4-year-old California boy who 'drowned' in pool at parents' residence begged not to be sent there: 'Don't send me back, grandma'
Noah Cuatro was rushed to Children's Hospital, Los Angeles, on July 5 with injuries that were not consistent with drowning and died the following morning
The grandmother of a four-year-old child has said that her grandson begged not to be taken back to his parents' California residence before they claimed he drowned in a swimming pool.
The child, Noah Cuatro, was rushed to Palmdale Regional Hospital and then to Children's Hospital, Los Angeles, on July 5 with injuries that were not consistent with drowning. He died the following morning.
Grandmother Eva Hernandez said Noah Cuatro was in foster care for three months after his birth and later lived with her until he was nine months old before being sent to his parents.
However, the boy was taken from their custody a year later due to malnutrition and neglect.
While investigators did not share details of the injuries sustained by Noah, it has been speculated he would not have been able to get past the gate of a pool at his parents' Palmdale, California residence on his own as he was too small to gain access and the barricade stays locked most of the time.
Following another stint in foster care, Noah was cared for by his grandmother for two years until last November, when he begged not to be sent back to his parents.
"I told the social workers, please, he doesn't want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me," Hernandez told KTLA. "He would hold on to me and say, 'Don't send me back, grandma.' I don't know. I couldn't do anything. I just had to send him back."
By the time Hernandez saw her grandson again six months later, she said the little boy was desperately in need of help.
"He was not the same little boy anymore," Hernandez continued. "He looked so sad and withdrawn. He didn't have the chance. She was just looking at him, and he wouldn't say anything. He would say, 'Grandma,' then he would just shut down. I kept saying, 'What's wrong? Tell me, baby,' and he wouldn't say it."
A judge in Dependency Court had reportedly ordered Noah's removal from his family home in May this year.
But a source told Eyewitness News that a supervisor at the county Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) let him remain in the home despite the court order.
At that time, DCFS workers also learned of accusations that Noah had been sodomized and had injuries to his rectum, per a DCFS case file obtained by the Los Angeles Times. However, caseworkers still did not return the embattled youngster to foster care.
According to Hernandez, Noah might have been alive today if the DCFS had responded differently to a complaint of hers.
She reportedly asked DCFS authorities to visit the family home without prior warning. However, they chose to inform the parents they were coming beforehand and found everything seemed fine upon checking the property.
According to reports, there were three other children staying at the home, including Noah's one-month-old baby brother, a two-year-old sister, and an older brother who had also been pushed around in foster care.
"If they would have taken him out of there, he would still be here," Hernandez said. "The kids don't have a voice."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department launched an investigation earlier this week.
Authorities said they were looking to obtain security footage and speak to witnesses. There was no lifeguard at the Mountain Shadows apartments pool at the time of the incident.
"We join with the community in expressing our deep sadness over the tragic death of this child," DCFS Director Bobby D. Cagle said in a statement on Tuesday.
Noah's parents, who made the 911 call, have been interrogated. However, they have not been arrested or charged as yet.
That said, the three other children, all minors, have been removed from the family home.
Addressing a press conference earlier this week, LASD Lt. Joe Mendoza said, "We're retrieving the case file as we speak, and we're going to be reviewing that case file, and we'll have more information in the next coming days."
This is the third high-profile case in Antelope Valley involving a boy that died in a home placement by the DCFS. Prior to Noah, Anthony Avalos, 10, of Lancaster died in June 2018, and Gabriel Fernandez, 8, of Palmdale in May 2013.
"It’s important to get the facts," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, adding that more details will be available when ready. "When you talk about it not happening quickly enough, this is a deep dive… as we do on all our cases, as we did on Gabriel, as we’ve done on Anthony."
A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.
Anyone with information is urged to contact homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500 or the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at (800) 222-8477.