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Report: Omaree’s mom was also abused

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The mother accused of killing Omaree Varela late last year was, herself, a victim of abuse four years earlier.

Synthia Varela-Casaus

VARELA-CASAUS: Tried to get child support

An application for an Emergency Order of Protection, filed in state District Court on March 30, 2009, states that Synthia Varela was hit, choked, bitten and almost thrown off a balcony by Marnyle Barnes. The document also states that the baby daughter of Varela and Barnes, Neviah, was present.

Barnes was accused of striking Varela “with a full beer and bit her on the face” and “bit her fingers,” according to the application, filled out and signed by Albuquerque Police Department officer D. Richter, on March 27 and 28. It also said Barnes “choked” her while “attempting to throw her from the 2nd story balcony.”

Omaree Varela is not mentioned in the application, and it was not clear if he was in the home at the time of the incident.

Barnes later pleaded guilty to aggravated battery against a household member and other charges, according to online court records. He was sentenced to six months in jail and 30 months of supervised probation and was ordered into counseling for anger management. He apparently violated his probation, which was revoked, and he spent an additional 151 days in jail.

Nine-year-old Omaree Varela died Dec. 27, and his mother, whose name is now Synthia Varela-Casaus, told police she was disciplining the boy and “kicked him the wrong way.” She has been charged with child abuse resulting in death and is being held on a $100,00 cash-only bond.

It’s not clear where Synthia Varela’s other two children are now living, although a spokesman for the state Children, Youth and Families Department has said they were immediately removed from the home and placed in a safe environment after Omaree’s death.

In addition, petitions filed with the 2nd Judicial District show that Synthia Varela and her sister, Sylvia Marquez, each tried to recover child support, health insurance and related expenses on behalf of Omaree Varela.

Synthia Varela’s 2005 petition sought child support from Omaree’s biological father, Chris Clewis, while Marquez’s 2007 petition sought child support from Synthia. The state Human Services Department is listed as a co-petitioner on each “Petition to Determine Parent and Child Relationship.”

Both petitions were dismissed without prejudice – meaning they could be refiled – because there was no activity in the court file. The petition against Clewis was filed in June 2005 and dismissed in January 2006.

The case Marquez filed against Varela was brought in April 2007 and dismissed in April 2008. Marquez had physical custody of Omaree, but Varela was receiving public assistance for the child, according to the petition.

The petitions and the order of protection were released to KOAT-TV last week after the station requested criminal and civil documents involving Synthia Varela.

Clewis, of Dallas, told the Journal on Tuesday he had no knowledge of the petition seeking child support until his wife recently did an online search and discovered them.

“I didn’t know anything about her (Synthia Varela) asking for child support. When all this was going on I was in jail and I never got any papers on nothing. I didn’t even know she asked for child support.”

Marquez, when contacted Tuesday afternoon for comment, declined to comment but said she would call back later in the day. The Journal still hadn’t heard back from her Tuesday evening.

Synthia and Omaree Varela had been on CYFD’s radar since at least 2009. CYFD and/or APD looked into at least three complaints of physical or verbal abuse of Omaree.

Another family that helped raise Omaree Varela and his younger sister contend Omaree’s death was avoidable. They blame CYFD, which they say ordered them to return Omaree to his mother in 2011 after they had been caring for Omaree on and off for several years.

Esie Sotelo and her daughter, Shana Smith, took care of Omaree and later his younger sister, Neviah Varela, when, they allege, the biological mother’s drug abuse turned her into an absentee parent.

In September 2009, CYFD’s Protective Services Division recommended that Omaree, then 5, and sister Neviah, then 10 months old, remain in the care of Sotelo, and that the biological mother and the infant’s biological father “not take the children into their care until interviews and assessments of their caretaking ability can be completed.”


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