that Coleman and Sailor’s father, Dylan Kuhn, went to bed about 4 a.m. and put the 6-month-old in a bassinette in their bedroom.

Just before 8 a.m., April Coleman left to go to work and laid Sailor, who had been running a fever and had cried all night, on the bed next to Kuhn. Soon afterward, Kuhn woke his friends, asking them to help perform CPR on his daughter who wasn’t breathing. Sailor was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Kuhn, who was 18 at the time, told police he woke up and found the baby hanging from the side of the bed with a blanket around her neck.

An autopsy of Sailor Kuhn found “dirt in her ears and on her hands,” and a diaper “full of feces from front to back. There was also a clear plastic wrapper from a cigarette package in the diaper.”

She had an old bruise on her forehead, and bruises on her brain. The autopsy also found bleeding behind her eyes.

Eventually Kuhn told police he slammed Sailor onto the bed in frustration. He pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 90 days in jail by District Court Judge Douglas Walker.

Montezuma County child welfare workers knew April Coleman because three years earlier they had put her first child in foster care after the baby boy “received substantial injuries” from her boyfriend, according to Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office reports.

After her daughter died, April Coleman told police, “she thought Sailor was going to be OK because she made it past the spot (age)” of her first child when he was hurt.


Julian Adams Lacas

Julian Adams Lacas

  • Age: 6 mos.
  • Born: July 13, 2008
  • Died: Feb 4, 2009
  • Location: Westminster
  • Suspect in death: Justin Taylor, father

Julian Adams Lacas was born with bright blue eyes.

Other than that, he didn’t have many gifts during his 6-month life. While his mother, Krista Adams, was pregnant with him, she said she was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father, according to a state review of Julian’s death.

Adams smoked marijuana while she was pregnant. She admits to having had a problem with methamphetamines.

Julian was born with a cleft lip and palate, which made feeding and nourishment difficult.

His father, Justin Michael Taylor, had “rage problems,” Adams said, and he would get frustrated when feeding Julian. But she said, he usually directed that rage at her, not the kids.

Julian died of blunt trauma to the head and neck in February 2009 after he was left alone with Taylor. At the time, Julian’s mother was job hunting with her sister.

When the two returned home, there was something wrong.

“As soon as I picked him up, he started making a really funny noise, almost like a muffled cry,” Adams said. “He couldn’t hold his head up, and his legs were very stiff.”

No one was home when the incident happened, and Taylor offered several versions of events. He claimed Julian’s 19-month-old sister dropped a book or stepped on his head. He also used an expletive to refer to Julian and said the boy had kicked him and that he accidentally dropped Julian. He later told police that perhaps the child “forcefully fell from my arms.”

Prosecutors said Julian’s injuries were caused by shaking or a combination of shaking and the impact of hitting the floor.

Taylor is serving a 48-year prison sentence for child abuse resulting in death.

“There were never any tears,” Adams said of Taylor’s reaction to Julian’s death. “He actually, at points when he did speak, he tried to joke about things.”

The state child fatality report notes that Adams County Human Services Department had numerous contacts with Julian’s parents. Taylor had been abused by his father and threatened to kill himself and his family. Adams was described as “beyond control of her parent at age 15.”

Three years before he was born, Julian’s half-siblings were placed with their grandparents. Case workers found the home dirty and unsafe.

Adams contacted the Denver Department of Human Services while she was pregnant with Julian to say that Taylor beat her, but the family apparently moved before caseworkers arrived, according to the child fatality review. Five days after he was born, Denver again investigated a referral that Julian was not eating well and that his mother tested positive for marijuana at his birth. That assessment was closed because Adams was living at Joy House, which provides housing and support for women.

But Adams moved backed with Taylor, a decision she said she made in part because she had nowhere else to go and in part because “I really loved that man.”

The state faulted law enforcement for not telling human services about a 2006 incident of domestic abuse — which could have been useful when Adams reported she had been beaten in 2008 — but found no actual violations of state policy.

Adams remembers saying goodbye to her child in the hospital.

“The last time I got to hold him,” she recalled, tears streaking her face, “I said I wished it would have been me. I wished he would have taken my life instead of his.”


  • Video

    Krista Adams remembers her son Julian Adams-Lacas.
    View the video

  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS for Julian Adams Lacas, filed on May 3, 2009.
    View the pdf

  • Photo: Julian’s mother

    Krista Adams, feeding her 5-week-old son Michael, visits the grave of her son Julian Adams Lacas at Elmwood Cemetery in Brighton. Julian was killed by his father, Justin Michael Taylor, who is serving a 48-year prison sentence. RJ Sangosti, Denver Post
    View the photo


Urijah Lara-Baca

  • Age: 3 mos.
  • Born: Feb 25, 2012
  • Died: June 6, 2012
  • Location: Avon
  • Suspect in death: Tanya Baca, mother

Urijah’s death is still under investigation.

The Colorado Department of Human Services is reviewing Urijah’s death.

The report has not been released to the public.


Aldrich Leathers

Aldrich Leathers

  • Age: 9 mos.
  • Born: Nov 27, 2010
  • Died: Sept 20, 2011
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Muriel Keer, mother

Aldrich Leathers was found floating in the tub with his bath toys.

Police believe the 10-month-old’s mom, Muriel Keer, left him in the bathtub as it filled with water while she logged on to a computer in the kitchen to check Facebook last Sept. 20. By the time someone else went into the bathroom, the tub was overflowing, according to police records.

Keer was arrested two weeks before Aldrich was born, and while she denied using methamphetamine, she admitted to cooking and selling the drug. She was still in custody when she gave birth to the little boy on Nov. 27, 2010. He was placed in foster care immediately after he was born.

She pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in October 2010 and was placed on probation, according to court records.

In January 2011, Aldrich was returned to his mother who was ordered to complete parenting classes and substance abuse treatment, according to a state and county review of Aldrich’s death. The next month, the Denver Department of Human Services received a report that Keer was repeatedly leaving Aldrich alone for up to 30 minutes while she went outside to smoke cigarettes.

The report was passed along to a caseworker, but it was not immediately investigated. The person who called human services was told to call police the next time the baby was left alone.

Caseworkers received a second report that day. A mandatory reporter claimed that three days earlier, Keer arrived to one of her substance abuse classes intoxicated. She also said she no longer wanted her baby because he “takes up too much of her time and always cries.”

Still, Aldrich’s case was closed in June 2011, after caseworkers felt Keer successfully finished her treatment plan.

Less than a month later, a mandated reporter said that Keer’s home was filthy. Caseworkers called police to check the home. Officers said it was cluttered, but there was plenty of food.

Caseworkers never investigated the report.

Aldrich was left with his mother.

Two months later, he was found floating face down in a bathtub on Sept. 20, 2011.

Police noticed red marks on Aldrich’s backside, but Keer, 40, said they resulted from diaper rash, not abuse. She described Aldrich’s death as an accident.

A review of Aldrich’s death listed no violations of state policy in how caseworkers handled the case. It did note that the on-going caseworker provided a “thorough” and “clear picture” of the case, but also noted that more complete notes about new referrals would have been helpful.

Keer remains in the Denver County jail on $100,000 bail.



images. baby

Lillian Leyba

  • Age: 2 mos.
  • Born: Sept 12, 2009
  • Died: Nov 26, 2009
  • Location: Lakewood
  • Suspect in death: Marcus Leyba, father

Lilian Leyba spent her first Thanksgiving surrounded by family.

Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all gathered at the Lakewood home of Lilian‘s great-grandparents, where the 2-month-old lived in the basement with her parents and older sister.

But what could have been a heartwarming scene of family togetherness erupted into an alcohol-fueled brawl.

After Lilian‘s mother, Jenifer Chavez, and her 24-year-old father, Marcus Leyba, got into a fight, Chavez took her 2-year-old daughter and left. According to police reports and the state‘s child-fatality review, Chavez wanted to take Lilian, too, but Leyba‘s mother insisted she leave the baby with Marcus.

Marcus Leyba‘s stepsister told police that later, Leyba, who had Lilian in his arms, arose from “a stupor” and began attacking his mother. His stepsister chastised him, so he stopped, handed Lilian to his stepsister and resumed choking his mother. After his stepfather pulled Leyba off his mother, Leyba took a swing at his stepfather. Eventually, according to police, Leyba calmed down, and took Lilian to the basement.

Sometime later, Leyba‘s mother and stepsister went downstairs and found Leyba asleep. Lilian, lying next to him, wasn‘t breathing.

According to Lakewood police documents, Lilian‘s step-grandfather said while trying to perform CPR on the baby, he touched the back of her head and it “felt like mush.” Lilian‘s aunt told police that she saw the baby lying on the table, and, “She noted that her head was not round and was lying flat on the table.”

Lilian died just before midnight on Thanksgiving, 2009.

An autopsy determined she had suffered four blows to her head.

The first time human services workers heard of the family was in 2007, when Leyba hit Chavez while she was holding Lilian‘s older sister.

Jefferson County human services caseworkers met with Chavez but closed the case when they couldn‘t locate Leyba.

