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Tortured, chained child to receive $4 million from county of Sacramento

For more than a year, the boy known only as “Kyle” in court papers was chained to a fireplace in a Northern California home. His captors beat and starved him, he testified.

He managed to escape in late 2008 by hopping onto a trampoline and jumping over a fence, with the shackle clasped to his right leg.

“Please, hide me, please, hide me,” were the first words out of the then-16-year-old’s mouth, a witness said.

This week, the County of Sacramento agreed to pay Kyle $4 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed in 2011, Kyle’s attorney announced.

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The suit accused the county’s Child Protective Services and its social workers of negligence and protocol violations in the years leading up to Kyle’s imprisonment and harrowing escape, which drew national headlines.

“We can only hope this lawsuit will bring changes to CPS. Our fear is that there are other ‘Kyles’ out there, suffering abuse that no child should ever endure,” attorney John Demas said in a statement.

How Kyle ended up under the care of a woman who is now serving a more than 30-year prison sentence for more than a dozen felony convictions is detailed in the 21-page complaint.

When Kyle was 8, he was left by his biological mother in the care of a family friend, Caren Ramirez, according to the complaint.

A handwritten note from Kyle’s mother assigned custody to Ramirez, and a CPS worker agreed that Kyle remain with her -- without conducting a legally required investigation, according to the complaint.

Ramirez was never given legal guardianship, the complaint alleged, and CPS failed to look for other family members or even contact Kyle’s biological mother.

In the years that followed, CPS received reports of abuse and neglect regarding Ramirez’s treatment of Kyle and his sibling, who was also under her care: both appeared thin, showed up to school without a lunch and were missing patches of hair, the complaint said.

In 2005, Kyle’s sibling was placed into protective custody because of physical abuse by Ramirez. The sibling then told CPS that Kyle suffered “physical torture, abuse and denial of the basic necessities of life,” the complaint said.

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Ramirez would not be arrested until April 2007, when Kyle was put into protective custody. Even though Ramirez was accused of abusing Kyle, she was allowed to communicate via telephone with him, according to the complaint.

In early May 2007, he was “coerced” by Ramirez to escape protective custody, and on May 9, 2007, he was “reported missing from placement,” the suit said.

He went to live at the Tracy, Calif., home of Ramirez’s friends -- the same home from which he’d escape more than 18 months later.

CPS did not report Kyle’s absence from protective custody, according to the complaint.

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While at the home in Tracy, his captors struck him with belts, a hammer and a baseball bat, according to court filings. His wounds were treated with a mix of bleach, butter and salt. He was forced to urinate and defecate on himself while chained to the fireplace, court papers said.

Ramirez and two of the captors pleaded guilty in 2010 to several felonies, including causing great bodily injury to a child. A fourth person, Anthony Waiter, was convicted of torture, aggravated mayhem, felony child abuse and false imprisonment, among other counts, and sentenced to three concurrent life terms in prison.

In a statement to the Sacramento Bee, county spokeswoman Laura McCasland said CPS has made “many policy and practice changes” since Kyle’s case.

“We are hopeful that this settlement will be beneficial to this young man,” she said.

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Kyle is now enrolled in college and plays football, according to his attorney. In a statement released through his attorney, Kyle said of his captors: “I wish them the best with where they are at in life.” He added, “I hope they find their peace.”

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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