Foster father charged with injury to child

AUSTIN -- The foster father of a one-month-old girl is charged with injury to a child.
Michael Sanchez, 47, is accused of causing multiple fractures to the infant.
The baby was examined back in January at Dell Children's Medical Center. Doctors found fractures to her left leg, upper arm and a rib.
Sanchez claims the infant got the injuries in a fall down the stairs, but medical experts say that is not likely.


Shamong man charged with murdering 1-year-old foster child

CINNAMINSON — A Shamong man was charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend’s 1-year-old foster child, but his attorney maintains that the death was accidental and not the result of abuse.
Steven Donaldson, 29, of Wesickaman Drive, is accused of killing the child, identified as Claudia Nunes, on Feb. 12 while baby-sitting at his girlfriend’s Cinnaminson home, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday.
The girlfriend’s identity was not released, and information about how long the child had been placed in her custody was not immediately available.
Donaldson was sitting for the child while his girlfriend was at work and called 911 just before 8 p.m. to report the girl was not breathing, said Joel Bewley, spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. Police and emergency medical technicians responded to the house but were unable to revive the girl, who was taken to Kennedy University Hospital in Cherry Hill.
She was pronounced dead at the hospital later that night, Bewley said.
An autopsy performed by the Burlington County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the child died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Further investigation by detectives from the Cinnaminson Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office led to the murder charge being filed against Donaldson.
Bewley declined to release further specifics about the girl’s injuries because of the ongoing investigation, but he said that there were no other adults in the house with Donaldson, and that he was the “sole caregiver during the time that Claudia sustained the fatal injuries.”
The girl died the day after her first birthday, Bewley said.
Donaldson surrendered to authorities Tuesday, was processed, and was released after posting $250,000 bail, authorities said.
Donaldson’s attorney, Craig Mitnick, said the child was not murdered, but accidentally fell on the hardwood floor of the residence and tragically died from her head injury.
“The matter will be tried in a court of law, and Steven will be fully exonerated,” Mitnick said in a statement.
He said that Donaldson was baby-sitting the girl and her two cousins when the accident occurred, and that his client attempted to resuscitate the child by following instructions from a Burlington County Central Communications dispatcher.
Mitnick also said his client voluntarily gave a detailed account of the accident to law enforcement and was not charged until the medical examiner’s written findings confirmed that the child died from head injuries.
“There were no findings of any other injuries to the child, nor was there any evidence that would indicate that there was any previous pattern of abusive behavior to the child,” Mitnick said.