“Mr. Leyba never called the caseworkers back,” according to the state child-fatality report. The report pointed out that Leyba should have been easy to track down — he was in jail at the time.

Caseworkers crossed paths with the couple again in 2009, when they were informed that Chavez, who was one week from delivering a second baby — Lilian — had tested positive for marijuana.

According to the death review, caseworkers took Chavez‘s word for it when she said she was in treatment and never contacted her probation officer or treatment provider.

A jury found Marcus Leyba guilty of first degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. He was sentenced to life in prison for murder, 48 years for the child abuse charge. His attorney is appealing the sentence.



Phabin Lucero

Phabin Lucero

  • Age: 21 mos.
  • Born: March 19, 2008
  • Died: Dec 30, 2009
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Jacob Garcia, mother’s boyfriend

As a caregiver for children, Jacob Garcia was covered in red flags.

After an argument, one of his girlfriends called Jefferson County Human Services to report he was smoking crack cocaine around her children. Caseworkers spoke to the couple by phone four days later, when the two said they were back together. Garcia refused to take a drug test, and the case was left open without a resolution for five months longer than state law allows.

In a separate incident two years later, a young girl in the care of Garcia complained that he had fondled her. Garcia admitted it to authorities, explaining that he was drunk and believed he was dreaming. He refused to take two polygraph tests, and criminal charges were never filed.

The girl was left in the home. Child-protection workers recommended she receive counseling.

Thirteen months later, those decisions allowed Phabin Lucero to be left in Garcia’s care while his mother was at the store.

The 21-month-old was unconscious and covered in bruises when he arrived at the hospital emergency room Dec. 29, 2009. He had been alone with Garcia that day and was discovered by his mother, limp and unresponsive. Garcia said the boy had slipped on a hardwood floor. A coroner found bruises and cuts on all of his limbs, as well as his face and neck.

Garcia pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death. He is serving 24 years in prison.

Following Phabin’s death, a review found three policy violations in the way caseworkers handled the case. Supervisors and caseworkers involved in the case reviewed state laws and procedures, and began performing monthly reviews of open cases, according to the review.



images... Awesome

Maria Macias

  • Age: 4 days
  • Born: March 31, 2008
  • Died: April 4, 2008
  • Location: Grand Junction
  • Suspect in death: Lonnie Herrera, mother’s boyfriend

Maria Macias never heard the sound of her own name.

She was 4 days old when she died, unable to survive despite an emergency cesarean section performed after a boyfriend shot and killed her mother, Anna Marie Macias, 23.

Two days before her birth, caseworkers from Mesa County Human Services chose not to investigate claims that Macias was regularly beaten by her boyfriend, Lonnie Herrera.

The report, from one of Macias’ other children to officials at her school, was far from the first complaint Human Services had received about Macias and Herrera.

As a result of those earlier investigations, Macias’ three oldest children were removed from her custody and placed in the care of their grandmother, according to a state and county review of Maria’s death. The children drifted between two homes and were still moving back and forth as another child was born, and Macias became pregnant with Maria.

Maria died in April 2008, weeks after Macias told an intoxicated Herrera she wanted to leave him, according to an arrest warrant. She told deputies he stalked her as she carried her 1-year-old son through the home. He punched her back and pummeled her face with a closed fist. Macias’ then-8-year-old daughter told someone at school, who alerted Human Services, as required.

When caseworkers went to investigate, they could not locate Herrera or Macias and believed the two were in Durango, according to the review. Without a police report, caseworkers did not open an investigation.

Herrera shot and killed Macias two days later in Grand Junction.

The gunshot wound to Macias’ neck decreased blood flow to Maria, cutting off oxygen to the developing fetus. After four days on life support, Maria died April 4, 2008. She was named after she died.

The decision not to investigate the 8-year-old’s claims of abuse was the last in a series of rule violations by caseworkers. Violations included failing to review records and not providing information to school officials after they reported the abuse.

Caseworkers were wrong to place three of Maria’s siblings in the care of their grandmother, who was not properly evaluated in her abilities as a caregiver, the state review determined.

Later that year, in response to Maria’s death, the county department created an “instruction manual” to help caseworkers understand state rules.

Herrera was charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to at least 96 years in prison.




Rashad Maxey

  • Age: 8 mos.
  • Born: March 17, 2007
  • Died: Dec 7, 2007
  • Location: Arapahoe County
  • Suspect in death: Yvette Graddock, cousin

Rashad Maxey’s mom dropped him off at his aunt’s house Dec. 6, 2007, so she could take care of him for the day. He was bundled in his snowsuit, a little sick, but happy enough that he waved bye-bye to his mom as she left for work.

He died from what doctors called “shaken baby syndrome” after the baby’s aunt, Yvette Craddock, called 911 to report he had stopped breathing. Craddock denied shaking Rashad and said she did not “slam Rashad into anything.” “I do remember trying to get him to breathe,” she told police, according to an arrest affidavit.

Craddock was charged with child abuse resulting in death about a month later. She was acquitted in 2010.

Arapahoe County child welfare had received one prior complaint about the family 2 years earlier and “unrelated to the fatality” according to a state review.

The review found no violations of policy.




Adoal Monydhal

  • Age: 2 yrs.
  • Born: Nov 8, 2008
  • Died: May 8, 2011
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Amu Bot, mother

No one was watching 2-year-old Adoal Monydhal when she pushed open the screen door onto the sixth-story balcony.

Adoal’s mother, Amu Bot, was home alone with her children May 8, 2011. Adoal’s father, Joseph Monydhal, said he went to visit a friend. Bot’s older son was in the weight room downstairs.

While Bot changed her youngest child in a bedroom, Adoal wandered onto the balcony. She fell six stories to her death.

At the time of Adoal’s death, her family was in counseling because her then-15-year-old brother skipped a day of school and refused to come home, fearing that his stepfather would discipline him. Child-protection workers with the Denver Department of Human Services closed the assessment at intake.

No charges were filed in connection with Adoal’s death.



images. baby

Alesana Mowery

  • Age: 6 mos.
  • Born: Sept 8, 2010
  • Died: March 26, 2011
  • Location: Grand Junction
  • Suspect in death: Michelle Huff, mother

Six-month-old Alesana Lynn-Marie Mowery died in 2011 with her head wedged between a mattress and a wall. Her mother, Michelle Huff, after a night out drinking, had placed Alesana on her queen-sized bed with a 2-year-old half brother. Huff then went to sleep on the living room floor with her 3-year-old.

Nearly eight hours later, when she awoke at 10 in the morning, and after she had a cigarette, she realized her baby had not awaked.

Huff found Alesana, cold and blue.

Alesana had been living with her mom, grandmother, two half brothers and the grandmother’s two pre-teens in a Mesa County home that investigators described as extremely dirty and“unsafe for the younger children in the home.”

In 2009, the father of Huff’s older children reported to the Mesa County Department of Human Services that when he went to Huff’s home to pick up his sons, they were dirty and there were several adults smoking marijuana.

Four days later, two Mesa County Department of Human Services caseworkers met with the father to discuss his concerns. Eleven days later, a caseworker went to Huff’s home. The caseworker didn’t find any indication of abuse or neglect.

After Alesana died, Huff’s two older children were placed in foster care. The Mesa County District Attorney declined to press charges against Huff, calling Alesana’s death a tragic accident, but not a crime.

Alesana’s father, Bradley Mowery, was found guilty of sexual assault on a child outside the family after his daughter’s death.

A half year after Alesana’s death, Huff posted on Facebook:“Allys 1st bday on the 8th. Prob gonna have cake on her grave site. Who wants 2 b there?”



Chad Munoz

Chad Munoz

  • Age: 21 days
  • Born: Jan 11, 2008
  • Died: Feb 1, 2008
  • Location: Fort Collins
  • Suspect in death: Juan Munoz, father

Before Chad Munoz was even born, his parents were causing him harm.

His father, Juan Munoz, grabbed his mother, Charley Mercado, and caused her and — by extension Chad — to fall into a door.

When he was born Jan. 11, 2008, in Larimer County, he had alcohol in his system. His mom had been drinking.

The physical-abuse allegation against Juan Munoz was brought to the attention of Larimer County social workers four days after Chad was born.

The referral was initially assigned but later “unassigned” because no child abuse or neglect allegation had been made.

Two weeks later, on Feb. 1, Chad was dead. He had been beaten in the face and severely shaken.

A state fatality review notes that caseworkers did not run a background check on Munoz who had three prior arrests for assault.

In 2002, he was arrested for domestic violence.

Two years later, he was arrested for ethnic intimidation, assault and menacing.

On Feb. 6, 2006, Munoz attacked his girlfriend, Crystal Benavidez, with a bat after she invited Munoz’s brother for drinks. Jealous of his brother, Munoz swung the bat into her knee. She crashed to the floor, according to Larimer County District Court records. He then swung the weapon into the left side of her head, opening a bloody wound. He pummeled her in the face with his fists. He was convicted and served a jail and probation sentence.

Two complaints of abuse against another child in 2007 were determined to be unfounded by Larimer County social workers.

