A grand jury indictment unsealed this week charges the parents of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy with murder and other charges in connection with their son’s death last summer.
The indictment charges Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., 28, and Ursula Elaine Juarez, 25, with one count each of murder and torture in the death of their son, Noah Cuatro.
The boy’s father is also charged with one count each of assault on a child causing death and the newly added count of sexual penetration with a child under 10—the indictment alleges that act occurred on the same day the boy was attacked—and one count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta ordered the indictment to be unsealed against the two, who are due back in court for arraignment Feb. 19.
Cuatro—who could face a maximum of 47 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged—was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $4 million bail.
Juarez is behind bars in lieu of $3 million bail and could face up to 32 years to life in prison, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The pair, who have been jailed since they were arrested last Sept. 26, reported a drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S around 4 p.m. July 5.
The youngster was taken first to Palmdale Regional Medical Center and then to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead July 6.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the following week that an investigation was underway into the boy’s death. The sheriff said Noah lived with his parents and three siblings, who were taken into protective custody.
The boy’s death raised questions about the actions of county social workers who interacted with the family.
An attorney for Noah’s great-grandmother, Eva Hernandez, said she plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services on the family’s behalf.
A multimillion-dollar damages claim—the precursor to a lawsuit—was filed against the county last year, alleging that the boy died despite “countless reports of abuse’’ that had been made to the Department of Children and Family Services. That claim was recently denied, according to attorney Brian Claypool.
According to the damages claim filed on behalf of Hernandez, Noah was repeatedly removed from his mother’s care, once after she was arrested and another time due to neglect, but each time he was returned to the home.
The claim also contends that in May 2019, a DCFS caseworker filed a 26-page petition to have Noah removed from his parents’ custody. That petition was granted, “but willfully ignored by DCFS,’’ according to the claim.