GREELEY, Colo. — Colorado’s child ombudsman confirms he’s investigating the deaths of two Greeley boys who share one thing in common, their relatives don’t think Weld County’s Department of Human Services did enough to protect them.
“Nobody wants kids to be hurt,” said Ombusdman Dennis Goodwin. He told FOX31 his office is reviewing the death of 2-year-old Michael Lara Junior from May 13 and 4-month-old Donovan Chavez on August 2.
Chavez’s death remains under investigation but Greeley police said the boy had “visible injuries” when he died.
Numerous relatives of the baby told FOX31 that Weld County’s Department of Human Services had closed out its child welfare case against the baby’s mom two days before he died.
The boy’s two parents, Angelica Archuleta and Nathan Chavez were both with him visiting the child’s paternal grandmother when the grandmother called 911 to report Chavez wasn’t breathing.
“I was more upset that the mom Angelica texted me just to tell me Donovan had stopped breathing instead of picking up the phone and calling 911,” said the boy’s aunt Elizabeth Velasquez.
She and another aunt, Antoinette Durant, both said they had called Child Protection Services numerous times about the parenting skills of Angelica Archuleta.
“They should`ve taken the kids right away, I mean we`ve told them about her, her use, her drinking, we`ve told them. I`ve called myself like three orfour times,” said Durant.
The two aunts said Child Protection Services investigated Archuleta for 60 days but decided Archuleta no longer needed supervision from social workers just two days before Donovan died.
“They failed the baby, that`s how I feel. Maybe if they would`ve really done something this baby would still be alive,” said Durant.
The death of baby Donovan haunts a father who never knew the 4-month-old. When Michael Lara Senior learned about Chavez’s death his first thought was, “They let another one die. They let another one die. This time, they had way more involvement then I could ever have asked for or imagined.”
Michael Lara Senior had made a child protection referral to the Weld County Department of Human Services one month before his son died from child abuse in May of this year.
Death of 2-year-old Michael Lara Jr.
“If they would`ve come in and made a quick contact, took some information of who was living in that house, ran some criminal history yeah, they would`ve seen the neglect and the child abuse,” said Lara Senior, who is furious his referral wasn’t investigated.
The Weld County District Attorney’s Office charged John Melvin White with Michael Lara Junior’s murder. He was living with the boy’s mother at the time and was the only adult home with the 2-year-old when police said the injuries occurred.
The arrest affidavit said the victim had “Significant injuries including old and new bruising to his head, bruising down his back, burns to his face and neck, and a significant injury to his penis.”
The boy’s father said he was concerned about his son’s welfare for weeks because his ex-girlfriend had stopped letting his relatives see Lara Junior and he said she was ignoring a visitation agreement, so that Lara Senior could see his son on weekends.
When Michael Lara Senior’s mother was finally allowed to see her grandson last April over Easter weekend she noticed a significant bruise on the boy’s chest.
She took a photo and shared it with her adult son Lara Senior, who immediately filed an online report with Weld County’s Child Protection Services.
But according to a document obtained by the FOX31 Problem Solvers, Weld County’s Child Protection Services declined to investigate “due to lack of information on how the bruise occurred.”
Looking back on his son’s murder, Lara Senior shakes his head in disgust when he thinks of Weld County’s Child Protection Services, “Could`ve prevented my son`s death. He could be here sitting with me today.”
The Director of Weld County’s Department of Human Services declined to speak with FOX31. Instead the County’s Public Information Officer, Jennifer Fitch sent the FOX31 Problem Solvers an email that reads, “Pursuant to the requirements of C.R.S. §19-1-307(2), we are unable to respond to your questions regarding specific dependency and neglect records and information.”
But Colorado’s Child Ombudsman Dennis Goodwin promises to review both cases and make recommendations if he finds social workers could’ve done more.
“Were the decisions to close the case appropriate or not?” is what Goodwin said he’ll investigate.
“It`s not going to bring my son back, but this is going to stop, this has to stop,” said Lara Senior.