After Chad’s death, Juan Munoz was charged with child abuse causing death and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter. He is serving a 9-year prison term.



Olivia Ogden

Olivia Ogden

Chase Ogden

  • Age: 13 yrs.
  • Born: Feb 11, 199
  • Died: Oct 4, 2010
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Rene Ogden, mother

Chase and Olivia Ogden, 13-year-old twins , died Oct. 4, 2010, of gunshot wounds in a murder-suicide in which their mother also shot herself.

Records show that the El Paso County Department of Human Services had received an allegation of child maltreatment against the family in 2003 . The father, Tommy Ogden, was a former Fort Carson soldier who served two deployments in Iraq.

The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs quoted friends as saying the mother suffered from depression. The son, Chase, had autism. Another family friend was quoted by Channel 7 news as saying the mother was sick with chronic pain and other health issues.

The state never issued a child-fatality report on the deaths because at the time, the Colorado Department of Human Services did not issue such reports when there were no surviving siblings. Such reports are required now, even when surviving siblings do not exist.


Caleb Pacheco

Caleb Pacheco

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: July 15, 2008
  • Died: Jan 1, 2012
  • Location: Sterling
  • Suspect in death: Juanita Kinzie, mother

Child-protection workers knew Caleb Pacheco’s family was looking for him.

They knew that Juanita Kinzie, the little boy’s mother and the last person believed to be caring for him, had a history of drug abuse, erratic behavior and a habit of dating abusive men.

Still, the 2-year-old would remain unaccounted for while his body spent months decomposing under a Sterling mobile home.

Kinzie’s own childhood was filled with multiple foster homes.

By the time Caleb was born in July 2008, Kinzie had become isolated from her family as her use of methamphetamines continued and she moved from one abusive relationship to the next.

The relationship she had with her older sister, Yolanda Kinzie-Graber, was tense when Kinzie-Graber briefly cared for the little boy in late 2010. When Kinzie, who was still using drugs, returned for her son in January 2011, Logan County child-protection workers told Kinzie-Graber she had to let him go with his mother.

It was the last time she saw him alive, Kinzie-Graber said.

Neither child-protection workers nor authorities could find Kinzie or Caleb.

Almost 11 months later, Kinzie-Graber got a call from a caseworker in Otero County, she said. Kinzie was about to give birth to a daughter. When Kinzie-Graber asked the caseworker about her nephew, no one knew anything about the little boy, she said.

On Jan. 22, Kinzie, high on meth, told Denver paramedics that Caleb was dead. Hours later, a Logan County Sheriff’s investigator pried back the metal siding of a trailer Kinzie once shared with a boyfriend.

Just to the right was a bundle of blankets and plastic. Caleb could be seen under a corner of the blanket.

A one-page autopsy report said the cause of death was “unable to be determined.” The little boy’s remains were skeletonized by the time authorities found him.

The Colorado Department of Human Services is reviewing his death.

In June, Kinzie, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder and one count of child abuse resulting in death. She was sentenced to 32 years in prison.



Isaiah Perez

  • Age: 9 mos.
  • Born: Oct 14, 2007
  • Died: July 27, 2008
  • Location: Fort Morgan
  • Suspect in death: Amanda Holbert, mother

On July 27, 2008, Amanda Holbert placed her 9-month-old son, Isaiah Perez, into a tub for a bath in their Log Lane Village home in Morgan County.

She said she thought she had turned the water off in the tub.

Holbert then made a telephone call to a friend and spent the next 15 minutes speaking with her.

She was distraught after looking on MySpace and discovering that her husband, Rocky Perez Sr., had fathered another child the same age as Isaiah.

Holbert, trying to learn more about the affair involving her estranged husband, who by then was in prison, talked to the friend about ways to sabotage the MySpace page.

While she was on the phone, the water that hadn‘t been turned off kept rising until Isaiah slipped under and drowned.

After hanging up, she found Isaiah floating in the tub facedown.

On Oct. 3, 2008, a grand jury indicted Holbert on a charge of child abuse, negligently causing death.

She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless manslaughter in March 2009 and was sentenced two months later to four years of intensive probation.

A state child fatality review said the family was known to social services because Perez Sr. was violent toward Holbert. It found no policy violations by Morgan County human services.



Iyana Perez

Iyana Perez

  • Age: 9 mos.
  • Born: Sept 19, 2008
  • Died: July 3, 2009
  • Location: Pueblo
  • Suspect in death: Kevin Buehler, mother’s cousin

Iyana’s grandmother, Snowie Buehler, was supposed to provide a place of refuge for Iyana.

Her mother, Selena Olson, had assault, criminal impersonation, theft and drug convictions. Iyana’s father, Ted “Chewy” Perez, was a convicted child molester with numerous assault-, drug- and theft-related convictions.

After determining the parents could not care for Iyana, Pueblo County’s Department of Social Services placed her with her grandmother, Buehler.

The grandmother made a fatal mistake when she sent Iyana to her 19-year-old son’s trailer one night in July 2009. She knew Iyana’s stepcousin, Kevin Buehler, 22 at the time, who was on probation after an assault conviction for choking his sister, also was staying there.

But she says she was in a jam because of her job at a restaurant. She says she never suspected family would kill family.

Kevin Buehler killed Iyana that night and dumped her bruised body in a trash bin behind a Safeway store. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

The grandmother said she feels guilt over Iyana’s death but had nowhere else to put Iyana that night. She said child welfare workers ignored her pleas for child care assistance.

“Social services did nothing to help us,” Buehler said. “I asked for help continuously. I had no choice but to take Iyana over to my other son’s house where Kevin ended up being.”

She added: “There’s a lot to blame in this situation. I blame myself for allowing her to go over there. I blame everybody. I believe they could have helped me more. That child would have been alive today if they would have just offered me some help.”

She continues to provide care to her daughter’s two other children.

A state review of Iyana’s death found Snowie Buehler was overwhelmed caring for three children, had suffered the recent blow of the death of her parents and needed child care assistance so she could keep her job at a Denny’s restaurant.

That review faulted Pueblo County’s child-protective staff for failing “to look at the issues of financial support, child care, emotional support, how this family would manage caring for all three children, what services they would need and to identify any gaps.”

The review added that the child protective staff failed to properly assess whether the child was in a safe environment and failed to conduct thorough investigations when previous allegations of maltreatment arose involving the biological parents.

Dawn Rivas, the primary child welfare caseworker, was promoted after the death to a position as regional training specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services in charge of training child protective staff in the southeastern counties of Baca, Bent, Crowley, Custer, El Paso, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo and Teller.

“What I said when I heard that was, ‘Good luck to those kids,’ ” Snowie Buehler said.

Rivas declined comment.



Alexander Perkins

  • Age: 5 yrs.
  • Born: Aug 11, 2004
  • Died: Aug 7, 2010
  • Location: Cripple Creek
  • Suspect in death: Krista and Chad Perkins, parents

About five months before Alexander Perkins died, a Teller County child-protective staffer was warned that two children, ages 5 and 7, were wearing diapers and not attending school.

After determining that the Perkins family had enrolled their children to be home-schooled, the caseworker declined to investigate further because the staffer decided there was “no information available from reporter of abuse and neglect as defined by law.”

A state review determined the caseworker should have paid more attention to the fact the children were wearing diapers and changing their own diapers in addition to focusing on whether they were registered for home schooling.

A routine check would have revealed a home that a sergeant with the Teller County Sheriff’s Department later described as “disgusting,” jammed with plastic bags with vomit and dirty diapers and food.

The caseworker also would have found that the children’s bedroom had been rigged so it could be locked from the outside and there was no way for a child to open it from inside the room.

Finally, the staffer would have found two brothers who were malnourished and a fraction of the weight children their age normally are.

Alexander died Aug. 7, 2010, as the result of a bowel obstruction from encopresis, a severe form of constipation.

His parents said they gave him Gatorade and Kaopectate knowing Kaopectate would constipate a child further, an affidavit from Sheriff’s Detective R.N. Olmsted stated.

Child-abuse charges against Alexander’s mother, Krista Perkins, and father, Leon Chad Perkins, were dismissed after the prosecution filed documents stating there was insufficient evidence and/or a critical witness was unavailable.

The autopsy revealed a severe diaper rash on Alexander’s buttocks. A bowel obstruction of fecal matter “hard as a rock” and the “size of a baseball” caused his death.



Charles Pettus, Jr.

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: Oct 10, 2006
  • Died: June 7, 2011
  • Location: Summit County
  • Suspect in death: Cyisha Cook, mother; Nathaniel Comeger, mother’s boyfriend

Charles Pettus Jr., 4, died June 7, 2011, in a single-car rollover crash on Interstate 70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel.

The Colorado State Patrol determined that Nathaniel Comeger, the boyfriend of Charles’s mother, was driving the car 72 mph in a 50-mph zone in the Eisenhower Tunnel when he lost control of the car.

The Colorado State Patrol found that neither Charles nor his four siblings was wearing seatbelts or any type of restraints. Both Comeger and the children’s mother, Cyisha Cook, denied that they had failed to restrain the children in the car.

