Failed to Death: No transparency, no accountability

3:21 PM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
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9Wants to Know, in partnership with the Denver Post, profiled the case of Andres Estrada, 6, who died despite numerous documented complaints alleging neglect and no supervision in his home.

Police and the Adams County Human Services department, citing privacy laws, will not explain how those complaints were handled.

Andres was killed while riding his tricycle on his street in Aug. of 2010. The driver of the van who hit him was found not to be at fault. His mother was inside their home during the incident, according to police records.

"He was out most of the nights, probably until 9 or so," neighbor Emmanuel Perez said. "He was about the only kid out on the block."

Before Andres' death, 9Wants to Know found neighbors called police seven times to complain about seeing the 6-year-old and his older brother alone in the street. Some neighbors complained Andres was often seen in diapers and sometimes out on the street alone late into the evening.

The calls were documented in dispatch reports obtained by 9Wants to Know after an open records request. One of the calls to police alleging neglect even came from a caseworker.

A Colorado Department of Human Services child fatality review report also documents caseworkers received 11 referrals to the Estrada home that were prompted by complaints about neglect, lack of dental care, no potty training and no supervision. Many of the referrals were either closed, screened out or unfounded.

Because Federal Heights Police and the Adams County Department of Human Services are not commenting about the case, there are numerous questions as to how officers and caseworkers handled complaints.

The state's fatality review report also vaguely refers to inaccuracies in caseworkers' reports about four risk assessments of the Estrada family. The report is not specific about the inaccuracies.

"I don't think confidentiality protects kids; it protects the system," said attorney Phyllis Roestenberg, who used to represent children in legal matters for the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center. "I think it makes the system feel more comfortable and insulated from accountability of what they're doing."

A spokesperson with the Federal Heights Police Department said the Chief of Police did not want to comment about the case because it was "subjective."

A second effort by 9Wants to Know to seek comment from the chief resulted in a "no comment" from a dispatcher at the department's headquarters.

Andres' grandmother told 9Wants to Know his mother did not want to share any perspective on what happened to her son.

Another family member said Andres' mother was not in a mental state to understand a television interview.

The 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office did not officially review potentially criminal charges in the case until 9Wants to Know began making inquiries. Police and prosecutors were confused as to exactly what happened to the case.

Finally in July, weeks after a 9Wants to Know inquiry about the case, a letter from the district attorney's office indicated no charges would be filed against Andres' mother partially because of her mental state, and because there was not enough evidence showing negligence.

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola? Call him at 303-871-1425 or e-mail him


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