The parents of Noah Cuatro, a 4-year-old Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances, have been indicted on murder and torture charges in his death.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced the development Tuesday after a grand jury returned the indictment Thursday.
Jose Maria Cuatro Jr. and Ursula Elaine Juarez were arrested in September on suspicion of murdering their son. Each now faces one count of murder and torture. Cuatro also faces one count of assault on a child causing death and one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 10. Juarez also faces one count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death. The district attorney’s office has recommended $4-million bail for Cuatro and $3-million bail for Juarez.
Noah died July 6, one day after his parents dialed 911 and said their son had drowned in an apartment complex pool. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva later told reporters that the death appeared inconsistent with drowning, prompting the launch of an investigation.
During his four years of life, Noah was placed in foster care and shuffled between the custody of his parents and great-grandmother, Eva Hernandez. Following the arrest of Cuatro and Juarez, Hernandez recounted her great-grandson’s pleas to stay with her before he was removed from her care.
In 2014, Noah was placed in foster care and later in Hernandez’s custody. The following year, Noah was returned to his parents, but went back into foster care and later returned to his great-grandmother in 2016 following allegations that he had been medically neglected by his parents.
In 2018, the court returned Noah to the care of his parents. After further allegations of neglect in May 2019, the Department of Children and Family Services intervened. As their investigation continued, a social worker sought a court order to remove the child from his home on May 15 following an unverified tip that Noah had possibly been sexually abused.
Social workers last saw Noah in late June 2019. Noah died two weeks after they updated the court and asked for a 30-day continuance to investigate further.
A report about the death of the boy absolved DCFS of responsibility in the case but will not protect the agency against potential lawsuits or future scrutiny by the Board of Supervisors.