UPDATED: On September 30, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that Jose Cuatro and Ursula Juarez have each been charged with one count of murder and torture in the death of their son, Noah Cuatro. In addition, Jose Cuatro faces a single count of assault on a child causing death and Juarez faces one count of child abuse resulting in death, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami of the Complex Child Abuse Section.
If Noah’s parents are convicted of all counts, they each face a maximum sentence of 32 years to life.
Yet, despite the charges, many questions remain unanswered about why no one intervened before life at home turned fatal for the little boy.
Just under a week ago, on the morning of September 26, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s homicide investigators announced that they had arrested Jose Cuatro, 27, and Ursula Juarez, 25, on suspicion of murdering of their 4-year-old son, Noah Cuatro, who had been in and out of the foster care system prior to his suspicious death in early July.
Noah’s parents called 911 on July 5, 2019, saying that they had found their son floating, unmoving, in their community pool in Palmdale, CA.
Noah was rushed to the hospital, where doctors found injuries on the boy’s body that appeared to be consistent with abuse, not drowning, despite the parents’ claims. Noah died of his injuries at 8:01 a.m. the next morning, on July 6.
The LA County Sheriff’s department quickly launched a suspicious death investigation.
On September 26, more than two months of scrutinizing the circumstances surrounding the little boy’s death, and two days after a final determination from the LA County Coroner’s Office that Noah’s death was indeed a homicide, LASD investigators arrested the boy’s parents at around 8 a.m, and conducted a search of the family’s home “in an attempt to recover any additional evidence related to Victim Cuatro’s murder,” according to a statement the sheriff’s department released at midday on Thursday.
“From the onset of the investigation, homicide investigators worked tirelessly reviewing evidence and conducting interviews,” the department said.
“While my staff at DCFS and I continue to mourn the tragic death of Noah C.,” DCFS Director Bobby Cagle said, “I am grateful to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for its hard work leading to arrests in the case. I deeply respect the diligent work of my staff and our law enforcement partners. DCFS will continue to collaborate with law enforcement as their investigation is ongoing.”
Noah Cuatro’s great grandmother, Eva Hernandez, who is attempting to sue the county over her great grandson’s death, called a press conference in the afternoon after the arrests, where she told reporters that she felt she was “one step closer to getting justice for … little Noah.”
A weeping Hernandez told reporters that she misses her grandson “very much.”
“I wish he was still here,” she said.
It was Hernandez who took Noah into her home for several months in 2017, during one of the two periods when the social workers from the Los Angeles County Department of Family and Children Services (DCFS) removed him from his parents’ care, out of concern for his safety.
The first time social workers removed Noah occurred in August of 2014, right after the boy’s birth, in response to an allegation that Noah’s mother had injured the newborn’s older brother, fracturing the toddler’s skull, so DCFS took away both children, placing them first in foster care, and then in the home of great grandmother, Eva Hernandez, and her husband.
After nine months, however, the department was unable to prove the allegation, so dismissed the case, and the two little boys went back home.
The second time Noah was removed from his parents’ care was in November 2016, when his mother and father were accused of neglecting the child, who was diagnosed with a “failure to thrive,” and other developmental issues, while his parents repeatedly missed scheduled doctor’s appointments.
But, eventually, when his parents seemed to be hitting many of the marks that DCFS workers had set for them, Noah again left his great grandparents’ house, and returned to his parents, although foster care workers reported that he was having trouble “transitioning” back to his parents’ home from that of his grandparents.
In plainer terms, Noah often begged not to go home, according to Martinez.
In May 2019, two months before Noah died, additional concerns on the part of social workers persuaded a judge to grant social workers a court order to remove the toddler from his parents’ custody. They’d gotten a hotline call about Noah possibly being sexually abused. Yet, DCFS officials had not fully investigated their concerns, and when they did, they were unable to verify any of the allegations. So the department staff chose not to follow through with the removal.
On June 28, 2019, the last time a social worker checked on the little boy at his parents’ home, she reported he seemed in good spirits.
In the wake of Noah’s death, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two motions authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger that were meant to delve into still-existing flaws in LA County’s foster care system—particularly in the Antelope Valley, which includes Palmdale, where Noah lived.
The first motion directed the LA County Office of Child Protection to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Noah’s death, including potential system failures within the Antelope Valley’s child welfare system that could have played some role in the tragedy.
