Things That Matter

After Spending His Life in Foster Care, 4 Year Old Noah Cuatro Was Returned To His Parents, Where He Died Shortly After

On July 5th of this year, a 4-year-old boy named Noah Cuatro was found dead by first res ponders in the pool of the apartment complex he was living in. His parents Jose Cuatro Jr. and Ursula Elaine Juarez, insisted that they had found his body already lifeless, floating in the pool. The couple claimed he had drowned. But the police were immediately on alert to the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Authorities quickly suspected foul play in the 4-year-old’s death. 

On Thursday morning, law enforcement officials arrested both Cuatro Jr. and Juarez, charging them with the murder of their son.

As soon as Noah’s body was taken to the hospital the parents’ supposed cause of death and the reality of his injuries were inconsistent. Although his parents claimed Noah died by drowning, his injuries were inconsistent with that claim. What’s more, the hospital staff  “observed evidence of injuries to Victim Noah Cuatro’s body” that were consistent with signs of abuse. All of the coinciding evidence made it more likely that his death was not a straight-forward accident. 

In late September, the death was officially ruled a homicide by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. Two days later, Cuatro Jr. and Juarez were arrested. According to officials, the parents are being charged with a litany of crimes: murder, torture, assault on a child causing death, and child abuse resulting in death. Cuatro Jr. and Juarez are being held on $3 million bail each. If they are convicted Cuatro and Juarez might be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison, or a minimum of 32 years. 

Before he died, Noah spent his short life being shuttled between the care of his parents, the foster system, and his great-grandmother. 

Social workers were involved in Noah’s life from birth. He was first removed from the custody of his parents in 2014 and placed in foster care. Later in the year, his great-grandmother, Eva Hernandez, was given temporary custody of him. Although he spent much of his life in Hernandez’s care, Noah also bounced between the foster system, his parents, and his great-grandmother’s care throughout his life. In 2018, he was, for one final time, given back to his biological parents, although the reason for his most recent removal was due to “medical neglect”. 

According to his grandmother, Noah had been vocal about his fear of returning to his parents’ house. “I just wish [the Department of Child and Family Services] would have listened to him,” Hernandez told reporters in July. “He did say, ‘Please don’t do this, don’t send me back.'” But according to Hernandez, Noah refused to tell her about any abuse that was happening at his parents’ home. “He would not say,” said Hernandez. “He did tell me one time that they used to make his older brother punch him, hit him.”

Four-year-old Noah’s death seems all the more tragic because, according to reports, it may have been preventable. 

As the story has developed, the story has illuminated the failures of the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to protect Noah. Evidence suggests that the DCFS were directed by courts to investigate anonymous claims that Noah was being sexually abused in May–mere weeks before his death. If this were the case, the department legally had 72 hours to conduct a forensic examination of Noah. According to Eva Hernandez’s attorney, Brian Claypool, the department failed to do so. 

According to Claypool, if the examination had taken place, sexual abuse “would’ve been confirmed, he would’ve been permanently removed from his home and he would be alive today”. “This little boy should’ve been removed from that house when he was two years old,” Claypool continued. “Let alone waiting until he was four and a half years old and watching him die.” Claypool has announced that he and Hernandez “plan to hold the Department of Children and Family Services accountable” for what they perceive as neglect. As for Los Angeles DCFS, they have recently issued an apology for the failure of their “safety net”.

As for the public, they are struggling to come to terms with the senseless and tragic death of a child that looks as if it could’ve been prevented.

There should be iron-clad safe guards against children losing their lives to abusive parents. 

Many people are disappointed in what they see as institutional shortcomings of child welfare systems.

Because children are so defenseless, it’s up to others to protect them from harm. That responsibility should not be taken lightly. 

This person believes that just because someone is a biological parent, doesn’t mean they are emotionally prepared to raise a child:

All in all, it seems like another senseless tragedy has taken another young life much too soon. 

 

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva Threatens To Cut Sexual Assault Investigation Unit Because Of Proposed Budget Cuts

Things That Matter

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva Threatens To Cut Sexual Assault Investigation Unit Because Of Proposed Budget Cuts

Josh Lefkowitz / Getty Images

Law enforcement in Los Angeles is facing budget cuts already because demonstrators are keeping up the pressure for police reform. COVID-19 has added pressure to Los Angeles County to make some additional cuts and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva is warning what the cuts mean to the department at large.

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is warning residents about the impact of the proposed budget cuts.

Sheriff Villanueva issued a statement titled “DEFUNDING THE LASD BUDGET $145.4 M.” In the letter, Sheriff Villanueva warns that the budget cuts will lead to the elimination of the Special Victims Bureau. The bureau is responsible for investigating the physical or sexual abuse of children and women. The sheriff names other departments that will be eliminated in response to the upcoming budget cuts.

