Updates on the investigation into the beating death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy

Agents Found Evidence of Abuse Months Before Baldwin Park Toddler's Death

The 21-month-old's father has been charged with murder

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    NEWSLETTERS

    David Vasquez, of Baldwin Park, has been charged with the murder of his 21-month-old son, Joshua. New documents released by the county detail a child abuse investigation conducted more than a year before the toddler died. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 27, 2013. (Published Thursday, Jun 27, 2013)

    Child protective case workers intervened to remove a physically abused baby from a Baldwin Park home 16 months before the child died and his father was charged with his murder, according to county files obtained by NBC4.

    The trauma death of 21-month-old Joshua Vasquez follows that of a Palmdale child, 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, whose care had also been investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Gabriel’s mother and boyfriend have been charged with his torture murder.

    DCFS provided access Thursday to the Vazquez files, with some redactions, in response to NBC4's request pursuant to SB39 guidelines.

    The documents revealed that DCFS was first called to the Vasquez household a year ago February, after Joshua, then 5 months old, suffered a leg fracture. Within a three-week period, DCFS conducted three assessments of the situation.

    "Serious injury or abuse to child other than accidental," was reported in a DCFS "Safety Assessment" dated Feb. 26, 2012.

    "Caregiver's explanation for the injury to the child is questionable or inconsistent..." was also marked "yes" on the assessment checklist.

    The reported safety decision: "One or more safety threats are present, and placement is the only protecting intervention possible."

    A risk assessment conducted on the same day concluded "the final risk level is: Very High."

    A Family Strengths and Needs Assessment, dated March 13, 2012, revealed the "child was detained from parents due to allegations of general neglect and physical abuse. DCFS is recommending the parents enroll in parenting classes and individual counseling to address case issues."

    Three instances of general neglect and three of physical abuse were found to be "substantiated," stated a 2013 document in the file.

    What the released documents did not reveal is when Joshua was returned to the household. The documents indicate there were no further reports of abuse until Joshua's death on June 12.

    Joshua was brought to Citrus Valley Hospital by his father Daniel Vazquez, 32, and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

    The DCFS files cite several sources whose names were redacted in the released documents. One "caller" indicated that on the morning of the June 12, the toddler "was in his father's care at home while mother was at work."

    According to that source and another, the father said the child was injured falling off his bed.
    Joshua "fell from the bed onto a toy that was on the carpeted floor...cried, and then had seizure-like activity," according to one account given the DCFS.

    In the narrative attributed to the caller, Joshua "became unresponsive, pulseless, and was not breathing. Father indicated that it took him '20 minutes from the time he fell to the time he (father) realized he needed help.'"

    At the hospital, Joshua "was found to have patterned red marks to his head and contusions and/or bruises to his chest, right side of the abdomen, and lower left leg."

    David Vazquez did not enter a plea at his first court appearance. His arraignment was continued until July 10, and he remains in custody.

    The mother in the Palmdale case, Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her companion Isauro Aguirre, 32, have entered not guilty pleas.

    In that case, Gabriel Fernandez had been named as the victim in repeated reports of abuse made to DCFS in the months before his death. The 8-year-old boy was found not breathing and suffering from a fractured skull, several broken ribs and burns on his body.

    "This is a case that ought not to have occurred," Michael Antonovich, member of the LA County Board of Supervisors, said of Fernandez’s torture death.

    DCFS Director Phillip Browning has expressed regret the system was unable to save Gabriel. Tuesday, Supervisors approved the appointment of a commission to propose fixes and examine what became of previously proposed reforms.

    The documents in the Vasquez file indicate only the one previous report of abuse, and that the case had been closed before his death.

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