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Foster caregivers named in wrongful death suit

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in Bernalillo County District Court in the death of 4-month-old Savanna Smith.

Savanna was in foster care under the supervision of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department at the time of her death on June 2, 2017.

“It’s sadly another story of a child who is very, very vulnerable being placed by the state in an unsafe substitute care environment,” said Michael Hart, one of the attorneys who filed the suit on behalf of Savanna’s estate. “In this case, it was an even less safe environment.”

The lawsuit accuses defendants Jeremy G. Sanchez and Cassandra M. Sanchez of “reckless, careless and indifferent” conduct when the child was in their care. Roxanne Sanchez is also named as a defendant. The three are Bernalillo County residents.

According to the lawsuit, Savanna had been in state custody since March 2017. She was initially placed in the home of Roxanne Sanchez, who was licensed by the state to provide foster care.

CYFD later placed her in the home of Jeremy Sanchez and Cassandra Sanchez. She was assigned a case worker who was responsible for home visits.

According to the suit, Jeremy Sanchez gave Savanna a bottle in her crib on the day of her death. It alleges he propped the bottle with an adult-sized pillow, and left her there with the pillow and the bottle as he went back to sleep.

According to the lawsuit, Jeremy and Cassandra Sanchez got up and checked on Savanna. They found Savanna “unresponsive, with bluish skin and vomit mixed with blood in and around her nose,” according to the suit.

Savanna was pronounced dead by the Office of the Medical Investigator. The lawsuit did not state the cause of death.

The lawsuit was filed in 2nd Judicial District Court by Dennis Murphy as personal representative on behalf of the child’s estate.

The suit seeks compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages.

No attorneys had entered their appearances on any of the defendants’ behalf at the time the lawsuit was filed.

Hart said he couldn’t say why Roxanne Sanchez was named as a defendant, noting he had to be “delicate” with what is in the CYFD files.

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