The parents of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy are facing murder and torture charges in connection with his death earlier this year, officials announced Monday.
Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., 27, and Ursula Elaine Juarez, 25, were arrested Sept. 26, months after Noah Cuatro’s death on July 6, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Cuatro also faces one count of assault on a child causing death and Juarez faces one count of child abuse resulting in death.
The pair had previously told authorities that their son had drowned at a Palmdale community pool, but investigators later found signs of trauma that were not consistent with drowning.
The death was ruled a homicide by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner two days before Cuatro and Juarez were arrested.
Noah’s great-grandmother, Eva Hernandez, said the boy lived with her for much of his life.
After the arrests last week, Hernandez described Noah as “loving” and “sweet.”
She said the boy was taken from his mother at birth and placed in and out of foster care until Hernandez took custody of him when he was 3 months old.
When Noah was 9 months old, his birth parents regained custody, but he was removed from their care again about a year later.
He went back into foster care until Hernandez took custody of him for more than two years, she said.
The boy was placed back into the care of his parents in November 2018.
Despite a report from the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection finding that social workers had acted appropriately in leaving Noah with his parents, Hernandez's attorney, Brian Claypool, said the agency "deliberately disregarded" Noah's welfare by sending him back.
He said boy often begged not to be taken from Hernandez.
Juarez's mother on Monday said her daughter has never hurt her kids or even raised her voice at them.
Silvia Juarez said she doesn't know who hurt her grandson, but she doesn't believe Cuatro is responsible either.
"Maybe he fell, or something happened I don’t know what happened, but I know my daughter would not murder my grandson," Silvia Juarez told reporters outside the courthouse where the defendants made an appearance. "They’re just treating my daughter like a monster, my daughter is not a monster."
Cuatro and Juarez appeared in court on Monday, but covered their faces in front of news cameras. Their arraignment was postponed to Nov. 6. Bail was recommended at $3 million.
They face a possible sentence of 32 years to life in prison if conviction as charged.