Tag Archives: Murder

Need More Attorneys General Like TX And NM

.jpg photo of New Mexico Attorney General
NM Attorney General Hector Balderas

New Mexico Attorney General wants to handle fatal Child Abuse cases

Attorney General Hector Balderas wants New Mexico lawmakers to expand his authority by allowing him to take over child abuse cases resulting in death without having to wait for a district attorney to decline to prosecute, dismiss the case or ask for his help.

Why?  Balderas said in a phone interview Friday that his office is well equipped to handle such cases and he wants to be able to step in and help children whenever its resources are needed, “like the Navy SEALs.”

“When prosecutors have referred complex, tragic cases to us, we’ve had above-average success rates,” Balderas said.

Balderas said his office is uniquely equipped to handle complicated child abuse cases because his staff includes victim advocates, investigators, lawyers and appellate attorneys, meaning he could handle all aspects of a case without having to rely on other agencies to bring a case to trail.

“In every community, there are sometimes unhealthy tensions between law enforcement, child protective agencies and the DA’s Office,” Balderas said.  “But we are one unit.  We collaborate at every stage.  We are always working together.”

Under current laws, Balderas said, he has to wait for the prosecutor in the judicial district where a case arises to either ask for his help, dismiss a case or decline to prosecute before the Attorney General’s Office can jump in.

“To me, that’s just not sound policy when we are in a child abuse crisis,” Balderas said.  “Now is the time to make the attorney general an equal partner.  I shouldn’t have to ask for permission.  It shouldn’t be a failure in the system that triggers our ability to intervene.”

Balderas said district attorneys usually work well with his office but sometimes don’t agree on the best way to attack a case.

He pointed to a recent high-profile child abuse death in the Taos area in which authorities say a 3-year-old boy abducted by his father from the child’s mother’s home in Georgia was found dead after being denied medications and instead subjected to Islamic prayer rituals for healing.  Balderas said that case is an example of one that could have benefited from his office’s expertise.

The attorney general said he offered 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos his help at the outset of the Taos County case, but Gallegos didn’t consult with him until after a judge denied a motion to hold the defendants without bail while they await trial.

“I offered meaningful support and strategy so they could win and the community would get a timely and aggressive prosecution,” Balderas said.  “I don’t believe it’s collaboration when you are only calling after a loss or setback.”

Gallegos did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

In other cases, Balderas said, the state Children, Youth and Families Department has made investigative missteps that affected the outcome.

CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said Friday she didn’t know enough about Balderas’ proposal to comment at length she welcomes the chance to partner with Balderas or any other law enforcement agency on improving front-end investigations to better protect the state’s children.  Jacobson added that her agency might not be affected if the law were changed because CYFD doesn’t participate in criminal investigations.

A spokesman for Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez in Albuquerque referred questions to New Mexico District Attorney’s Association President Dianna Luce.

Luce, a prosecutor in southeastern New Mexico, said in an email that Balderas had not contacted her organization about proposed legislation and that she cannot comment in her capacity as association president until she knows more.

“As the elected district attorney in the Fifth Judicial District,” she wrote, “I’m opposed to giving blanket authority to another entity outside of my district.  Our prosecutors have experience in prosecuting these types of cases and have successfully prosecuted child abuse resulting in death cases.”

In Santa Fe, First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna said in an email Friday he also hadn’t seen the proposed law change and wanted a chance to discuss it with Balderas and the District Attorney’s Association to see what exactly the attorney general proposes.

“I can’t speak for all district attorneys in our state,” Serna wrote, “but I would anticipate opposition to the Attorney General’s position, considering each DA is elected to their respective districts.”

Serna added that he has a “great working relationship” with Balderas’ office and will continue to request assistance or pull resources from the Attorney General’s Office when needed.

Balderas said he is working to draft legislation and find a legislative sponsor.

No Protests For These Two Little Boys????

.jpg photo of man charged in toddler's death
Francois Browne, 35, served 2 years and 11 months for murdering his 7-month-old Son. HOW IS THIS JUSTICE????

For the second time, Baltimore man is
charged in the death of a Child

BALTIMORE, MD  –  The two baby boys died five years apart, both of them bruised and beaten.

Seven-month-old Kendall Brown suffered fractured ribs and bleeding in his brain in December 2012.  Then 18-month-old Zaray Gray died with a broken clavicle and internal injuries last week.

The father of the first child, a Baltimore man who spent almost three years in prison for his son’s death, has been charged in the death of the second child, his girlfriend’s son.

Francois Browne, 35, of Woodbourne Heights, was charged Saturday with murder in the death of Zaray Gray.  Browne remains held without bail.

