Failed to Death: Jazzmin Escobar

2:42 PM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
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  • Jazzmin Escobar Video
  • Age: 3 yrs.
    Born: Nov 30, 2005
    Died: Feb 25, 2009
    Location: Aurora
    Suspect in death: Jose Zapato, uncle

    The preschool-aged boy growled and clawed at a coffee table with his fingernails to show how his uncle made the marks.

    But the uncle, Jose Cruz Zapata, told the caseworker the little boy fought with a girl at his daycare center and sometimes scratched his own ears. The caseworker's assessment was labeled inconclusive.

    That allegation was one of many against Jazzmin's relatives, going back to before she was born. The first referral - that Jazzmin's mom was on drugs while pregnant with an older sibling - was not investigated further because she was still "early in her second trimester."

    Before Jazzmin was 2, a caller reported two children wandering alone in the street. Her mother had fallen asleep on the couch and was awakened by police officers. She installed a safety device on the front door. The case was closed.

    A year later, Jazzmin's father, Alanm Escobar, called Arapahoe County social workers to say he needed help raising four kids after Jazzmin's mom, allegedly still using drugs, had gone missing.

    Two of the children, Jazzmin's half siblings, went to foster care, but Jazzmin and her brother remained with their father under caseworker supervision. Then her father went to jail for traffic offenses after driving with a suspended license to take a sick Jazzmin to the hospital.

    The children went to stay with their uncle - an arrangement Escobar says was approved by their caseworker.

    "What happened with my daughter was an accident," said Escobar, who keeps Jazzmin's ashes in a box in her brother's bedroom and a collection of angels in his living room.

    "I always liked angels," he said. "Then after my daughter, they kind of ease up the pain, you know."

    Jazzmin died of severe head trauma on Feb. 25, 2009,after falling down the outside stairs at her uncle's apartment. He said he set her on the couch afterward. He did not call 911 for 25 minutes.

    No charges were filed.

    A state review of her death found no violations of policy, but reviewers were concerned caseworkers had done minimal interviews in earlier contacts with the family . They did not talk to Jazzmin's mother's roommates or her brother's daycare provider about some of the allegations. The review also found law officers had failed to inform the human services department that Jazzmin's father had a domestic violence charge.

    After Jazzmin's death, the county took her baby cousin - Zapata's child - into protective custody. Three years later, the baby's mother, who is no longer with Zapata, is still fighting to get her son.

    "I lost my daughter and she's losing her son," Escobar said, as his sister wept on the couch across his living room. "Our family, we've been through a lot. They feel obligated to protect my nephew, but who are they protecting him from??

    Sometimes, Escobar, who is no longer in a relationship with Jazzmin's mom, visits the stairwell where his daughter fell. A piece of the carpet, taken during the police investigation, hasn't been replaced.

    "I remember her smile, and it carries me," Escobar said. "I guess I go look there for her smile."

    Read the full fatality review


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