Five Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services social workers are expected to give witness testimony for the upcoming trial for the murder of 4-year-old Noah Cuatro.
His parents, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr. and Ursula Elaine Juarez, are accused of torturing him for months before his July 2019 murder, according to a press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The couple was hit with murder and torture charges in January and stood before a judge on Tuesday for the fourth continuance in their indictment. Their defense had asked for the continuance until a decision has been made on whether or not grand jury transcripts from the case will be made public. The judge will make a decision on that matter this week.
Their next appearance is set for Sept. 24, when the location of the jury trial will be announced.
The trial could have an impact on Los Angeles County’s child welfare system, NBC Los Angeles anticipates. An indictment for the parents, obtained this week by Oxygen.com, lists five DCFS social workers amongst the witness list for the case. The social workers had also testified before the grand jury in this case.
A relative of slain 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was present during Tuesday’s court appearance, NBC Los Angeles reports. Noah’s death has been compared to Fernandez’s case, as seen in Netflix docuseries “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.” Both boys are from Antelope Valley and had links to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, tortured Gabriel for months before killing him in 2013.
Four social workers were prosecuted in his case, an unprecedented move, but ultimately the charges were dropped against them.
Noah’s parents originally claimed he drowned in a community pool, but investigators concluded that he was murdered, according to a motion obtained by Oxygen.com. At least one social worker knew of the alleged abuse Noah was enduring, and reportedly tried to get him out of his parents' home. Attorney Brian Claypool, who is representing Noah’s families in a civil case, has claimed that a DCFS caseworker filed a petition to have Noah removed from his parents' custody, which was granted by a judge but then "willfully ignored by DCFS."
"The Department of Children and Family Services does not comment on pending criminal matters to assure we do not inadvertently interfere with the prosecution of adults alleged to have harmed children," a spokesperson for DCFS told Oxygen.com on Wednesday. "However, it is very common for social workers to be listed as potential witnesses in criminal matters given the type of information they gather in the course of their daily work."
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