Cook was charged with child abuse causing significant bodily injury, which was dropped to manslaughter. She pleaded guilty and was given a four-year deferred sentence. Comeger was charged with child abuse resulting in death, four counts of reckless driving resulting in significant bodily injury and driving without a license. He pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and criminally negligent homicide and received four years probation.

The El Paso County Department of Human Services received three prior allegations of abuse and neglect, including one alleging the children slept on the floor and had black and decaying teeth.

Charles died four nights after the child-protective staff received the last allegation of neglect, an allegation that prompted a child-welfare caseworker to leave a business card at the family’s home requesting a call. That call never was made, the state’s review of the death reported.

The state also faulted the Colorado State Patrol for not reporting the fatal car accident to child-protective workers when two adults were charged criminally in the crash.



Angel Preza

  • Age: 6 mos.
  • Born: Dec 21, 2011
  • Died: June 28, 2012
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Tacha Christenson, mother

Tahca Christensen had left her young children alone in the bathtub before.

On the morning of June 28, Christensen placed 6-month-old Angel Preza and his 2-year-old brother in the tub with the shower running, according to police records.

The stopper was up, but Christensen knew that her older son liked to play with it. Still, Christensen walked away to make her husband breakfast.

By the time she returned, there was 6 inches of water in the tub.

Angel was upside down in his bath seat, with his face in the water.

Christensen’s husband called 9-1-1 while she started performing CPR. When paramedics arrived Angel was vomiting what appeared to be bath water and formula.

Angel was taken to Swedish Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Christensen, 24, later told investigators that she “screwed up for leaving the children alone.” In October, Christensen pleaded guilty to child abuse negligently causing death. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 26.

The Colorado Department of Human Services has reviewed Angel’s death, but they have not released the report.



The Ramirez siblings,

Timothy, 3, and Alivia, 15 months

The little brother and sister were asleep as fire and smoke crept through their house, asphyxiating them in their beds. No one was home to protect them. Danielle Lynn Brockman, the mother ofTimothy, 3, and 15-month-oldAlivia Ramirez, had put them to bed and at 9:30 p.m. went out to party. After a night of drinking and smoking pot, she returned home at 5 a.m., according to court testimony.

Brockman, 23 at the time, saw the house smoke as she got out of a cab about a block away. Investigators blamed the Oct. 30, 2011, fire on “unattended cooking.”

Brockman is scheduled for trial on two counts of felony child abuse.

The fire was not the first time Arapahoe County authorities had heard of Timothy and Alivia Ramirez.

On July 4, 2011, Timothy was wandering alone on East 13th Avenue in Aurora. His mother said she had trouble keeping him from escaping. The referral was “screened out,” meaning Arapahoe County child welfare workers decided there was no need to investigate further.

Then, just weeks before the children’s deaths, Aurora police informed child protection workers that a neighbor found Timothy wandering alone outside at midnight. Contacted by a police officer, Brockman “seemed unconcerned.” That referral was accepted for investigation.

A state review of the deaths noted it was troubling that it took police two weeks to pass along information about the boy alone at midnight.

Also, the caseworker had not yet contacted the children’s father, who lived in Atlanta. He might have told the caseworker — as he did after the fire — that Brockman was “more concerned with her friends and partying than being a responsible mother.”

Read more:Timothy and Alivia Ramirez – The Denver Post
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content:

Alivia Ramirez


Alivia Ramirez

  • Age: 15 mos.
  • Born: July 4, 2010
  • Died: Oct 30, 2011
  • Location: Aurora
  • Suspect in death: Danielle Brockman, mother

The little brother and sister were asleep as fire and smoke crept through their house, asphyxiating them in their beds. No one was home to protect them.

Timothy and Alivia’s then-23-year-old mother, Danielle Lynn Brockman, had put them to bed and at 9:30 p.m. went out to party with her friends. After a night of drinking and smoking pot, she returned home at 5 a.m., according to court testimony.

Brockman saw the house smoke as she got out of a cab about a block away. It took three police officers to pry iron security bars off the children’s bedroom window. By the time they reached the kids, it was too late.

Investigators blamed the Oct. 30, 2011, fire on “unattended cooking.”

Brockman is scheduled for trial on two counts of felony child abuse, each with a possible punishment of up to 24 years in prison.

The fire was not the first time Arapahoe County authorities had heard of little Timothy and Alivia Ramirez. Three times in the previous three years, people had called child-protective services to report concerns.

On July 4, four months before the fire, Timothy was wandering alone on 13th Avenue in Aurora. His mother, who showed up 10 minutes after police, said she had trouble keeping him from escaping. The referral was “screened out.”

Then, just weeks before the children’s deaths, Aurora police informed child-protection workers that a neighbor found Timothy wandering alone outside at midnight. Contacted by a police officer, Brockman “seemed unconcerned.” That referral was accepted for investigation by a caseworker, who advised Brockman and her father about how to improve parenting skills.

A state review of the deaths noted it was concerning that it took police two weeks to pass along information about the boy alone outside at midnight.

Also, the caseworker working with the family had not yet contacted the children’s father, who lived in Atlanta. He might have told the caseworker — as he did after the fire — that Brockman would disappear for weeks at a time and was “more concerned with her friends and partying than being a responsible mother.”


Timothy Ramirez


  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS fatality report for Timothy Ramirez, filed on Feb. 6, 2012.
    View the pdf

  • Photo

    A makeshift memorial under a tree outside the Aurora home of Timothy, 3, and Alivia Ramirez, 16 months, died.
    View the photo

Timothy Ramirez

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: Dec 31, 2007
  • Died: Oct 30, 2011
  • Location: Aurora
  • Suspect in death: Danielle Brockman, mother

The little brother and sister were asleep as fire and smoke crept through their house, asphyxiating them in their beds. No one was home to protect them.

Timothy and Alivia’s then-23-year-old mother, Danielle Lynn Brockman, had put them to bed and at 9:30 p.m. went out to party with her friends. After a night of drinking and smoking pot, she returned home at 5 a.m., according to court testimony.

Brockman saw the house smoke as she got out of a cab about a block away. It took three police officers to pry iron security bars off the children’s bedroom window. By the time they reached the kids, it was too late.

Investigators blamed the Oct. 30, 2011, fire on “unattended cooking.”

Brockman is scheduled for trial on two counts of felony child abuse, each with a possible punishment of up to 24 years in prison.

The fire was not the first time Arapahoe County authorities had heard of little Timothy and Alivia Ramirez. Three times in the previous three years, people had called child-protective services to report concerns.

On July 4, four months before the fire, Timothy was wandering alone on 13th Avenue in Aurora. His mother, who showed up 10 minutes after police, said she had trouble keeping him from escaping. The referral was “screened out.”

Then, just weeks before the children’s deaths, Aurora police informed child-protection workers that a neighbor found Timothy wandering alone outside at midnight. Contacted by a police officer, Brockman “seemed unconcerned.” That referral was accepted for investigation by a caseworker, who advised Brockman and her father about how to improve parenting skills.

A state review of the deaths noted it was concerning that it took police two weeks to pass along information about the boy alone outside at midnight.

Also, the caseworker working with the family had not yet contacted the children’s father, who lived in Atlanta. He might have told the caseworker — as he did after the fire — that Brockman would disappear for weeks at a time and was “more concerned with her friends and partying than being a responsible mother.”


Tamyrii Randall

Tamyrii Randall

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: April 14, 2004
  • Died: Sept 26, 2008
  • Location: Widefield
  • Suspect in death: Tristan Price, stepfather

Tamyrii “Mimi” Randall lived with her mother, Tanesa Randall, an infant sibling, a 9-year-old sister and her mother’s boyfriend, Tristan Price.

Tamyrii’s older sister later told investigators that Price was so violent, she kept a knife to protect herself.

Tamyrii did not survive the abuse. She died Sept. 26, 2008, at the age of 4 after her liver was almost torn in two. An autopsy found she also had eight broken ribs, three of which had been broken weeks earlier before the fatal blow.

Earlier in the year, the El Paso County Department of Human Services received a report that Tamyrii had bite marks around her nipples. The agency helped move the children and mother into an apartment after the agency determined Tamyrii had been the victim of a possible sexual assault. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office also began to investigate those allegations.

The chlid fatality review would later find a lack of coordination and communication among the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Department of Human Services and a shelter providing housing for abused children and non-offending caregivers.

Records show that in April 2008, Tanesa Randall filed a domestic assault charge with the Colorado Springs Police Department against Price. That domestic assault also prompted her eviction from her apartment and her entry into the shelter. The sheriff’s office, which was investigating the bite marks on Tamyrii, was not informed of the domestic assault. Neither was the human services agency.

Randall moved herself and the children back in with Price, to a home that was no stranger to violence. Testimony established that Michael Price Sr. , allegedly shot and wounded his son, Tristan Price, in that home about eight months before Tamyrii was killed.

Tamyrii’s death was a blow to the child’s father, Dante Harrell, who wanted custody, said the grandmother, Ellayn Harrell of Temecula, Calif.

