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Failed to Death: Ashaquae Foster

3:47 PM, Nov 11, 2012   |    comments
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Age: 12 yrs.
Born: Sept 14, 1996
Died: Aug 21, 2009
Location: Colorado Springs
Suspect in death: Karren Foster, father; Tranquileta Foster, stepmother

She died from choking after going into cardiac arrest Aug. 21, 2009. Her nose had been bleeding throughout the night, but she could do nothing because her family had locked her in a room she shared with a developmentally disabled aunt. The child's mattress was soaked with urine, according to police.

Her stepmother, Tranquileta Foster, told police she and Ashaquae's father, Karren Foster, waited for nearly six hours to seek medical assistance because they feared they could get into trouble for locking the child in the room, which was 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

El Paso County child protective workers had received reports as far back as 1999 alleging various relatives had hit Ashaquae, that her stepmother and father routinely locked her up in her room, and that the child was pulling out her own hair.

The El Paso County Department of Human Services also was told in 2003 that Ashaquae had been seen malnourished, digging through the trash and eating raw meat.

She told a teacher in 2006 that her stepmother hit her, and in 2007 she wrote on the back of one of her school assignments, "I am ugly girl mom hates me." She told a teacher that her stepmother had called her ugly and yelled names at her and had punched her in the nose.

Nine allegations of abuse or maltreatment were made, but only one resulted in a finding of neglect and failure to supervise the child. In that instance, child protective caseworkers determined Ashaquae's stepgrandmother had improperly left her with the developmentally disabled aunt who then hit the child. Ashaquae, however, remained in the home.

The state review found that child-protective staff had not properly assessed the safety of Ashaquae and had not investigated allegations of abuse that should have been investigated. No criminal charges were filed against Ashaquae's father and stepmother.

During a recent tour of the exterior of the home where the family once lived, Karren Foster denied that he and his wife were negligent or abusive. The house is now shuttered up and back on the market after a foreclosure.

Looking out over the yard, Karren Foster recalled basketball games with Ashaquae, a girl he said would never quit. He remembered how she used to dress the family poodle up and put the dog in a baby stroller.

Tranquileta Foster, in a later interview, said her husband stopped her from calling for emergency help the fatal morning because he thought they could fix the problem on their own.

She said the family struggled to care for Ashaquae, a child she described as having special needs. She said she and Karren locked Ashaquae in her room for her own protection because the child wandered outside late at night and snuck trash from neighbors despite getting regular meals.

When child protection workers visited the home before the death, they focused on the wrong issues, such as whether there was food in the refrigerator.

"I needed help," Tranquileta said. "I was asking for help. I didn't know how to get it. It was like everyone turned their back on us."
After Ashaquae died, the El Paso County Department of Human Services removed Tranquileta Foster's children from her for nearly a year and placed them in the care of other relatives. She said the children were returned to her after she took therapy for depression.

Read the fatality review

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