ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Synthia Varela-Casaus repeatedly kicked her son while he was on the floor and unconscious, according to the final investigation report from the Children, Youth and Families Department concerning the death of 9-year-old Omaree Varela last December.
The two-page report released Thursday also states that CYFD “is initiating court proceedings to terminate parental rights” to Omaree’s two younger siblings, who are currently in “temporary placement.”
According to the report, Varela-Casaus placed the unconscious child in a bath tub with ice on his head and waited 30 minutes before calling 911. By the time police and paramedics arrived, Omaree was cold and unresponsive.
Like the previously released autopsy report, the CYFD narrative also states that Omaree was transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where other injures were found on his body, including “what appeared to be cigarette burns to the chest and face, bite marks on his arms and bruising above his genitals.”
According to the final report, the mother at first maintained that Omaree’s 2-year-old brother “pushed him off a tall, bouncy spring horse,” causing the child to hit his head on the tile floor and “knocking him unconscious.” Varela-Casaus later admitted to police officers that she “kicked Omaree into a dresser, causing him to hit his head on the floor.”
It wasn’t until the autopsy report was released in late March that it was learned CYFD had nine previous referrals about Omaree and his family, but only two of them were substantiated.
As a direct result of the Omaree Varela case, Gov. Susana Martinez ordered an intensive review of how CYFD works with families and law enforcement agencies where abuse or neglect allegations have been made.
In early April, the governor announced a series of reforms for the agency that included better communication and a timely exchange of information between case workers and law enforcement; the creation of child advocacy centers around the state; supervisory level review of families who have had multiple CYFD investigations; and the hiring of more social workers and better pay for them.
CYFD’s final investigation report into Omaree’s death also “substantiated” physical abuse of the child by his mother and stepfather, Estevan Casaus (identified in subsequent police, court and jail documents as Steve or Stephen Casaus); that there was physical neglect and lack of supervision of Omaree and his two siblings by the parents; and that there was medical neglect of Omaree by his mother.
Both Synthia Varela-Casaus and Steve Casaus have been indicted in connection with the death of Omaree Varela and are currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center. Steve Casaus has also been indicted on a variety of drug trafficking charges.
CYFD’s involvement does not end with this report, said agency spokesman Henry Varela, no relation. The Protective Services Division “will continue to monitor the criminal proceedings regarding this case and, upon request, will continue to provide law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office with any needed assistance in ensuring that those responsible for Omaree’s death are held accountable.”