Alleged victims testify on Orcutt child abuse

Two young men allegedly abused by their Orcutt foster mother several years ago wavered on the details of the purported abuse during the woman’s trial Thursday afternoon, changing their stories several times as different attorneys questioned them.
Jacob B., 19, and Carlos S., 20, referred to in court by their first names and only their last initials to protect their identities as alleged juvenile crime victims, testified for the prosecution Thursday in the Santa Maria trial of Bertha Savoy, 74, and Duane James, 40.
Savoy and James, her nephew, lived in houses next door to each other and are both accused of abusing nine children in their care over the span of several years.
Savoy is standing trial on six felony counts of child abuse and James has been charged with six felony counts of corporal injury to a child and one felony count of child abuse.
Both are out of custody on bail.
The alleged victims ranged in age from 8 to 17 years old, and included four foster children who were in Savoy’s care, two of the four children who lived with James in the house next door, and three young people who had been in Savoy’s foster care within the last three years but were not at the time of her arrest.
The defendants were arrested in June 2010. Trial started Monday before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Kelly.
Carlos testified Thursday under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser that he saw Savoy lock his three foster brothers, Jacob, Angel and Manny, out of the house one night. They remained outside all night, he said.
He said he could see Savoy talking to the boys before sending them outside, but couldn’t hear what she was saying.
“I could tell by her tone of her voice that she’s angry,” Carlos added.
He admitted he was nervous about testifying.
“I don’t really like to stand in front of a crowd like this,” Carlos said.
He told the court that Savoy eventually kicked him out of the house too.
“I think that was my choice,” he said, of sleeping in a car outside.
Carlos then acknowledged telling a social worker he didn’t want to be kicked out of the house.
He said he remembered having problems getting food during the year he spent in Savoy’s home.
“We could only eat one time, I think. After that, we had to wait several hours to eat again.”
Food “was kind of limited,” Carlos said. “We could only choose one thing and that’s it.”
If the foster children took food when they were hungry, “in her house, that was called stealing,” Carlos said.
Taking food also resulted in discipline, he added.
Under cross-examination by Savoy’s attorney Michael Scott, however, Carlos said Savoy provided the foster children three meals a day and a snack, but said he was still “kind of” starved.
He said two of the boys that were kicked out of the house broke curfew, and again repeated that he chose to sleep outside.
But when Gresser questioned him again, Carlos said he was kicked out and not welcomed back in that night.
He later admitted he didn’t remember whether Savoy kicked him out of the house or he left willingly.
Other testimony came Thursday from Jacob, who was also a foster child of Savoy’s.
He said on the witness stand while Gresser was examining him that Savoy told him to lie to Child Welfare Service workers when he went to hug her good-bye at the time of her arrest.
When Scott questioned him, Jacob changed his account to say that Savoy only said “bye” when he hugged her.
Later, Jacob said Savoy told all of her foster children at once to lie to Child Welfare Services, and not just him.
Jacob also said in response to Gresser’s inquiries that he saw a bruise on his foster brother Angel’s rib cage.
Prosecution testimony continues this morning.

Prosecutors to retry woman in Rilya Wilson foster child slaying

Prosecutors will retry the Kendall woman accused of murdering foster child Rilya Wilson.
The state made the announcement Friday, two months after a jury deadlocked, 11 to 1, on a count of first-degree murder against Geralyn Graham, forcing Miami-Dade Circuit Marisa Tinkler Mendez to declare a mistrial.
Jurors did convict on aggravated child abuse and kidnapping, for which Graham, 67, received a 55-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors believe Graham in December 2000 smothered Rilya, a foster child, with a pillow, disposed of her body near water in South Miami-Dade, then spent years telling conflicting versions of what happened to the child.
The case lead to massive reform at Florida’s Dept. of Children and Families, which failed to discover the child was missing for more than a year.
Graham falsely claimed to investigators that a DCF case worker whisked the child away for some sort of mental health treatment, prosecutors say.
She was indicted in 2005 after police said she confessed to a cellmate that she murdered the child. The inmate, Robin Lunceford, an eccentric longtime convict who got a plea deal for her testimony, was one of the star witnesses in the trial.
Graham’s ex-lover, Pamela Graham, no relation, also testified that the woman kept Rilya locked in a laundry room, tied her to a bed and secured a dog cage to keep the child from climbing on furniture.
Prosecutor Sally Weintraub said Friday that the state is confident it can convict Graham for the girl’s murder.
“Obviously, it’s doable. The [last] jury was very close to convicting,” Weintraub said.
Graham’s defense attorneys said they were surprised by the decision.
“Geralyn is looking forward to being vindicated by a jury of her peers,” lawyer Scott Sakin said.
Judge Tinkler Mendez said she is planning for a trial in September. She also floated the possibility the trial could be moved to another city because the extensive publicity may make it difficult to find an impartial jury.
Graham faces life in prison if convicted for the murder. 

DOJ to investigate foster-care agency for criminal activity

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating possible criminal activity by the owners of Community Care Resources Inc., the Middleton foster-care agency that the state has accused of misusing millions of taxpayer dollars.
The confirmation came in a letter responding to the State Journal’s request for all documents involving CCR.
“The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) does have an investigative case file that is responsive to your request,” said the letter dated Feb. 28 from Assistant Attorney General Kevin Potter. “However, because the investigation remains open and active, and the continued confidentiality of the records is material to that ongoing investigation, we decline to release that information to you at this time.”
The state Department of Children and Families has revoked CCR’s license to place foster children and license foster parents, alleging that the company has overcharged counties by $6.1 million between 2009 and 2011 in part to pay for excessive salaries, three homes, six vehicles and three boats for owner Dan Simon and his wife, Mary, who also works at the company.
The for-profit child-placing agency continues to operate while it appeals the revocation before the state Division of Hearings and Appeals. A pre-hearing on the appeal is scheduled for June 7.