Online court records did not list an attorney for him.

The second case against Browne has focused attention to the prison sentence he received after his son’s death.  After Browne was convicted of child abuse resulting in death, Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory sentenced him to 15 years in prison with all but four years suspended.

Browne served two years and 11 months in prison.

“This guy should still be in jail,” said Dr. Dylan Stewart, director of pediatric trauma at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  “The penalties are far too lenient.”

Recent years have brought an uptick in the number of children killed in Baltimore by a parent or guardian.  While there were two such deaths reported in 2007, there were at least eight in 2016, according to the latest report by the Baltimore City Child Fatality Review Team.  More than 40 children have been killed by a guardian in the last decade, according to the city health department.

“I have a huge amount of concern for the level of child abuse in Baltimore,” Stewart said.  “Murdering a child should not have a different penalty than pulling the trigger and murdering an adult.”

One youth advocate said the case could spur efforts to tighten a new law aimed at alerting social services agencies if someone becomes a parent after being convicted of killing a child.

The new law, which takes effect Oct. 1, requires courts to notify the state health department when someone is convicted of the murder, attempted murder or manslaughter of a child.  Later, if a birth certificate lists that person as being the parent of a newborn, the local social services department is to be notified so officials can provide an assessment of the family and offer services if needed.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of the nonprofit group Advocates for Children and Youth, said the law is aimed at protecting children whose parents have killed or seriously harmed a child in the past.

But a limitation, she said, is that it applies only to people convicted of three crimes: murder, attempted murder and manslaughter.  That means it wouldn’t kick in for someone convicted of child abuse, even in a case that resulted in death.

Another limitation is that the law would alert authorities only if the convicted person became a parent, not if someone simply was a caretaker of a child.  The law matches court records with birth records.

Bevan-Dangel said the law might need to be broadened to cover more scenarios. “Potentially there is more work to be done on this statute to make sure it’s is casting the right-size safety net,” she said.

Meanwhile, the deepening opioid epidemic has heightened concerns about child abuse in Baltimore.  In March, Anne Kirsch, 37, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after police found her infant son beaten, starved and dead at 9 days old.  She admitted to using heroin during her pregnancy and on the night before her son died.

Browne’s son was hospitalized on New Year’s Eve 2012 with bleeding in his brain. Doctors pronounced the baby brain dead three days later.  Browne had been alone with his son the night the boy was hospitalized, police wrote in charging documents. Browne was convicted of child abuse resulting in death.

He was released from prison in December 2015, officials said.  He also received five years of probation.

On Wednesday night, police found 1½-year-old Zaray Gray injured in a home in the West Forest Park neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore.  Browne had taken the boy and two other children to the playground earlier that day, police wrote in charging documents.

Once home, they wrote, Zaray began throwing up.  Officers wrote that Browne told them he was alone with the boy in the home while the other children played outside. He heard the boy moaning and later that night the child stopped breathing, officers wrote.

Doctors found bruises on the boy’s face, chin, neck and mouth.  The boy’s left clavicle was broken, police said.

Browne told police the boy had fallen while going down a sliding board, bumping his head and back.

Doctors also found tears to his bowels, police wrote, “likely caused by multiple blows to the abdomen.”

Justice for KS Toddler Cooper Clark

.jpg photo of Father sentenced to 30 years for abuse and murder of Son
Benny Clark was charged with Child Abuse and first-degree murder in the death of his 6-month-old son.

After Kansas child’s death, father
sentenced to 30 years in prison for
abuse, murder

The father of a Kansas boy who died in August 2017 was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and child abuse.

Benny William Clark, 23, of Reece, pleaded guilty in March to intentional second-degree murder and child abuse, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a release Thursday.

He was sentenced to 364 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Clark had been charged in August with first-degree murder in the death of his 6-month-old son, Cooper Clark,  The Eagle reported at the time.

Greenwood County Sheriff Heath Samuels had said deputies were called to the emergency room at the county hospital, where they were told the infant had injuries inconsistent with the parents’ story.

In court, Clark said he “vigorously shook” Cooper for 6 to 7 seconds after the baby took off his diaper and urinated over his bedding, the Eureka Herald and Emporia Gazette reported.

Clark also said that he was putting a fresh diaper on Cooper when he fell off an ottoman and hit his head.

The Wichita Police Department’s Exploited and Missing Child Unit assisted the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.

