LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Private funeral services will be held today for 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, the Palmdale boy whose death was originally reported as a drowning but which has led to an investigation into possible child abuse, raising questions about the actions of county social workers, as occurred following the deaths of two other Antelope Valley boys who died of abuse- related causes while their cases were supervised by the county Department of Children and Family Services.
Noah's parents reported a near drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S around 4 p.m. July 5, but the boy's injuries later raised suspicions about how he died. Medical staff found the trauma he had suffered inconsistent with drowning.
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. Villanueva said Noah lived with his parents and three siblings. Authorities said those siblings have been taken into protective custody.
No arrests have been made.
Funeral services will be held at the San Fernando Mission Catholic Cemetery.
A group of local activists plans to hold a vigil outside the cemetery in support of Eva Hernandez, the boy's great-grandmother, claiming she has been barred by Noah's parents from attending the service due to her allegations the boy was abused. Brian Claypool, Hernandez's attorney, has been pushing for a federal civil rights investigation into the boy's death.
Noah's death has also raised questions about the handling of his case by the county Department of Children and Family Services.
There were previous reports to DCFS regarding the boy, but the details of those reports have not been publicly disclosed.
At a recent board meeting, county Supervisor Janice Hahn hinted at some mistakes made, saying social workers had argued for the boy to be removed from his family home but a judge initially denied that request.
“We didn't get him out of that home in time and we should have,” Hahn said.
Sources told the Los Angeles Times that Noah was removed from his parents' home in 2016 and lived in foster care for two years before they regained custody.
In May, after a report that the boy's father had kicked his wife and children in public, a DCFS social worker requested a court order to remove Noah from the family home, according to those sources. Superior Court Commissioner Steven Ipson granted the request May 15, the newspaper reported, relying on its sources as the court documents are not publicly available.
Noah was the third boy in the Antelope Valley to die as a result of suspected abuse. The others were 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who was killed in 2013 by his mother and her boyfriend after social workers mishandled evidence of escalating abuse and failed to file timely reports, and Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died June 21, 2018, and whose parents are awaiting trial for his death. Both boys had been tortured.
Why Noah remained in his parents' care for roughly three weeks after a court issued an order for his removal has not been explained.
DCFS Director Bobby Cagle told the board he wanted to make more information public and was seeking leeway from the courts to do so.
“This death happened on my watch,” Cagle said. “I fully accept the responsibility for the work that was done.”