“It’s unconscionable,” Sheriff Villanueva told CBS Los Angeles. “These are the major detective units of the entire department. They serve the entire county of Los Angeles. Those four units…are the cream of the crop of investigative units throughout the entire nation, and as the largest county in the nation, I cannot see how we move forward without these four units,” he said.

The sheriff took the time to attack the “Defund the Police” movement.

“The CEO and the Board have embraced the “Defund the Police” movement and are cynically hiding behind accounting maneuvers, knowing well that loss of revenue in sales tax can be made up by equitable distributing more stable revenue streams like property taxes,” reads part of Sheriff Villanueva’s statement. “This is not acceptable and a willful abandonment of the top priorities of local government: keep people safe.”

Sheriff Villanueva is also refusing to enforce orders to close the beaches for the 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles County.

Sheriff Villanueva told the press that his department was not included in talks about the closure so the sheriff’s office will not enforce the order. Los Angeles County is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases as the rest of California deals with the same. The Los Angeles Health Department ordered the beaches, piers, and boardwalks closed for the holiday weekend to fight the sudden spike in cases.

“Closing the beaches and prohibiting fireworks displays during this important summer holiday weekend was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s the responsible decision to protect public health and protect our residents from a deadly virus,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “The Fourth of July holiday weekend typically means large crowds and gatherings to celebrate, a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19.” 

Sheriff Villanueva’s actions as sheriff are making some Los Angeles County residents wanting him to leave the office.

At the beginning of his term as sheriff, Villanueva rehired a police officer who was fired for domestic violence allegations. The police officer who was rehired set off a legal battle that landed in court with a judge having to decide whether or not to let the police officer stay.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff handed down an injunction ordering rehired police officer Caren Carl Mandoyan to surrender his gun and badge. Additionally, the judge ordered, “Sheriff Alex Villanueva cease to recognize or hold Mandoyan out as a Deputy Sheriff or a County employee.”

READ: Family Of Andres Guardado Are Asking For The Autopsy Report Be Released

Tamales Elena Is About To Become LA’s First Afro-Mexican Restaurant

Culture

Tamales Elena Is About To Become LA’s First Afro-Mexican Restaurant

tamaleselenayantojitos / Instagram

The Los Angeles food truck Tamales Elena y Antojitos has been serving up authentic Guerrero food for 20 years. Tamales Elena y Antojitos is a staple at E 110th St. & Wilmington Ave. in LA’s Watts neighborhood offering up banana leaf-wrapped tamales. Now, Tamales Elena y Antojitos will become a restaurant.

Tamales Elena y Antojitos is opening up LA’s first Afro-Mexican restaurant.

Not even a pandemic will slow them down. The family behind the famous food truck in Watts will soon be welcoming guests (following COVID-19 guidelines) in Bell Gardens, California. The tamales, pozoles, and array of Afro-Mexican dishes will be served to everyone who has come to adore the Mexican establishment.

The restaurant will add another cuisine to the vast palate that is LA’s food scene.

Los Angeles is home to a diverse and inviting list of restaurants representing cultures from around the world. Some of the best Mexican food in the country can be found in Los Angeles and Tamales Elena y Antojitos is adding another level to that representation. Angelenos are celebrating the Afro-Mexican restaurant staffed and owned by Afro-Mexicans.

The restaurant has a special place in people’s lives.

The family has been offering up their unique food to residents of Watts for 20 years. In two weeks, Maria Elena Lorenzo will be offering up her family recipes in-store to more people as of July 15. The family has spent years in the food industry and have worked hard to make their mark on LA’s food scene.

Lorenzo’s daughters have been played a big role in getting the restaurant going.

According to LA Eater, Lorenzo’s daughters have spent years working in various restaurants around Los Angeles. Her daughters, Maria, Heidi, Judepth, Teresa, and Nayeli spent time working front-of-house and back-of-house at restaurants including Rivera, Petty Cash Taqueria, and Guerrilla Tacos. Heidi Irra worked at Mezcalero in downtown Los Angeles. Now, the daughters are bringing their experience to the family business and helping their mother start her restaurant.

Lorenzo, lovingly known as Mama, is clearly going to have a lot of guests are her restaurant.

Congratulations, Mama! This is one of those stories we love to see. Nothing makes you prouder than watching Latino families come together to chase the American Dream and succeed.

READ: Guelaguetza, One Of LA’s Most Iconic Mexican Restaurants, Is Sharing Some Of Their Recipes On Instagram