A California boy who died under what police are calling suspicious circumstances, apparently begged his grandmother to let him stay with her before his untimely death.
KTLA 5 reports that 4-year-old Noah Cuatro passed away on Saturday after supposedly drowning in a pool at an apartment complex in Palmdale. The boy, who lived in and out of foster care during the short years of his life, was in the care of his birth parents at the time.
Although Noah’s parents claimed the boy drowned in a swimming pool, investigators said he had body trauma inconsistent with drowning.
Noah’s great grandmother, Eva Hernandez, told the outlet that the boy was first taken from his mother, Ursula Flores, right after birth. Noah then spent the next fews months in and out of foster homes. When he was three months old, social services placed him in Hernandez’s care.
The living situation, however, was short-lived. By the time Noah was a 9-month-old, the California Department of Children and Family Services removed the boy from Hernandez’s home and placed him back with his birth parents. Around a year later, he was removed from his parents’ care again, allegedly due to negligence and malnutrition.
Noah was placed in foster care until a social services worker reportedly contacted Hernandez and asked her to take the boy again.
Hernandez said the boy lived with her in “very stable conditions” for around two years before he was given back to his birth parents once again, despite his protests, according to the grandmother.
“I told the social workers, ‘Please, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me.’ 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.”
Hernandez said afterward, Noah’s mother refused to let her see the boy until three months prior to his death. By that time, according to Hernandez, the boy had changed significantly.
“He looked so sad and withdrawn.”
Hernandez said said it seemed as if Noah wanted to tell her something, but never had the chance. The boy’s mother, according to Hernandez, would stare at him each time he tried to speak to his grandmother during their last visit.
“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.”
ABC 7 reports that during Noah’s time in foster care, he temporarily stayed at Bithiah’s House, a residential center which houses babies and toddlers in the foster care system who have medical issues. The center’s co-founder, Michelle Thompson, said the boy arrived malnourished and couldn’t walk. Yet, she remembers him as being a “joyful” child.
“He was such a joy,” Thompson recalls. “He had this crazy wild brown hair and he was so joyful.”
Once Noah learned how to walk and didn’t need as much medical care, he moved out of Bithiah’s House and in with his grandmother before being sent back to his birth parents.
“It’s devastating, it’s sickening and it makes me angry because I feel like it could have been prevented,” Thompson said.
How Did Noah Die?
According to police, Noah’s parents said the boy drowned in the pool at their apartment complex off of 1200 block of East Avenue S on Friday afternoon. Yet, other relatives reportedly said the pool area had been locked with a padlock and closed. Noah wouldn’t have been able to get into the pool area alone, the relatives reportedly said.
Noah was initially to Palmdale Regional Medical Center, according to NBC 4, then later taken to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He was pronounced dead on Saturday.
“Once the child was transported to a local hospital, there was some trauma found on the body that was inconsistent with a drowning,” sheriff’s Lt. Joe Mendoza said.
Investigators questioned Noah’s parents, but so far, no arrests have been made. The boy’s autopsy results are currently sealed.
Authorities said the couple had previous encounters DCFS, but the details are still unclear.
“At this point, we’re retrieving the case file as we speak, we’re going to be reviewing that case file and we’ll have more information in the next coming days,” Mendoza said.
After Noah’s death, DCFS removed the couple’s other three children from the home.
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
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[Feature Photo: Noah Cuatro/GoFundMe]