Felipe Hernandez, Foster Dad Who Allegedly Raped Then Adopted Girls, Tied to 3rd Victim

ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 8, 9:18 A.M.: Felipe Hernandez, the Santa Ana foster dad accused last month of raping and sodomizing two girls brought under his and his wife's care who they later adopted, is now alleged to have preyed on a third girl.

That's revealed in an Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) statement on an arraignment hearing today with a laundry list of charges that could send the 66-year-old to state prison for 65 years to life.

The Weekly reported on the monstrous allegations regarding two of the girls last month. Santa Ana police said at the time there was photos and video evidence of the abuse, which began when one girl, now 15, was 9. A videotape was also said to show Hernandez engaged in sex acts with the second girl, who is now 17.

Those cases are rolled into the new OCDA release that discloses a third girl was 11 when Hernandez allegedly raped her first, abuse that would continue on several occasions between Dec. 4, 2006, and Aug. 21, 2012, according to prosecutors.

The girl who was abused beginning when she was 15 also suffered multiple lewd acts, inappropriate touching and oral copulation between Jan. 1, 2009, and Aug. 21, 2012, according to the OCDA, which adds the then-9-year-old was molested and raped by force one time between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2006. Those girls were later adopted by Hernandez and his wife; the OCDA statement does not indicate if the third female was also adopted.

Santa Ana police previously disclosed that all children had been removed from the Hernandez home. Orange County Social Services had also said its welfare checks on foster children ends once they are adopted. The agency could not comment because of disclosure laws on its previous contact with the Hernandez foster children.

When it came to the abuse of the then-15-year-old, Hernandez is accused of threatening to deny her money or take away her cell phone and laptop if she did not comply with his sexual demands. Santa Ana police had said she told her school counselor about the abuse, which led to the arrest of Hernandez. But the OCDA statement claims the police investigation began in the summer of 2012 after a family member found a memory card with video of Hernandez touching the teen on her buttocks and anus, and then called the cop.

However this disgusting case unraveled, it has resulted in Hernandez being charged with one felony count of aggravated sexual assault, one felony count of forcible lewd act on a child under 14 years old, three felony counts of lewd act upon a child under 14 years old, two felony counts of lewd act upon a child, one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse, one felony count of oral copulation of a minor, one felony count of sexual penetration by foreign object of minor, one felony count of possession and control of child pornography, and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery with sentencing enhancement allegations for multiple victims and substantial sexual conduct with a child.

More counts could conceivably be added because the investigation of Hernandez, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, continues. Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim should contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at 714.347.8794 or Santa Ana Police Detective Ed Zaragoza at 714.245.8386.
 UPDATE, MARCH 13, 12:05 P.M.: Santa Ana police have arrested the 59-year-old wife of Felipe Hernandez for being an alleged accessory to a child rape pinned to him.

Maria Esther Hernandez, who was held on $20,000 bail pending arraignment Thursday, is accused of cutting the girl's hair and threatening her if she did not lie to authorities, according to police.

