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Lawsuit filed by father of slain toddler alleges Colorado Springs police failed to report abuse

February 5, 2016 Updated: February 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm
photo - Danny with his father, Luis Martinez, who filed the lawsuit. Photo provided by Luis Martinez
Danny with his father, Luis Martinez, who filed the lawsuit. Photo provided by Luis Martinez 

A slain toddler could have been spared "weeks of ongoing torture" had Colorado Springs police pursued repeated requests for help by the father's family, according to a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.  

The allegations involve the case of Luis Daniel "Danny" Juarez Molina, a 2 1/2-year-old Colorado Springs boy who authorities say died Jan. 17, three days after he was allegedly beaten unconscious by his mother's boyfriend, Raul Alvarado.

For six weeks leading up to his death, police ignored requests to investigate the boy's injuries, according to the lawsuit, filed Dec. 27 in El Paso County District Court by the child's father. The suit alleges that police failed to comply with state laws requiring them to report abuse allegations to El Paso County child welfare workers.

Had they done so, "Danny would not likely have suffered the brutal death that he suffered, as well as the weeks of ongoing torture and abuse that preceded it," the family's attorney, Josh Deere, said in the 12-page complaint.

The civil action comes after "decades" of systemic failures in communication between police and child welfare workers, the suit says - a problem found to be a contributing factor in at least two Colorado Springs two child abuse deaths in the past six years.

The lawsuit names the city of Colorado Springs and Justin Carricato, the investigating officer, as defendants. According to a legal filing, the family is seeking a monetary judgment of at least $100,000.

The city has asked a judge to toss the lawsuit, saying it satisfied its legal obligations and that Officer Carricato exercised "good faith" in probing abuse allegations.

On Monday, Colorado Springs City Council is scheduled to hear a request to provide legal representation for Carricato, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley said the department does not comment on pending litigation. A woman who answered the phone at the City Attorney's Office referred questions to the city's communications staff, who declined to comment.

The child's father, Luis Antonio Juarez Martinez, shared split custody of Danny with the boy's mother, Mayra Juarez-Martinez.

Under the parenting arrangement, the father or the child's grandmother would pick up Danny at the police Sand Creek substation on Thursdays and return him to a representative of the mother's family on Sundays.

In November 2014, the boy's grandmother, Blanca Martinez, began noticing "signs of physical violence on Danny," including marks, bruises and bite marks.

On the first Saturday in December, Luis Juarez Martinez told a front desk attendant that he suspected Danny was being abused while under the care of his mother and that he didn't want to hand his son back over to her.

"The attendant told Luis that he had no choice because he was under a court order," the complaint alleged, stating that the father was also threatened with arrest should he fail to comply.

The father was not permitted to make a police report. Instead, he was directed to file for divorce and seek a custody hearing, the suit says.

Over the next three weeks, Luis Juarez Martinez or his mother would show the boy's injuries to a desk worker each time they stopped in for an exchange. The family also showed photos they took to document the abuse. In each case, they were instructed to continue complying with the custody order, and no further action was taken.

On Christmas Day, the father was so concerned about a fresh round of injuries that he "insisted" that police make an official report, the suit alleges. He was told to go home and call 911, which he did.

Officer Carricato responded later in the day and took photographs of the boy and interviewed his father.

Though he pledged to investigate further, Carricato made one brief phone call to the child's mother.

"Neither Officer Carricato nor anyone else with CSPD ever went to Mayra's house, spoke with Alvarado, had any further meetings with Danny or Luis, or did anything else to investigate the matter," the suit alleges.

The father dropped Danny off at the police station for the last time on Jan. 10. Four days later, the child was admitted to Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado after an assault consistent with "being thrown against a wall."

Luis suffered severe brain trauma, a lacerated liver, and bruising "from head to toe," including a 6-inch-by-six inch bruise on his back.

After a surgery to remove part of his skull in an effort to control swelling, he was transferred to Children's Hospital Colorado, where he died under care.

Alvarado, who prosecutors say confessed to a fellow El Paso County jail inmate that he once beat the boy with brass knuckles, is due for a June 1 trial on charges of first-degree murder. Mayra Juarez-Martinez, 23, pleaded guilty in October to failure to intervene in the abuse. She was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.

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