Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The state Children, Youth and Families Department confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the death of 2-year-old Diana McGrory, as well as conducting a “critical incident review” of CYFD’s own policies and procedures with regard to this case, according to department spokesman Charlie Moore-Pabst.
Even though the child was not in CYFD custody or living in foster care at the time of her death, CYFD is investigating because “there is a reasonable suspicion that child abuse contributed to the fatality,” Moore-Pabst said.
The child was, however, in CYFD’s database, “which just means that at some point, someone called and claimed that there was a concern of abuse or neglect about the family,” he said.
The child’s aunt, Nia Garcia, told the Journal on Wednesday that she called police and CYFD dozens of times – often anonymously – over a four-year period to report abuse and neglect of Diana and her three siblings by their parents.
Garcia said the children’s mother had her issues, and her brother, Michael David Garcia, who is the children’s father, was a heavy drinker, prone to “explosive anger” and would yell at and hit the children.
However, she said she never witnessed anything to the degree of what he is accused. Michael David Garcia is charged in Diana’s death.
Nia Garcia said the 4-year-old twins and Diana were nonverbal and she believed they may be developmentally disabled, which seemed to frustrate her brother more.
Garcia said she wished CYFD had intervened sooner.
“No one listens. No one listens until something happens, and that’s what I’m mad about. It shouldn’t have taken my niece (to die); now everybody wants to do something,” she said.
Moore-Pabst said he was unable to be more specific or reveal details about any abuse or neglect claims that may have been made, or when they may have been made due to privacy provisions in the state’s Children’s Code.
CYFD’s review of its policies and procedures, he said, is now standard practice anytime CYFD initiates an investigation of a child’s death. The review, he said, is led by CYFD’s Office of the General Counsel, and the panel meets several times each week.
Moore-Pabst said the critical incident review procedure was updated under the tenure of former CYFD Secretary Brian Blalock and is intended as “due diligence to see if we missed anything in prior contacts, or if anything could have been done that may result in improved services for children in the future.”
At the time of Diana McGrory’s death, she and her three siblings were living with their father, Michael David Garcia, and his mother, Diana Garcia, both of whom have been charged in connection with the child’s death.
On Oct. 1, police were called to a mobile home in the Northeast Heights, where they found the dead child, her body covered with bruises and burns. The twins and their 5-year-old brother were subsequently examined by a doctor. The twins’ examination revealed multiple unexplained fractures, as well as bruising on their abdomens and backs. All three children are now in CYFD custody.
According to court records and police reports, Michael David Garcia and the children’s mother had a turbulent relationship since 2015 and were involved in a a lengthy custody battle. The documents chronicle a history of domestic violence by the children’s father, restraining orders granted to the mother, the mother’s noncompliance with court orders, and allegations made by both parents, each accusing the other of withholding the children from the other.
In September 2019, a judge awarded Garcia full custody of the children and issued a bench warrant for the mother after finding she violated the conditions set in an order of protection, including possibly fleeing the state and hiding the children.
“Whenever her and Mikey would get into really bad disagreements, or fighting about the babies, or how to parent or how to work as a team, (their mother) would pick up and just disappear (with the children),” Nia Garcia said.
She said the children began living with her brother full time in 2021.