This weeks assaults

Man charged with sexually abusing foster children
Santa Ana man faces a dozen charges in connection with what prosecutors allege were assaults on 3 girls that took place over years.
SANTA ANA – A 66-year-old foster parent is accused of sexually abusing three young girls he and his wife went on to adopt.
Felipe Hernandez, of Santa Ana, pleaded not guilty to 11 charges in connection with what prosecutors said were years of abuse, including aggravated sexual assault, possession of child pornography, unlawful sexual intercourse and multiple counts of committing a lewd act upon a child.
 He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 65 years to life in prison. He would also be required to register as a sex offender.
According to the District Attorney's Office, Hernandez is accused of molesting and raping a 9-year-old girl in 2006. From 2009 to 2012, he went on to conduct lewd acts on a 15-year-old girl on multiple occasions, prosecutors said. District Attorney's Office officials said he threatened to take away the girl's phone, laptop and other privileges if she didn't comply with his demands.
From 2006 to 2012, prosecutors said, he also raped an 11-year-old girl multiple times.
In each case, prosecutors say the girls they believe are victims were living in Hernandez's home. He and his wife had biological children and also fostered other children over the years, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department. Police are still investigating if there are other victims, he said.
"Part of the investigation is looking into the mother as well, if she had any knowledge or participation in any way, shape or form," he said.
The couple was barred from fostering other children in August 2012, Bertagna said. Santa Ana police began their investigation when one of the girls talked to a school counselor this year, he said.
According to the District Attorney's Office, a family member of Hernandez's discovered a memory card with a video of him touching the 15-year-old girl. The family member contacted police.
The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at 714-347-8794 or Santa Ana police Detective Ed Zaragoza at 714-245-8386.

Judge Denies Requests of Woman Who Kept Foster Children in Cages
A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge has denied a request to reduce the probation of a woman who was convicted of child abuse and neglect five years ago.
Sylvia Vasquez pleaded guilty to felony counts of child abuse and neglect in 2007 after it was discovered she had kept several of her four foster children locked in cages in her home, where she ran a day-care center.
Vasquez appeared before Judge Frank Ochoa this week, asking him to terminate her probation, reduce her felony charge to a misdemeanor and expunge her conviction.
She also owes more than $9,000 in restitution, according to Deputy District Attorney Ben Ladinig.
Judge Ochoa denied each request, a decision Ladinig applauded.
“Judge Ochoa takes his sentences very seriously and considers it a contract with the defendant,” he said. “Simply stated, she has yet to fulfill her obligations under her contract with the judge.”

Judge removes boy from Colorado City foster home
KINGMAN, Ariz. - A foster father in Colorado City, Ariz., is upset a judge ordered the removal of an 11-year-old boy from his home.
Mohave County Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss directed officials to find another placement for the boy during a Wednesday hearing.
An attorney acting as the child's advocate, Deborah A. Liverence, said Weiss believed there was too much distance between the boy and his mother, who lives in Lake Havasu City, and his older brothers in a foster home in Chino Valley.
Liverence said there also is a culture shock factor associated with dispatching a boy who spent most of his life in Lake Havasu City to a remote and sparsely populated community 300 miles away.
Foster father Daniel Wayman, 54, said the boy likes his home and he has no ties to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or its polygamous culture.
"He's happy here. He's got friends, and he's settled in school," Wayman said. "Moving him again after three or four months here is going to be disruptive, and that's hard on kids."