“We were trying to get custody of that little baby,” she said. “We would have taken care of that child.”

Tristan Price pleaded guilty to child abuse death of Tamyrii and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.



Owen Reak

Owen Reak

  • Age: 18 mos.
  • Born: Sept 13, 2010
  • Died: April 11, 2012
  • Location: Grand Junction
  • Suspect in death: Justin Keel, mother’s boyfriend

Owen Reak was 19 months old when he died April 11, allegedly after being hit in the abdomen so hard by his mother’s boyfriend that his intestines were ruptured and he bled to death internally.

The Mesa County Department of Human Services had opened a case on Owen a month earlier when he suffered a broken leg while in the care of the boyfriend, Justin Keel. Keel told a caseworker that Owen’s leg was broken when it got stuck in a high chair. A doctor found it was possible the injury had happened in that manner. The social services’ investigation of that injury was ongoing when Owen died. Owen’s mother, Amber Reak, had agreed in the interim to not have Keel provide daycare for Owen while she was attending college classes.

Reak, who was in the process of divorcing Owen’s father, Jared Reak, was at the apartment she shared with her son and Keel on the morning when the fatal injury happened. Amber Reak told investigators she was in the shower when she heard two“booms.” Keel told her one boom was Owen’s tippy cup falling from his high chair and the second was Owen falling off a bed.

Two hours later, the couple dropped a sick-appearing Owen off at Amber’s father’s house for day care. The father called soon after to say that Owen was throwing up and needed to be taken to the hospital.

At Community Hospital, X-rays didn’t show any internal injuries, and he was diagnosed with a flu-like virus. After the hospital visit, Reak sent Owen to stay with his paternal grandparents that night in Montrose.

Owen died in his crib there in the middle of the night.

Relatives told investigators after Owen’s death that he had more bruising than normal since Keel was dating his mother. A chunk of his hair had“fallen out.” His grandmother spoke up when investigators asked whether family members had any idea what had happened to Owen.

“Someone beat the hell out of him,” Rose Morris said.

Keel, 26, in his last conversation with Amber Reak, blamed his dog for causing Owen’s death. Keel was arrested six weeks after Owen’s death on suspicion of child abuse resulting in death.

The case is still pending.

The state Child Fatality Review Team has not completed its assessment of Mesa County’s actions in Reak’s case.



Joziah Romero

Joziah Romero

  • Age: 7 mos.
  • Born: April 24, 2008
  • Died: Dec 18, 2008
  • Location: Thornton
  • Suspect in death: Reanna Brock, mother

Joziah Romero was cold and stiff when his mother found him.

The crib the 7-month-old was sleeping in had been broken for weeks. The bottom railing could swing away from the mattress, leaving just enough space for Joziah’s head to become wedged in.

When Reanna Brock found her son on the morning of Dec. 18, 2008, he was “stiff,” according to a state and county review of Joziah’s death. Joziah died of positional asphyxia.

Brock told investigators that she knew the crib was broken but did not have the money to fix it.

Less than a month before Joziah died, Adams County caseworkers were contacted after the Thornton Police Department completed a welfare check on Brock.

When officers arrived at the home, they found Joziah on the floor with a bottle. Brock was in the shower while two men, who police later learned had outstanding warrants, watched Joziah. One of the men used the bathroom, where police believe he flushed drugs down the toilet.

Officers also reported that cleaning supplies were left in the place where Brock’s 4-year-old son could easily access them.

When caseworkers spoke with Brock, she told them that her son knows not to touch the cleaning supplies. She also denied any drug use, but said that she may be depressed.

In follow-up interviews, Joziah’s grandparents told caseworkers that they were concerned Brock was using drugs and that she seemed depressed. The also said that Brock “parties a lot” and leaves the kids with family for days, the review said.

Joziah’s grandmother, Catherine Hoffman, expressed concern about the mental health of Brock’s older son, who she said scratches himself on the face when he gets angry. Hoffman said Brock had not taken the boy to see a doctor.

The 4-year-old was placed in his father’s care following Joziah’s death.

Brock pleaded guilty to child abuse negligently causing death in January 2010, according to state records. She was sentenced to five year’s supervised probation.



Kevin Rosa-Perez

  • Age: 2 yrs.
  • Born: Oct 15, 2009
  • Died: Nov 11, 2011
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Jason Price, uncle

Kevin Rosa Perez’s uncle, Jason Price, a Fort Carson soldier, was charged with killing 2-year-old Kevin after the boy died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Price pleaded guilty in a military court to involuntary manslaughter in Kevin’s Nov. 11, 2011, death. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Kevin’s older brother allegedly saw Price throw Kevin on the kitchen floor, according to court testimony reported in The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs. Kevin’s mother, Rosa Duenas, testified that her other son said the outburst occurred moments after Kevin knocked over some candles while the family was playing video games.

State officials who reviewed Kevin’s death found that the night before Kevin was rushed to the emergency room, Price came to the same hospital with his 2-year-old daughter, worried she had overdosed on his prescription Klonopin , a medicine used to used to control seizures in epilepsy and to treat panic disorders. He then asked for a refill of Klonopin and his prescription for Xanax.

He became belligerent when the emergency staff at the hospital would not give him the medications. He left the hospital but returned with his daughter after a doctor asked him to come so they could evaluate her, documents show.

Toxicology tests found no Klonopin in the child’s system, but she appeared to have genital bruising, which the family said came from straddling a rocking horse. A sexual assault nurse examiner evaluated the child and found the bruising consistent with the family’s statements about the rocking horse. The hospital kept her overnight for further observation.

The incident regarding the trip to the hospital with the daughter was not immediately reported to the El Paso County Department of Human Services and was made known to child-protective workers only after Kevin was brought in with the injuries that would cause his death.

Price and his wife previously were reported to child-protective workers in August of 2011, two months before Kevin and his brother came to live him. Child- protective workers were told that the Price children, ages 2, 4 and 5, allegedly were being left home alone. The child- protective staff decided there was validity to the complaint and made a finding of lack of supervision.

After Kevin’s death, state officials reviewing the death said they were concerned that the hospital staffers had not immediately reported Price’s earlier visit to the hospital with his daughter. They added they also were concerned that child-protective workers took six weeks to interview Price’s wife about the allegation of lack of supervision.



Adrian Ruybal

  • Age: 1 mo.
  • Born: Nov 8, 2007
  • Died: Dec 14, 2007
  • Location: Phillips County
  • Suspect in death: Leticia Ruybal, mother

The Phillips County Department of Social Services received five referrals between 2001 and 2003 related to Leticia Ruybal’s parenting.

There were complaints of neglect and abuse. A 2001 neglect complaint was founded by the department. The department provided services to her until 2004.

On Dec. 14, 2007, Ruybal’s aunt and grandmother called 911.

One-month-old Adrian Augustine Ruybal was lying on a table. He was cold and blue. Nobody was performing CPR on the child.

Instead of calling 911, Leticia Ruybal had first called her relatives.

Ruybal would tell police that she found her son when he was already blue and not breathing in her Holyoke apartment around 10 a.m., after putting him down for a nap.

But authorities concluded that Adrian’s injuries were intentionally inflicted and not the result of any accident.

Adrian died of brain and rib injuries.

Ruybal was charged with child abuse causing death. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A state review of Adrian’s death found no policy violations in the way the case was handled by Phillips County.



Jeremiah Saunders

Jeremiah Saunders

  • Age: 16 mos.
  • Born: June 5, 2009
  • Died: Nov 4, 2010
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Dammawathi Senevirante, day care

Amee Espinoza remembers the little details about her son.

Jeremiah Saunders — “JJ” to his mother — had the perfect laugh, smile and appetite. Even his crying was perfect.

Jeremiah was alone in the basement at Dammi Seneviratne’s Denver day care when he died Nov. 4, 2010. The 17-month-old was playing with a toy, sliding wooden beads along a colorful mesh of wires when his head became wedged between the wires.

“He hung there with his neck stuck in this toy, and that’s how he died,” Espinoza said.

Originally, Seneviratne said she briefly left Jeremiah sitting in a high chair eating crackers before he died.

Investigators later found evidence that a significant amount of time passed between when Jeremiah died and when ambulances were called, according to a state and county review of the boy’s death. An autopsy report found that Jeremiah’s stomach was “essentially empty” when he died.

Months after Jeremiah’s death, Seneviratne sent Espinoza a letter. In that letter, she explained that she had a headache and was upstairs resting when Jeremiah died, Espinoza said. Espinoza did not know that Seneviratne’s mother-in-law was not licensed to care for children.

While she slept, Seneviratne left the children in the care of her mother-in-law, who was screaming when she carried the little boy up the stairs.

Seneviratne’s day care had been licensed since 2002. Between that day and Jeremiah’s death eight years later, two complaints were filed with Denver Human Services about the day care. In the most serious complaint, child-protection workers determined that in 2008 Seneviratne had too many people in her van without proper restraints.

“Who’s watching these places? Who’s doing anything?” Espinoza asked. “I will never again trust anyone with my children.”

