‘Failing Leland’ package in Sunday’s paper

Posted: February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Again, sorry I’ve sort of neglected the blog this past week. Julie Ann Grimm and I have been working on a series of stories, info boxes, Q&As and other info for a Sunday package looking into some different aspects of the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department and the several missed opportunities for intervention that could have stopped the tragic death of Leland Valdez.

It includes info from our sit down interview with Gov. Susana Martinez, details of past substantiated abuse cases against a CYFD worker who handled a past Leland abuse investigation, details of how the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office dropped the ball and never forwarded their past abuse report to the DAs office for possible criminal charges six months before Leland was killed and some historical benchmarks about child care in the state over the past 20 years. There is a lot of info, and probably a ton left untold on the issues facing the state in regards to this topic.

We also book-end the past two decades with two eerily similar tragedies:

  • The 1991 beating death in Santa Fe of 15-month-old Chelsea Giron by her mother’s live-in boyfriend who initially told doctors she fell and later pleaded guilty to abuse resulting in death before a lengthy prison sentence. That case had past abuse allegations that were never acted on and led to the demotion of two employees of the state’s Human Services Department and the secretary of that department acknowledging they dropped the ball in the case. The state’s Children, Youth and Families Department was created in 1992.
  • The 2011 beating death in Pojoaque of 3-year-old Leland Valdez in which his mother (Tabetha Van Holtz) and her live-in boyfriend (Steven Gallegos) are now charged with abuse resulting in death and face potential 18-year prison sentences. There were past abuse allegations that CYFD and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department looked into, but to no avail. Two CYFD workers are on paid administrative leave now and a sheriff’s detective may face disciplinary action.

I should start getting back to much more regular, daily updates of this blog again now.

  1. fred stokes says:

    Glad to see the New Mexican doing an in-depth report on something.

    ***Two CYFD workers are in paid administrative leave now and a sheriff’s detective may face disciplinary action.***

    The disparities in the two responses are interesting. I assume that you will follow up on what happens to the deputy.

    If we are to believe what was reported in the Journal, it sounds like Ron Madrid lied to us. I get a little tired of lies from Santa Fe County officials. I hope you follow up on this also.

  2. geoffgrammer says:

    Fred, I will certainly follow the Sheriff’s internal investigation and let you know what happens.

    I will say Ron Madrid’s initial responses that there wasn’t sufficient evidence at the time to file charges isn’t necessarily wrong. They took a report from Andrew Valdez and forwarded the investigation to a detective, who was supposed to forward the case to the DA. There was nothing they found, at least in the initial deputy’s interview, that would have allowed them to file charges, primarily because they didn’t witness any abuse.

    So the Sheriff’s Office, without ever seeing the evidence, probably never could have filed charges without the DA signing off on it.

    Which is why they dropped the ball in not getting those reports to the DA for possible presentation to the grand jury. The Sheriff’s Office absolutely dropped the ball in that regard and acknowledge they “screwed up” according to sheriff Robert Garcia.

    Them getting their case in the right hands at the DA could have possible led to charges, which would have stopped the chain of events that led to Leland being placed back in his mother’s custody.

    Geoff Grammer

    • geoffgrammer says:

      None of that, however, is to imply the Sheriff’s Office didn’t drop the ball big time here. It was a ridiculous mistake they made and one that could have stopped the chain of events that led to a child’s death.

      Geoff Grammer

  3. anamerican says:

    What is unfortunate is that this author’s bias so clouds his “reporting”. Journalism seems lost when I read something as obtuse as this article. Nearly two decades in service and this author points out two incidents in as bleak and blanketing a fashion as he has. I can’t imagine how many needless child deaths there would be without CYFD. No one reports on that because they can’t. The children and families that are rescued from domestic violence and tragedy are entitled by law to privacy. One child dead at the hands of abuse is too much, but to capitalize on an ignorant and angry public for the sake of being read is the epitome of “selling out”. It is the most brilliant display of an unprofessional “reporter” that one can imagine.

  4. Republican cop says:

    To the An American who wrote that the story in the paper this weekend wasnt good because jeff “sold out” was what you said? WTF are you talking about? You say he shouldn’t write about two kid murders because it isn’t fair to CYFD – an agency that has been screwed up for years? Why would you come to a blog called santa Fe crime and tell a crime reporter not to write about two murders? What do you think a crime reporter’s job is supposed to be? You want happy stories about CYFD then write one. There are a lot of hard workers there I’ve worked with over the years buyt there are problems too and that is what journalists are supposed to do is to tell people when there are porblems that helpd lead to a kid being killed. There were a bunch of readers telling jeff on the story’s comments that the New Mexican is too pro-democrat and that is true, but to criticise jeff who is a crime reporter for writing about to murders really shows you are an idiot and don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Jeff, I don’t always like what the New mexican writes, but this was a great article. Keep up the good work.

  5. anamericansupporter says:

    I have to say that I agree with “anamerican’s” position, though maybe not clearly understood. I disagree that the position was that the story should not be written, as “Republican Cop” interpreted it. I don’t think that’s what they said at all. The real message I took away, and agreed with, was what appeared to be the perceived bias of the reporter toward CYFD. And unfortunately not just Geoff, but by the general public. CYFD doesn’t always get it right, and this is a prime example of that. But to express such disdain toward the entire system is obtuse. CYFD is at the root of every complaint … they’ve either done too much, or done too little. And the family’s right to privacy results in the public never hearing, seeing, or knowing about the families and children who benefit from the work that CYFD does. Insofar as CYFD having failed this child and this family, I agree wholeheartedly. Insofar as CYFD being the cause of this child’s death, I disagree completely. With regards to the media, I agree that the reporting could be more objective, and I don’t necessarily mean Geoff specifically, but in general this is my perception of the local media. They incite public condemnation when they are less than objective. And when they do this intentionally for ratings and readers, that’s “selling out”. I won’t suggest that that was or wasn’t Geoff’s intention; I don’t know that.

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