Child sex traffickers target Calif. foster Children – enter PROJECT CHILD SAVE
A new study released this week by the National Center for Young Law finds child sex traffickers target California foster children and now state officials plan to act immediately to improve protection.
This comes as no surprise to retired U.S. Marine Ty Ritter, who with his volunteer squad of Navy Seals, Green Beret and Marine Recon Special Forces team retrieves child victims from all over the world.
“We rescue children, who have been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery,” explained Founder Ty Ritter, PROJECT CHILD SAVE. “A few years ago, I was working for a high profile individual when his friend’s daughter was kidnapped and I got very, very lucky and brought her back. But I couldn’t have done without our team, they make me look good,” he said. “That’s how we got started.”
 Founder and Former U.S. Marine Ty Ritter talks about PROJECT CHILD SAVE - Child Kidnappings Founder and Former U.S. Marine Ty Ritter talks about PROJECT CHILD SAVE - Child Kidnappings
The study - Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California found thatL
Worldwide, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, involving 100,000 children in the U.S. The FBI has determined that three of the nation's 30 High Intensity Child Prostitution areas are located in California. Studies estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are or were formally involved with the child welfare system.
“Unlike the way we parents grew up, it’s a whole new world out there and parents need to take extra precaution with their children,” explained Ritter, who insists the Internet has made it easier for child snatchers. “Don’t close the door when your child is Online, and those Nanny Nets don’t work.”
The new report on child stealing was authored by Fellow and Attorney Kate Walker, at the National Center said, "Every day, the unthinkable happens: thousands of America's children are coerced into performing sex for hire," she said.
“Exploitation can start as young as age ten,” Said Walker. “Some exploited children are brutally beaten and raped. Others are isolated, drugged, and starved until they become ‘willing’ participants. Yet, these children are regularly arrested and held in juvenile detention facilities even though they are victims of crime.”
Four of the report's key recommendations spotlight the urgent need for:
1. Safe, secure and specialized homes for exploited children and children at risk
2. New screening tools to help professionals working with children identify both victims and children at risk
3. Special training for "child serving professionals" and systems to identify and support vulnerable children
4. Increased data collection and information sharing to promote collaboration across systems and raise public awareness
The report offers several solutions of expediting response time, protection and agency collaboration. The Report will be presented at the Child Welfare Council's quarterly meeting on March 6th at the Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco.
Project Child Save is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping prevent child abductions and kidnapping through education and public awareness campaigns.
“When these heinous acts are perpetrated against our children, Project Child Save, through it's international network, finds these abducted innocents who have been taken against their will and sold into slavery, and retrieves them, returning them to their loved ones," said Ritter.
Every year thousands of children are taken from their homes and sold into sexual slavery. Most of these children are teens or pre-teens, and few ever make it back to their families.
Ritter said the reason is simple - money. “Slavery is a lucrative business, and the cost of rescuing abductees is beyond the means of most. Average families can't afford these costs, so they remain helpless as their loss overshadows the rest of their lives. We leave no child behind, and it’s usually more than one, too.”
Tyler has written a complete child protection handbook for parents entitled, "My Body is My Own." His incredible true story of world class heroes has been produced into a documentary, "Kidnap & Rescue" and aired on the Discovery Channel Ritter urges all parents to contact the Discovery Channel and ask that it be rescheduled broadcast for again.

State starts criminal investigation of Middleton foster care agency
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to audit the state's financial oversight of certain foster care agencies. Read more
Officials: State lacked way to detect alleged foster care overcharges until 2011
 Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson also hinted that authorities are weighing a criminal investigation. Read more
Foster care families shocked by allegations of fraud at Community Care Resources
 The State Journal interviewed more than a dozen current and former Community Care Resources foster parents and heard conflicting views of the … Read more
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating possible criminal activity by Community Care Resources Inc., the Middleton foster care agency that the state has accused of misusing millions of taxpayer dollars.
The confirmation came in a letter responding to the State Journal's request for all documents involving CCR.
"The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) does have an investigative case file that is responsive to your request," said the letter dated Feb. 28 from Assistant Attorney General Kevin Potter. "However, because the investigation remains open and active, and the continued confidentiality of the records is material to that ongoing investigation, we decline to release that information to you at this time."
The state Department of Children and Families has revoked CCR's license to place foster children and license foster parents, alleging that the company has overcharged counties by $6.1 million between 2009 and 2011 in part to pay for excessive salaries, three homes, six vehicles and three boats for owner Dan Simon and his wife, Mary, who also works at the company. The for-profit child-placing agency continues to operate while it appeals the revocation before the state Division of Hearings and Appeals. A pre-hearing on the appeal is scheduled for June 7.
CCR attorney David Schwartz of Madison said his client "strongly disputes the allegations." He described the charges by DCF as "significant accounting issues that demand full review and analysis."
In a statement issued Wednesday, Schwartz said "we will fully cooperate with any DOJ investigation and are confident any investigation will confirm that no crimes have been committed.
"Some have gone so far as to accuse CCR of fraud without the benefit of the facts," Schwartz said. "This is extremely unfortunate and fundamentally unfair, especially when only one side of the story is currently available to the public. We urge state legislators, reporters and others not to rush to judgment."
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has ordered an audit of all 24 child-placing agencies under contract with counties in Wisconsin. In recent months, DCF has revoked the licenses of at least three such agencies citing financial mismanagement and other problems.