In Jeremiah’s case, Seneviratne pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to eight years of probation.



Cody Smallwood

  • Age: 6 yrs.
  • Born: Dec 18, 2000
  • Died: Oct 12, 2007
  • Location: Greeley
  • Suspect in death: Robert Smallwood, father

The danger of leaving powerful drugs out where children could reach them was a recurring lesson social workers and medical professionals tried to teach Robert Smallwood.

But the warnings came without consequences and apparently never sank in. Ultimately, his son Cody died with a lethal amount of morphine in his system. Only then did social workers cite Robert Smallwood for neglect.

On Aug. 30, 2005, Smallwood went to a clinic in Weld County and said he needed more Oxycontin because Cody, then age 4, had “got a hold of the medicine box and put water in it,” according to a Colorado Department of Human Services child fatality report.

A referral went to the Weld County Department of Human Services because had Cody eaten all the Oxycontin in the box, he would have died. The incident was unsettling because a medical official had warned Smallwood numerous times about how dangerous the drugs were.

A caseworker investigated.

Cody told the caseworker that he knew he should not get into the pills, and he appeared healthy and clean. The caseworker did not sustain the referral for neglect, but did warn Smallwood that if Cody ate the medications, it could be fatal. Smallwood said he would always keep his pills in a childproof bottle, not in a box.

In March 2007 another referral was made to Larimer County after Cody‘s parents brought one of their kids to the hospital vomiting and with an upset stomach. The parents had been drinking. Amanda Campbell had an alcohol level of .138. A caseworker determined the referral was unsubstantiated and closed the case.

On the morning of Oct. 11, 2007, Robert Smallwood found Cody, 6, not breathing. The next day, he died of an opiate overdose. Only then did Weld County caseworkers substantiate neglect against the father “at a fatal level of severity.”



Alexus Sorensen

  • Age: 3 mos.
  • Born: June 22, 2010
  • Died: Oct 10, 2010
  • Location: Unknown
  • Suspect in death: Unknown

Alexus’ death is still under investigation.

The Colorado Department of Human Services is reviewing Alexus’ death.

The report has not been released to the public


Lyberty Spencer

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: Dec 3, 2004
  • Died: Oct 24, 2009
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Denise Spencer, mother

The backyard where 4-year-old Lyberty Spencer liked to play was described after her death by police as “an accident waiting to happen.” Rusty nails, batteries and a broken swing set cluttered the yard.

On Oct. 24, 2009 — 10 days before her fifth birthday — Lyberty went out there with a jump rope. She ended up dead, hanging from a clothes line, the jump rope tied around her. The manner of death was ruled an accident.

The child’s mother, Denise Spencer, and Spencer’s boyfriend told investigators that Lyberty had been playing unattended in the backyard.

El Paso County child protective caseworkers had been warned five times about alleged violence and neglect in the home. In one instance, after officials at her school scolded Lyberty for hitting another child, Lyberty told them that her mother hit her all the time. Others alleged that Denise Spencer used drugs and failed to keep her children clean.

Once the mother told a child-protective worker investigating the home that she used 14 prescription medications because of a bad back and smoked marijuana.

During another home visit, Lyberty would not talk to the caseworker and did nothing but bark like a dog. The child protective staff decided after each allegation that the children should remain with their mother, a state review of the death said.

That review faulted the county’s child-protective staff for not conducting thorough investigations and for failing to contact family members who could have then expressed concerns.

“It is not possible to accurately answer the assessment questions when the caseworker is unable to make contact with any of the family members to gather information,” the review found.



Moon Tafoya-Reyes

Moon Sosuke Tafoya-Reyes

  • Age: 5 mos.
  • Born: Dec 20, 2011
  • Died: June 15, 2012
  • Location: Unknown
  • Suspect in death: Unknown

Moon Sosuke Tafoya was just five months old when he died last June 15 at Swedish Medical Center.

The Arapahoe County Department of Human Services had contact with the family prior to the baby’s death, but a state review detailing the case has not yet been released by the state.


David Torres

  • Age: 4 mos.
  • Born: July 16, 2008
  • Died: Nov 26, 2008
  • Location: On Bus in Az.
  • Suspect in death: Mary Sisneros, mother

Like his nine older siblings and half-siblings, David Torres tested positive for drugs on the day he was born.

By then, four of his siblings — two sets of twins — were already dead from complications of their mother’s cocaine use. As a result of that, David was taken from his mother, Mary Sisneros, the day he was born. He and an older sister were to stay with their father, Pedro Torres, according to a state and county review of David’s death.

When Torres left town for a citizenship hearing in Mexico, the children were ordered told to stay with his sister, Maria Elena Torres.

Four months later, on Nov. 26, 2008, David, his sister and his aunt Maria Elena were with Mary Sisneros on a bus that had traveled 185 miles when she noticed David wasn’t breathing. He was cold and dead when he was finally taken off the bus. Though caseworkers had said Sisneros and the children were to remain in Colorado, the bus was taking them to Mexico to be with David’s father as he awaited his citizenship hearing.

It was the sixth and final contact between David and Denver Human Services caseworkers in his brief life.

Few details of David’s death are known. Based on interviews with Sisneros and David’s older sister, the 4-month-old became wedged between his sister and the side of the bus, the report said. Sisneros told investigators that she awoke to find David covered with a blanket.

The bus driver drove to the nearest hospital. David was pronounced dead in New Mexico. Sisneros continued to Mexico with her daughter. She left a voice message for a Denver County caseworker two days later, reporting that David had died.

When Sisneros returned to Denver, David’s sister was immediately placed in foster care.



Izaiah Toscano-Moyer

Izaiah Toscano-Moyer

  • Age: 2 mos.
  • Born: April 15, 2011
  • Died: June 26, 2011
  • Location: Rifle
  • Suspect in death: Arielle Moyer and Juan Toscano, parents

Izaiah Toscano-Moyer was 2 months old when his parents, Arielle Moyer and Juan Toscano, took him camping in a tent near Rifle in late June 2011.

Izaiah’s parents said they fed the baby twice during the night and that he was asleep between them with blankets on him to keep him warm. When Moyer awoke about 7 a.m., Izaiah was cold and had stopped breathing. The parents drove the baby to a medical center in Rifle. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The parents admitted that they had been drinking the night before Izaiah’s death. Marijuana and paraphernalia were also found in their diaper bag. They refused to take drug tests.

An autopsy showed the baby, who had been born three weeks prematurely, had suffocated. The autopsy reported there was no other sign of trauma.

The Garfield County Department of Human Services had been contacted by someone with concerns about Izaiah’s welfare when he was born. His mother reportedly had been using marijuana as late as a week prior to his birth.

Caseworkers went to the home to assess potential problems. Moyer said she had only smoked marijuana to relax two weeks before the birth. Toscano denied any drug use. Social workers noted that there were adequate supplies for the baby in the home and that the couple was receiving multiple forms of welfare. The assessment was closed a month later.

The state Child Fatality Review Team found that Garfield County did not violate any policies in the case. The team report did note that there was no communication between the caseworker and a“family visitor” who helps teach parenting skills in homes. The caseworker also did not offer any drug evaluation or treatment services to Moyer.

No criminal charges were filed against the parents, ages 20 and 22 at the time of their son’s death.



Gabriel Trujillo

Gabriel Trujillo

  • Age: 4 yrs.
  • Born: April 23, 2007
  • Died: Feb 17, 2012
  • Location: Commerce City
  • Suspect in death: Dorris Becy Trujillo, grandmother

Gabriel Trujillo’s frail body was covered in bruises and what appeared to be cigarette burns.

When emergency crews were called to Doris Becky Trujillo’s Commerce City home on Feb. 14, just hours after she forced her 4-year-old grandson to stand naked in the cold as punishment, emergency crews found little boy unresponsive.

His body temperature was around 89 degrees.

Trujillo told police that Gabriel had fallen off a chair and hit his head.

Medical professionals at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, where Gabriel was taken, reported that he had “catastrophic head injuries,” including “evidence of old cranial bleeding,” according to an Adams County court document that was used to justify holding Trujillo in jail without bail.

Gabriel, who had been placed in Trujillo’s care by the Adams County Department of Social Services, appeared malnourished. He had multiple contusions and hypothermia.

He died three days later from blunt-force injuries to his head and neck.

His grandmother, Trujillo, was arrested and has since pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse causing death. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 2. Lana Roberts, Trujillo’s roommate at the time of Gabriel’s death, also pleaded not guilty to child abuse causing death and is awaiting trial.

During the months before Gabriel’s death, his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Trujillo, said she and her family became concerned about the boy when she saw photos of him with large bruises.

In January, one month before Gabriel died, medical professionals could not determine whether the bruises, scrapes and a fracture on his body were caused by accident or a result of abuse.

Police records show Commerce City police officers went to Gabriel’s home on Feb. 7. When Elizabeth Trujillo called the next day, officers told her that they would not return to the home because everything appeared fine, she told the Post in February.

