Friday, April 10, 2015

Family of murdered Bella Vista child had been investigated by DHS twice in 2014, twice more in early 2000s

Posted By and on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 4:02 PM

  • KFSM
The child fatality record maintained by the state Department of Human Services shows that DHS caseworkers had previously investigated the family of 6-year-old Maurice Isaiah Torres on multiple occasions. Isaiah Torres died on March 29, 2015 after being raped and severely physically abused while in the care of his parents, Mauricio Torres and Cathy Torres of Bella Vista. Both have been arrested on charges of capital murder, rape and first-degree battery.

A case summary briefing released by DHS shows that the agency investigated the Torres family twice in 2014. The first investigation, on Jan. 22, 2014, was into allegations of inadequate supervision. The second, March 10, 2014, included allegations that the boy had "cuts, bruises and welts." 

The summary briefing indicates DHS found the allegations unsubstantiated both times. But according to a probable cause affidavit filed by the Bella Vista Police Department in Benton County Court, an autopsy showed the child had suffered chronic abuse. His body showed multiple healed and healing wounds, along with evidence of blunt force trauma to his head and body. The final trauma occurred within 24 hours of his death. The affidavit also says Isaiah's mother eventually told police that her husband had beaten Isaiah in the past with a belt, an extension cord and his knuckles.

The affidavit also mentions that the father "stated that the injuries to Isaiah's back were caused by a chemical burn in the past and that Isaiah had been treated for the injuries at Arkansas' Children Hospital in Little Rock." A doctor confirmed that "the medical database did indicate Isaiah had been treated for some type of injury to his back by ACH in 2014," the affidavit says.

The briefing summary released by DHS also shows that the Torres family had a child or children placed in foster care from 2002 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2007. The latter case was concluded by "court action" in 2007, according to the summary, but DHS spokesperson Amy Webb said she could not provide details on what that action was because of foster care privacy rules.

When asked whether court action in a child welfare case would indicate that there had been a true finding of child maltreatment, Webb said that "it mostly likely but not always means there was a true finding." Of the two 2014 investigations, Webb said DHS protocol would have required interviews with the children involved "if possible," but that it would not necessarily have entailed a visit to the home.

Here's the document from DHS:
Briefing summary

Isaiah was homeschooled by his parents at the time of his death, but he was previously enrolled at the Ambassadors for Christ Academy in Bentonville in the 2013-14 school year, according to KNWA. At least one of the 2014 calls to the state's child maltreatment hotline was placed by someone at the school, according to a statement released yesterday by a school administrator, which said in part, "During [Isaiah's] time at the academy, DHS was hotlined with our concerns, and we are in full cooperation with all appropriate authorities at this time."

Webb said an internal review of the child's death has been conducted, and that there now will be an external review by a committee made up of pediatricians and other doctors, representatives from the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police and DHS staff.

A KFSM, Ch. 5, report on the boy's death summed up the chilling details of the case: Firefighters responding to an emergency call at the Torres home saw "heavy bruising and puncture wounds all over his body"; police later found cuts on Isaiah's head, knees and feet, besides multiple wounds on his back. A nurse told police that there was blood in the boy's rectum. Both parents told police the family had been camping and the boy had complained of a stomachache. 

On March 30, The Bella Vista Police Department conducted a search of the Torres’ home after obtaining a search warrant. Inside they discovered what appeared to be blood spatter on the walls, floor and ceiling of the master bedroom and attached bathroom, the affidavit states. Officers also found what appeared to be blood spatter on two 15 pound dumbbells found next to the bathtub, a fire poker tool on the floor by the bed, vomit on the bed and a stethoscope, according to the affidavit.

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