California boy, 4, who died begged his great-grandmother not to be reunited with birth parents
A 4-year-old California boy who mysteriously died under his birth parents' care had begged his great-grandmother not to be reunited with them, KTLA reports.
Last Saturday, Noah Cuatro's mother and father, Jose and Ursula, took him to the hospital and allegedly told medical staff that he had drowned in a pool at their apartment complex in Palmdale. Authorities, however, said that doctors were skeptical of the parents's account after they found signs of trauma on the boy's body.
Noah's maternal great-grandmother Eva Hernandez, told the station that the toddler was first removed from his mother's care when he was just a baby. For the first three months, Noah was in and out of foster care before Hernandez received custody of the child.
Six months later, a court ordered that Noah be returned to his parents. His stay with them didn't last long — within a year, the boy was purportedly removed again from their care due to neglect and malnutrition. Noah was again placed in foster care until a social worker asked Hernandez if she would take him back.
For the next two years, Hernandez said Noah lived stably. During that time, she would facilitate visits by Ursula but became increasingly worried about her granddaughter's ability to care for the boy, she told the Los Angeles Times in a separate interview.
"'Grandma,'" she recalled the child telling her. "'You can't let me go. You can't let me go.' He’s looking at me, begging me not to let him go, and I had to let him go."
Last November, Noah was returned to his parents a second time. In the following months, the 4-year-old's demeanor drastically changed, Hernandez said. A caseworker from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) confirmed the great-grandmother's account in February, stating that the boy seemed withdrawn.
Sources told the Times that, amid reports of suspected abuse, three more referrals arrived in March and April, with one report claiming that Noah had gone to the hospital with bruises on his back.
The mistreatment continued the next month, the sources added. On May 13, for example, Noah's father was reported to police after he allegedly kicked his wife and children in public. The next day, a DCFS caseworker filed a 26-page request to remove the boy from his parents's custody. Though the request was granted, Noah was never returned to foster care.
At the time of the boy's death, officials had received at least 13 calls about suspected child abuse at the Cuatros's home, according to the Times.
In a statement to KTLA, DCFS director Bobby Cagle said his agency would not be able to provide any additional information regarding Noah's case but offered its condolences.
"We join with the community in expressing our deep sadness over the tragic death of this child," he said.
As of Wednesday, neither of Noah's parents had been arrested.