Police records show that caseworkers investigated reports of abuse of Gabriel twice and received four additional reports that something appeared wrong. At least one of those reports was not assigned to a caseworker for investigation.

The Colorado Department of Human Services has not released a review of caseworkers’ decisions in handling Gabriel’s case.


Luz Valdez

  • Age: 3 mos.
  • Born: Sept 4, 2007
  • Died: Dec 30, 2007
  • Location: Denver
  • Suspect in death: Isidoro Valdez, father

The three times Isidoro Valdez dropped his infant daughter, child-protection workers considered them accidents.

Then, he killed her.

On Dec. 28, 2007, Valdez shook the 3-month-old girl until she was unconscious. She died soon after.

The Denver Department of Human Services receivedat least four reports of suspected abuse or neglect occurring in Luz’s family. Two of them were received during the months before Luz was born, according to a state and county review of Luz’s death. Caseworkers had contact with Luz twice during her short life.

The children’s mother, Mary Campos, who had a history of methamphetamine use, threatened her three children in an emergency room, the review said. While the then-21-year-old was pregnant with Luz, her fourth child, allegations of abuse and concerns about Campos’ ability to care for her children continued to stack up.

Two months after Luz was born, Campos asked for help.

During a medical appointment for her older son, Campos also asked the doctor to examine Luz. Campos told the doctor that Valdez dropped Luz three times and was placing the infant in dangerous positions, such as on the edge of the couch.

A caseworker met with the family at their Denver home.

Campos told caseworkers she thought Valdez may have been placing Luz in the positions on purpose, according to a referral sheet from Luz’s file. Without talking to Valdez, the caseworker determined that he probably never dropped Luz but repeatedly “placed the baby in precarious positions and she fell,” the review said.

A month later, Luz was brought to the emergency room with major head trauma. Valdez admitted to having shaken Luz. She died two days later.

Valdez pleaded guilty to child abuse causing death and was sentenced to 36 years in prison.

In addition to not interviewing Valdez, caseworkers did not consider the family’s history and other factors when determining whether Luz was safe — two of six rule violations caseworkers made before she died.


  • Court Documents

    A motion to admit evidence in the case against Isidoro Valdez in the death of his 3-month-old daughter.
    View the pdf

  • Letter from mom

    A letter from Luz Valdez’s mother submitted to the judge before the sentencing hearing for Isidoro Valdez in the 3-month-old’s death.
    View the pdf

  • TRAILS Entry

    A referral information sheet detailing a caseworker’s meeting with 3-month-old Luz Valdez’s mother.
    View the pdf

  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS fatality report for Luz Valdez, filed on April 15, 2008.
    View the pdf


Alize Vick

Alize Vick

  • Age: 2 yrs.
  • Born: May 28, 2005
  • Died: Oct 10, 2007
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Jules Cuneo, foster mother

Based on the reports filed by her foster mother, 2-year-old Alize Vick was extremely accident prone during the seven months she lived with Jules Cuneo.

She suffered a “bump” and a “fall” in a bathtub that bruised the child’s lip and required a trip to the hospital. She fell again in the tub and broke a tooth, according to accident reports Cuneo filed with Kids Crossing, the private agency that licensed and supervised Cuneo.

But a neighbor could hear what was going on inside the house through a baby monitor and began recording what prosecutors later described as the ongoing torture and abuse of Alize by Cuneo.

The neighbor sent a letter to the El Paso County Department of Human Services and eventually provided an audiocassette recording taken from the baby monitor of the 300-pound Cuneo sitting on the 30-pound Alize as the child wailed. Cuneo could be heard on the recording ridiculing the child for failing to form the proper words to tell her to get off.

The recording wouldn’t be enough. On Oct. 9, 2007, Cuneo hurled Alize 5 feet across a room and head first into a coffee table. The child died of brain injuries the next day.

Alize ended up in foster care because her mother went to prison on methamphetamine convictions and her father had a history that included a domestic-assault arrest.

Caseworkers placed her and her brother in the foster home of Cuneo, who now is serving a 32-year prison sentence for child abuse causing death. Her two biological children would write letters to the judge for sentencing saying Cuneo burned them with tongs she heated in the fire place and punished them by placing a television on top of them.

Hartman was not the only one that warned child protection workers about what was going on in Cuneo’s home.

Elena and Glenn Stom lived next door. Elena Stom said she called the El Paso County Department of Human Services to report how one of Cuneo’s biological children suffered a cut to the face that required stitches. Instead of taking the young child to a doctor, Cuneo took her to a veterinarian technician, Elena recalled.

The Stoms also were alarmed at how Cuneo’s Weimaraner dogs ran wild in the neighborhood and once attacked an elderly woman.

Elena said she was shocked when she learned that Cuneo had been approved to take in foster children despite the concerns she had registered with the county.

“We gave formal complaints,” Elena said. “But there was no real investigation. No one came and talked to me. It was horrible. It was a horrible situation.”

A state review of Alize’s death found the El Paso County Department of Human Services missed red flags by not acting after it heard the baby-monitor recordings.

Sue Fisher, an El Paso County child welfare caseworker, later told her supervisors that she listened to the baby monitor recordings and read the letter from the neighbor, Mary Ann Hartman. Fisher investigated the home but allowed Cuneo to keep the child because she ultimately determined the matter was unfounded.

Hartman later testified during a committee hearing of the Colorado Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee that the agency ignored her when she tried to prod it to act.

“I was in total disbelief that I was trying to save a little girl, and they would not believe me,” Hartman testified.

“I kept telling them, she is going to kill the little girl,” Hartman said. “She will kill her, and they still did not believe me.”



Jesse Weaver

  • Age: 11 yrs.
  • Born: Aug 28, 1995
  • Died: July 8, 2007
  • Location: Lincoln County
  • Suspect in death: Traci and Wade Weaver, parents

The last eight years of Jesse Weaver’s life, Lincoln County caseworkers frequently investigated child abuse and neglect cases at his house.

All 15 referrals over the history of his family’s involvement were deemed “unsubstantiated or inconclusive.” Still, caseworkers considered that the safety of the boy, then 11, was at issue and they kept a case open and provided services.

There had been allegations of neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse and physical abuse.

His mother, Traci Anne Weaver, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child abuse involving one of Jesse Weaver’s siblings in a 2005 incident.

Colette Barksdale, director of Lincoln County Department of Social Services, said the family was already receiving services, so there was no need to open a new case.

Jesse died of an overdose of Seroquel on July 8, 2007. His father found him in bed having seizures with an empty, open bottle of the mood-disorder medication beside him.

At that point, the Elbert County Department of Social Services concluded his parents were responsible for emotional abuse, medical neglect and failure to protect Jesse.

Weaver had taken her son off medications and kept him off despite numerous warnings about the dangers of stopping the medications cold, according to the child fatality review report.

A state review discovered that Lincoln County Department of Social Services failed to notify mental health authorities every time they received a report about Jesse.

The county also did not respond to and assess new referrals of alleged child abuse or neglect received while services were being provided to the family, the state determined.



Christian Wentz

  • Age: 12 mos.
  • Born: March 28, 2009
  • Died: April 17, 2010
  • Location: Somerset
  • Suspect in death: Edward Cox, father

Christian Wentz had recently celebrated his first birthday when his mother, Krystal Wentz, found a bad burn on his hand and tried to take him to a doctor. Christian’s father, Edward Geavanni Cox, tried to stop her from going and the public struggle turned into a domestic violence arrest for Cox on April 6, 2010, in the tiny mining town of Somerset.

When a doctor in nearby Delta treated Christian’s burn on April 7, he also saw suspicious bruises on other parts of his body. He reported possible abuse to the Delta County Department of Health and Human Services. Somerset is in Gunnison County but is closer to Delta, so Delta was given the case.

Two social workers and a deputy interviewed Christian’s mother that day. She told them that Cox was a good dad and the restraining order placed on him because of the domestic violence incident should be dropped so he could be with Christian.

Six days later, two social workers and a detective went to Cox’s home to interview him. He told them Christian was burned when Cox found a tick on his own penis and went into the bathroom to try to remove it. He said Christian climbed on a wall heater while he was distracted by the tick.

The investigating team conferred outside the home and decided they believed Cox. They said he could resume contact with his son and stated in their report they had no more safety concerns for Christian. Cox called social workers a few days later to say he had concerns over how Christian’s mother was caring for him.

The next day, Christian was dead of internal bleeding from a lacerated liver.  The autopsy determined it was caused by blunt force trauma. He had been in Cox’s care that day.

A state investigation found that social services did not violate any policies in returning Christian to his father.

There was nothing in the social service’s investigation to show that anyone had looked into Cox’s criminal history in Michigan.  He was an ex-con with 30 run-ins with police on his rap sheet and a history of domestic violence abuse against women and children. He had three active warrants when he left Michigan to “get his life straightened out” in Colorado.

He moved to  Colorado with a previous girlfriend and their daughter. That girlfriend found a burn mark on her daughter’s hand several days before she left Cox and returned to Michigan.

Cox is currently serving 40 years in prison for Christian’s death.