Justice For Gabriel, CPS Next

Mother, her boyfriend sentenced in boy’s “beyond animalistic” Child Abuse death

LOS ANGELES, CA  –  A judge sentenced a California mother to life in prison Thursday and gave her boyfriend the death penalty in the “beyond animalistic” killing of the woman’s 8-year-old son, who prosecutors say was punished because the couple believed he was gay.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli told the couple that he hopes they wake up in the middle of the night and think of the injuries they inflicted on 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale.

Lying Is Part Of What Needs Total Realignment

Four Social Workers Charged

LA Judge Walking Tall Against 4 CPS Employees
Prosecutor Says CPS Covering Up Own Misbehavior

“I can only wish … that it tortures you,” the judge said.

Gabriel was repeatedly beaten, starved, tied up, locked in a cabinet, shot with a BB gun and once had his teeth knocked out with a bat, the judge said.  Court records also detailed that Gabriel had been doused with pepper spray, forced to eat his own vomit and locked in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams, according to CBS Los Angeles.

“It is unimaginable the pain that this boy probably endured,” Lomeli said.

The boy also had a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns across his body.

“It goes without saying that the conduct was horrendous and inhumane and nothing short of evil,” Lomeli said.  “It’s beyond animalistic because animals know how to take care of their young.”

Gabriel’s mother, 34-year-old Pearl Fernandez, pleaded guilty to murder in February in the death of her son in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, reports CBS Los Angeles.  A jury found her boyfriend, 37-year-old Isauro Aguirre, guilty of murder last year and found that he intentionally tortured the boy.

Fernandez called 911 on May 22, 2013, to report that her son wasn’t breathing.  She told responding deputies that he had fallen and hit his head on a dresser.

When paramedics arrived, they found Gabriel naked in a bedroom, not breathing, with a cracked skull, three broken ribs and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin.

He died two days later of blunt-force trauma and neglect, the coroner’s office found.

Gabriel’s siblings testified that Fernandez and Aguirre would call the boy gay, punish him if he played with dolls and forced him to wear girls’ clothes to school.

Gabriel’s first-grade teacher, Jennifer Garcia, tearfully addressed the court ahead of Thursday’s sentencing, saying she thinks of him every day and how he just wanted to be loved.

“I find comfort in believing he is now at peace,” Garcia said.  “And I know that unlike him, his abusers will never have peace.  They will have a lifetime of suffering to endure, and I know I’m not alone in hoping they experience the same abuse in their lifetime and worse.  They are evil people for what they did.”

Gabriel’s biological father, who is serving time for robbery, was also present at the sentencing hearing, but declined to speak.  He watched the sentencing from his cell, reports CBS Los Angeles.

An expressionless Fernandez spoke briefly during the court hearing, saying she was sorry and wished Gabriel was alive.  She also criticized family members who have spoken of their grief over Gabriel, saying they just want fame.

A jail chaplain who has met with Fernandez told the court that she loved her son and is a different woman today than when she walked into jail.

Several agencies investigated abuse allegations leading up to Gabriel’s death. Garcia, the teacher, had called authorities to report that the boy had asked her if it was normal for a mother to hit her children with a belt, reports CBS Los Angeles.

On several occasions, investigators concluded there was no evidence of abuse.

Prosecutors have since filed charges of child abuse and falsifying records against four county social workers in Gabriel’s death.

Wichita KS Toddler Remembered

Child Abuse victim laid to rest

WICHITA, KS  –  A couple dozen people including family, friends and community members gathered at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, 145 S. Millwood Ave., Thursday morning to say their final goodbyes to two-year-old Tony Bunn.

.jpg photo of Kansas child killed by child abuse
Tony Bunn, 2-years-old

“Nobody knows how many times I’ve broken down and cried, I want to tell you something, there won’t be any doubt, you’re so wonderful to think about, but so hard to be without.”

Zak Woolheater doesn’t know the author of this poem, but it’s helped him put into words the pain his family feels at the loss of his grandson, Tony Bunn.

“He was the most amazing kid you’ll ever see,” Zak says.

First responders were called to Tony’s home on May 4.  Police say he wasn’t breathing.  He was hospitalized and died two days later.

An autopsy report showed he had blunt force trauma injuries.

The family’s attorney said Thursday was not only about Tony but about keeping other children safe and never having another child taken from abuse.

“We are still trying to figure out what all needs to be done, it’s certainly not just a DCF problem, and not just a law enforcement problem.  That is a systemic breakdown,” said Shayla Johnston, the Woolheater family’s attorney.

Tony was buried St. Mary’s Allepo Cemetery in Garden Plain.

His mother, Elizabeth Woolheater and her boyfriend, Lucas Diel, are charged with first-degree murder in his death.

They are set to be back in court next week.