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Noah Cuatro parents receive potential life sentences


2019 torture-murder of son

The parents of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy were sentenced this week to potential life prison terms for the July 2019 torture-murder of their son.

Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., 32, was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison, while Ursula Elaine Juarez, 30, received 22 years to life for Noah Cuatro's death, which was initially reported as a drowning.

On March 29, Cuatro pleaded no contest to one count each of first-degree murder and torture, and Juarez pleaded no contest to one count each of second-degree murder and torture.

As part of their plea deal, both defendants waived their appellate rights.

The two reported a drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S around 4 p.m. on July 5, 2019.

The youngster was taken first to Palmdale Regional Medical Center and then to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead the next day.

Then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the following week that an investigation was underway into the boy's death. The sheriff said Noah lived with his parents and three siblings, who were taken into protective custody.

The boy's great-grandmother, Evangelina Hernandez, subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County on behalf of herself and the boy's sister and two brothers, alleging that his death occurred after multiple reports of abuse had already been made to the Department of Children and Family Services.

“Instead of protecting Noah and his siblings, DCFS continued to place the children with their abusive parents, where the children continued to be abused over the course of several years,'' the suit alleges.

After Noah's death, DCFS social workers made threats against Hernandez “in an attempt to silence her,'' the lawsuit alleges.

The social workers told Hernandez that if she made any public statements about Noah's case and/or potential lawsuits, she would lose her request for guardianship of her other three great-grandchildren and would never see them again, the suit states.

Pasadena-based Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services was also named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit, which alleges the agency knew of or suspected the abuse and misconduct occurring in Noah's home after the boy was sent to the agency by DCFS for mental health services, but failed to report it.

Hathaway-Sycamores has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

“Noah's death was tragic and we all mourn his passing,'' Hathaway-Sycamores CEO Debbie Manners said in a statement. “However, as we have clearly stated in the past, Sycamores had no knowledge of any abuse impacting Noah and also did not provide services to him while he was living with his parents. Sycamores is not involved in this criminal matter and we have aggressively denied any liability related to ongoing civil litigation connected to the case.''