The second motion addressed ongoing staffing issues within Lancaster and Palmdale’s child welfare offices and authorized the creation of an entirely new deputy director position to oversee the Antelope Valley region.
Michael Nash, the director of the Office of Child Protection, ultimately determined in his 31-page report to the board of supervisors that DCFS department members had overall acted correctly regarding Noah Cuatro’s case. The news was unsatisfying to many who still want answers about what intervention points were missed that might have saved Noah Cuatro’s life.
In an interview with WitnessLA earlier this month, Nash discussed what we know, and what we still don’t know, about how 4-year-old Noah, who had been in and out of foster care since he was born, died in his parents’ custody, and why no county officials were alarmed enough during the last months of his life to remove him from danger before it was too late.
The arrest and charging of Noah Cuatro’s parents will hopefully bring us closer to the much-needed answers to those urgent questions.
On October 1, this story was updated to include information about the charges against Jose Cuatro Ursula Juarez.
I have no idea Taylor, why don’t you teel us??
Celeste, you should spend less time bashing the LASD and more time reporting on how the board is trying to distance themselves again on yet another tragic death from a department they are responsible for.
The new Office of Child Protection did what they were created to do: clean and distance the supervisors from any mismanagement they are responsible for. The tragic death of Noah Cuatro is but one in a long line of preventable deaths the board is liable for, yet they will continue building bureaucracies to hide their incompetence and inability to lead.
@FedUp-I agree 100%. They are responsible for Noah’s death. Yet they always put the blame on someone else. Just like the 60 million dollar deficit they are trying to make the LASD pay back. They were fine with that amount when McDonnell was sheriff. Now they’re not? If that’s the case, then the BOS should pay back the 80 million dollars they just wasted on the jail project.
Incompetence, coupled with delusions of grandeur, sense of entitlement, no sense of public responsibility, lack of ownership for ones mistakes, no accountability, unbridled greed, immortality and lose of perspective with respect to their oath to “serve the people’s best interests and not their own personal ones” seems to be running more and more rampant, and plaguing all of our so-called political leaders aka bobble heads lately.
@Fed Up, 100% right, the BOS knows the DCFS is a disaster and has been for a long time. That is an agency that truly has institutional failures that are going to take some real time and effort to correct. They can give the DCFS lip service but gather more headlines by going after the low hanging fruit, which is the LASD. Unfortunately, AV has served up the LASD as the lowest and juiciest fruit on the County tree.
Granted the BOS backed former Sheriff McBuckles, but AV arrived on the scene like a bull in a china shop with his Mandoyan caper and his actions in the aftermath. If the battle lines weren’t drawn before Mandoyan, they sure as hell were after.
And now the Sups have AV in their sights regarding the Department being over budget. Of course it’s Buckles’ budget mess, not AV’s. And of course they would not have made an issue of this if Buckles were Sheriff. But that doesn’t matter.
Same with the ELA situation. Inherited by AV after years of LASD mismanagement and neglect.
But you know what? None of this matters now. AV can only help himself (and the LASD) by fixing these problems – by not getting his back up and becoming his intransigent self. Cut the fat out of the budget – there is plenty – nuke ELA and give let Mandoyan go. Be smart not dogmatic. He thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. It’s time to act like it.
Fed Up, perhaps you should start your own blog. Or, are you one of those learned officers that thinks you have a 1st amendment right to say what you want on this site. Funny how when the same thing happens at the LASD, you feel attacked, you pawn it off on someone in management, but never accept that your organization has some people, many in fact, that are pathetic excuses for officers and public servants.
Skippy, great idea, we should get back those $80 million. These bloated officers (many could not do one push up or one pull up) feed off the government trough and the LASD’s bloated budget. This overtime is a racket. Its akin to the welfare fraud many of your ilk bitch about. Yet, you feel entitled to it; a job perk, sort of speak.
Conspiracy, those words can apply equally to the LASD and the LAPD. Is that who you were speaking about?
CF- What does the LASD have to do with the 80 million dollars that the BOS flushed down the toilet? Your beloved Board of Supervisors did that, not the LASD.
All I’m saying is if the BOS want to make the sheriff pay back all that money, which is in fact a debt he inherited from the previous sheriff, then the BOS should pay back the 80 million they threw away.