  • Police Records

    An incident report from the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, detailing a call to Edward Cox’s home in April 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Delta County Human Services

    Report from Delta County Human Services following the investigation of a referral of child abuse on Christain Wentz in April 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Police Records

    An incident report from the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, detailing a call to Edward Cox’s home in June 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Police Records

    An incident report from the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, detailing a call to Edward Cox’s home in September 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Police Records

    An incident report from the Port Huron Police Department in Michigan, detailing a call to Edward Cox’s home in April 2009.
    View the pdf

  • Court Records

    Motion to enter evidence against Edward Cox in the death of 12-month-old Christain Wentz.
    View the pdf

  • Arrest Affidavit

    Arrest affidavit for Edward Cox following the death of his 12-month-old son, Christain Wentz, in April 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS fatality report for Christian Wentz, filed on Nov. 17, 2010.
    View the pdf

  • Photo

    The grave of Christian Wentz at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Paonia. The autopsy found that Christian died of blunt force trauma.
    View the photo


Preston White-Cheever

  • Age: 1 mo.
  • Born: Jan 27, 2008
  • Died: March 14, 2008
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Suspect in death: Rachelle White, mother

Preston Cheever was born amid allegations that his mother was abusing Vicodin.

Six weeks later, on March 14, 2008, he was found at the bottom of the stairs. He died that night of massive head trauma and multiple skull fractures.

A state review found that the El Paso County Department of Human Services had been told his mother, Rachelle White, had a “pain pill problem,” but the agency did not contact her doctors to determine how serious the problem was. The review found that the agency’s investigation into the drug use was not sufficient to determine the true extent of safety and risk concerns to the infant.

“Documentation supports that the mother had stolen the prescription pad from one of these doctors,” according to the state review.

On the day Preston died, White and her female friend had been drinking alcohol and had gone outside to smoke cigarettes, leaving their children improperly supervised, the state review concluded.



Ciarea Taylor Witherspoon

Ciarea Taylor Witherspoon

  • Age: 15 mos.
  • Born: Dec 11, 2008
  • Died: March 18, 2010
  • Location: Aurora
  • Suspect in death: Gregory Witherspoon, father

Child-protection workers had seven chances to help Ciarea Witherspoon’s family before she was left alone in a bathtub.

Seven times — most before Ciarea was born — someone called authorities to say things were not right at their house. The allegations piled up.

There were guns and fighting. Her father threatened to kill her mother. Her 7-year-old brother had bruises, went to school with a black eye. Her brother was covered in feces and acted much younger than his age. Her brother sometimes pretended to slam his head into a wall and said his stepfather hurt him. He told people at school he might get cocaine under the Christmas tree.

But every time, authorities chose not to intervene. Three of the seven calls were “screened out,” meaning no further follow-up required. Four times, caseworkers assessed whether there were safety threats and ultimately recommended against opening an investigation.

Then in June 2009, 6-month-old Ciarea and her 2-year-old brother were left alone in the bathtub. By the time her father returned from answering the door, and then cooking some chicken, she was face down and unresponsive. She lived for nine months, never again conscious, on a ventilator, with a feeding tube. It was then that the state put her in foster care. Her leg had to be amputated because of sepsis. She died March 18, 2010.

Gregory Witherspoon pleaded guilty to child abuse, negligently causing death. He received eight years of probation.

A state review of Ciarea’s death found caseworkers did not assess prior allegations about the family within the time allowed by state regulation. It also found a caseworker closed one case on the family without even interviewing Gregory Witherspoon. A caseworker also erred when writing in a report that there were no marks on Ciarea’s brother, even though his school reported he had a black eye and Aurora police documented it in a report. And a caseworker failed to interview Ciarea’s older brother, or even see him, after some of the previous abuse allegations.

The consequence for multiple violations of state policy: supervisors were required to meet with the caseworkers involved to review laws regarding response time, the interviewing of suspects and victims, and when to offer support services to families.


  • Arrest Affidavit

    Arrest affidavit for Greg Witherspoon that was issued after his 6-month-old daughter, Ciarea, was found face down in the bathtub in June 2009.
    View the pdf

  • Fatality Report

    The CDHS fatality report for Ciarea Taylor Witherspoon, filed on Aug. 2, 2010.
    View the pdf


Tavyus Workman

Tavyus Workman

  • Age: 1 mo.
  • Born: Sept 3, 2009
  • Died: Nov 1, 2009
  • Location: Westminster
  • Suspect in death: Michael Workman, father

Long before Tavyus Workman was born, his fractured family seemed in almost constant crisis.

In her 22 years, Tavyus’ mother, Brandi Hernandez, had filed or been the subject of five restraining orders. She’d been charged with a half dozen minor crimes. And before Tavyus was born, Hernandez’s mother had gone to court to get custody of one of Brandi’s older children.

Tavyus’ father, Michael Workman, also had minor brushes with the law and had twice been investigated for child abuse.

By the time Tavyus came along in September 2009, at least three human-services agencies in three counties had been alerted at least 10 times to the possible abuse or neglect of Tavyus’ older half brothers and his mother.

Yet there is no record that social workers ever worked with Hernandez or ever provided parenting classes, therapy or services of any kind to Hernandez or her children.

Four months before Tavyus was born, Denver Human Services got a call alleging that Michael Workman had punched and grabbed Hernandez’s 4-year-old son in his “private area.” The boy told a caseworker that Workman was “mean,” and his grandmother said she had seen Workman trip him. But after six attempts, caseworkers couldn’t contact Workman, and, so decided the evidence of abuse was “inconclusive.”

Two weeks later, someone reported that Workman had hit Hernandez’s 1-year-old son. At the time, Hernandez said she’d never seen Workman being mean to her son but added that she was no longer allowing her children to be around Workman.

When Tavyus was born two months later, Hernandez was living with her mother sometimes and sometimes with Workman in the home of his mom and stepfather. On Oct. 26, 2009, Hernandez and Workman got into a fight. She took her two older boys and left, leaving 7-week-old Tavyus with his father.

Two days later, Workman said, he fed Tavyus, held him on his knee to burp him, and minutes later, Tavyus stopped breathing.

Workman’s step-grandfater called 911. Four days later, Tavyus was dead from what the coroner ruled blunt force trauma to the head.

Workman’s first trial in May on charges that he killed Tavyus ended in a hung jury. In July, he pled guilty to child abuse resulting in death, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.



Zachariah Yancey

  • Age: 2 mos.
  • Born: May 18, 2009
  • Died: Aug 11, 2009
  • Location: Arvada
  • Suspect in death: Brandon Yancey, father

Zachariah Yancey was a week shy of 3 months old in August 2009 when his father called 911 to report his son was having trouble breathing.

Brandon Yancey Jr., who was 20 at the time, said he had been alone with his son watching TV while his wife worked at Jack in the Box. He and Zachariah, who was swaddled and lying in the crook of his arm, fell asleep. “I rolled over sometime in my sleep and woke up on top of him,” he later told police. Yancey said the sound of Zachariah gasping for air woke him.

At the hospital, as Zachariah was fighting for his life, police interviewed his family members, and his parents’ friends.

They learned that Brandon and Danielle and their kids sometimes lived with Brandon’s dad, sometimes with Danielle’s mom, sometimes together, sometimes not. The couple had a turbulent relationship — Danielle once sought a restraining order against Brandon — and that Brandon had doubts about whether he was Zachariah’s father.

Police who went to the Arvada home where Brandon and Zachariah had been sleeping described the home as a “pit,” and reported seeing a dead mouse in a trap and a hunting knife within easy reach of Zachariah’s 2-year-old brother.

Brandon Yancey told police Zachariah had been fussy that afternoon. Yancey, who said he babysat while everyone else worked, said when he laid Zachariah in his bassinet, the baby let out “a blood curdling scream,” so he picked him up and tried to comfort him.

Doctors treating Zachariah found three healing rib fractures, fluid, swelling and bleeding in his brain and hemorrhages in both eyes.

Officers told Yancey the injuries didn’t match what he said happened, and, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, asked if he had gotten upset with his son. “I never got upset with him. I never do that. You don’t do that, that’s f—d up. People who do that deserve to get their asses shot. Period. I am very strict with that you leave infants alone. You leave children alone.”

The next day, Zach was taken off life support. He died an hour later.

Over five years when Brandon was a child, human services investigated multiple allegations that he was being abused. One accusation involved his father slamming Brandon’s head into a wall. All but one of the calls to human services about Brandon were determined to be unfounded.

In 2003, social workers investigated whether Danielle Yancey, then 14, was the victim of abuse and neglect, but the findings of that investigation were “inconclusive.”

In 2008, before Zachariah was born, Jefferson County Human Services got a report that Danielle Yancey was neglecting her older son and raising him in an unsafe environment. Social workers determined the accusations “unfounded.” However, a state child-fatality review after Zachariah’s death noted that the case worker interviewed Danielle at county offices, never saw her home and failed to ask about allegations that she was smoking marijuana in front of her child.

That review concluded that several mistakes were made but those mistakes had no bearing on what happened to Zachariah.

Brandon Yancey pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.