LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: A couple, who had claimed that their 4-year-old son had drowned in a pool last year, have been charged with murder and torture. Authorities also alleged that the boy, identified as Noah Cuatro, was sexually assaulted by his father before he was murdered.
Noah died in a hospital in July, one day after his parents reported that they found him motionless in their apartment complex swimming pool, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday. Prosecutors said that the child’s father Jose Maria Cuatro Jr. is facing additional charges of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration with a child under the age of 10. While the mother, Ursula Elaine Juarez, has also been charged with child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death.
The child’s parents allegedly began torturing him in April 2019 and the abuse lasted for at least four months. They allegedly killed him on July 5 at their Palmdale apartment, the same day Cuatro has been accused of sexually assaulting his son.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that authorities began an investigation into Noah’s suspicious death after hospital staffers found injuries inconsistent with drowning and indicated possible abuse. Officials also said that a coroner determined Noah’s death as a homicide.
The 4-year-old had been placed in foster care previously and was in his parents and his great-grandmother Eva Hernandez’s custody on an alternating base. Hernandez, after the arrest of the couple, revealed that her great-grandson had pleaded to stay with her before he was removed from her care.
Noah was last seen in June by social workers, according to the Los Angeles Times. A month before their last visit, the Department of Children and Family Services had sought a court order to remove the child from his parent’s home. They had reportedly received a tip that Noah had possibly been sexually assaulted. Noah reportedly died two weeks after social workers sought a 30-day continuance to keep investigating the claim, according to the outlet.
Cuatro, if convicted, faces up to 47 years to life in prison while Juarez could receive up to 32 years of prison sentence. A bail of $4 million and $3 million have also been recommended for the couple by prosecutors.