A Palmdale couple accused of killing Noah Cuatro, their 4-year-old son, have been indicted on murder and torture charges, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
The indictment was returned by the grand jury against Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., 28, and Ursula Elaine Juarez, 25, last Thursday, according to a news release from the DA’s office. It was unsealed Tuesday.
The father also faces a count each of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration with a child under 10 years old, according to prosecutors. The latter count appears to have been added since charges were first filed back in September.
The mother faces one count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death, the release stated.
Prosecutors also revealed for the first time that the 4-year-old had been sexually assaulted, allegedly by his father, on July 5, 2019, the release stated. That’s the same day his parents told law enforcement that their son drowned in a community pool in Palmdale.
He died the next morning at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
It was later determined Noah had trauma on his body that was inconsistent with drowning. The coroner’s office ruled his death a homicide two days before Cuatro and Juarez were arrested.
The parents are accused of torturing Noah over a four-month period beginning in April 2019, according to the DA’s office, citing the indictment.
The child had spent much of his life in the care of his great-grandmother, Eva Hernandez, who told KTLA last July that Noah had been taken from his mother at birth.
He was in and out of foster care for the first three months of his life before being placed in Hernandez’s care.
Six months later, the child was returned to his parents after a court decision. About a year after that, he was removed again from their home due to neglect and malnutrition, Hernandez said.
He went back into foster care briefly until the great-grandmother took custody of him. She said he had been living in stable condition for two years when he was once more returned — this time over the boy’s own objections — to his parents in November 2018.
“I told the social workers, ‘Please, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me,’ Hernandez recalled. “He would hold on to me and say, ‘Don’t send me back, grandma.'”
The L.A. County Office of Child Protection released a report last August that found social workers acted appropriately in leaving Noah with his parents, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But Hernandez’s attorney, Brian Claypool, said the county’s Department of Children and Family Services “deliberately disregarded” Noah’s welfare by sending him back to live with them.
Cuatro could face up to 47 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, while Juarez could receive a possible maximum sentence of 32 years to life, according to the DA’s office.
Prosecutors have recommended bail be set at $4 million for Cuatro and $3 million for Juarez.