By Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel
January 21, 2011
TAVARES — When he finally died from a fractured skull, 14-month-old Blake Rupe had injuries like a motorcycle daredevil's.
A partially healed crack in his collarbone. Busted ribs. Old fractures in both arms. A broken thighbone. But the blond-haired baby boy hadn't been in a wreck. His mother's live-in boyfriend said he fell out of a playpen.
As prosecutors in Lake County prepare a first-degree-murder case against the boyfriend, David Tatara, 29, lawyers for Blake's biological father say blame for the 2008 tragedy also ought to fall on the state Department of Children and Families, Family Services of Metro Orlando and other child-welfare agencies charged with protecting the boy and his sister, Stacy, now 4 1/2.
"There were so many red flags that were ignored or overlooked in this case," said Gainesville lawyer Stephen K. Miller, who recently sued the agencies on behalf of the dad, Brian Fore, 24. "Nothing anyone can do now will bring that baby boy back, but we are going to do all we can do to ensure that DCF and its contracted agencies never let this happen again to any other child."
The lawsuit, the prosecutor's murder file and newly released DCF documents shed more light on the boy's death, which led the child-protection agency to acknowledge its failures in the family's case.
"We do not know if we could have saved this child's life, but we had an obligation to do so much more for this family," DCF's Central Region Director John Cooper wrote in an e-mail to his staff after the boy's death. "The job of a child protective investigator or case manager is paramount; it is also one that is most difficult."
Blake died Dec. 17, 2008, as a result of physical abuse, police say, at the hands of Tatara, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Tatara's lawyer Donald Lykkebak would not comment.
Child-protective agencies had been involved with Blake's mother, Emmalee Fore, now 23, since she herself was a baby, born to a 13-year-old girl. Her first encounter with DCF as a mother occurred in 2007 when the agency looked into complaints that she let her 2-year-old daughter play with a poisonous snake and left her to roll off a countertop after a bath.
As a product of the state's foster-care system, Fore did not know what "normal" parenting was, said Miller, who questioned why DCF and its partners did not track the family more carefully. The lawsuit alleges negligence and carelessness, accusing the agencies of failing to thoroughly investigate repeated abuse reports.
After Blake's death, the agencies also questioned themselves publicly, which may help prevent future tragedies but which also made them an easier lawsuit target, said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
"They did not hide in a bunker, which is what they used to do," he said of DCF. "They attempted to identify their mistakes, even at the risk of having them used against them. But admitting your mistakes is not enough — you also have to learn from them."
DCF insists it has.
"There were procedures and protocols in place, but individual breakdowns and delays failed to offer this family the level of support they required," DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said. "Our agency as well as our partner agencies had an opportunity to improve and mitigate the issues that brought this family to our attention and possibly prevent the terrible outcome — it was not our best work."
In January 2008, when the family lived in Kissimmee, DCF had opened a child-abuse case after the boy, then 4 months old, arrived at Osceola Regional Medical Center with a bloody mouth and bruises on his face.
The mother hypothesized that the baby's sister had jumped on him. Doctors suspected someone had shoved something into the 4-month-old's mouth, but child-protection officials minimized the injuries, according to the agency's review.
DCF later concluded that it should have sought to involve a court, which would have added a layer of supervision and could have required the family — including Tatara — to participate in parenting classes and other programs.
In April 2008, according to DCF records, Tatara called a caseworker to report that Blake, then 8 months old, came home from day care with bruises on his face. The caseworker did not check on the boy for 10 days.
By then, the bruises were healed.
A month later, a review of Blake's case by Family Services of Metro Orlando found "significant concerns" and tagged the situation as "high risk," citing his unexplained injuries. A DCF lawyer drafted a petition asking a judge in Osceola to oversee the case, but the document inexplicably was never filed.
Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012
1:46 PM EDT
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David Tatara sentenced to life in prison in death of 15-month-old Blake Rupe
December 22, 2011|By Joseph Freeman, Orlando Sentinel
TAVARES — Emmalee Fore goes to sleep at night with a stuffed teddy bear. Pulled over its top is a sweater once belonging to her toddler son, Blake Rupe.
"That's all I have left," she told Circuit Judge Mark Nacke this week before the sentencing of David Tatara, who was found guilty last month of second-degree murder in the death of Blake.
Tatara was sentenced at the Lake County Judicial Center to life in prison.
When Nacke handed down the sentence to Tatara, 30, for the December 2008 death of the 15-month-old, relatives of Blake seated in the courtroom let out a collective sigh of relief and briefly clapped. The small outburst came at the end of a tragedy that sparked an internal probe at the state Department of Children & Families. Two case workers and a supervisor involved with the family were fired in the aftermath.
Before the sentencing, Fore spoke haltingly about the life her son would have lived had he grown up to be a man.
"Blake would have gotten his drivers license, he would have gone to school, he would have found somebody to love him," Fore said.
Tatara, who was Fore's live-in boyfriend, said Blake was fatally injured in an accidental fall from a playpen that tipped onto the tile flooring of their home in Tavares.
Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross rejected the claim, arguing to jurors that Tatara, an electrician, lost his temper after a bad day at work and assaulted Blake because the boy wouldn't stop crying for his mother. Blake had a fractured skull and two broken ribs.
During the trial, Gross used a "crash-test" dummy to demonstrate to jurors that the playpen did not tip over.
In his long career as a prosecutor, Gross said few cases have affected him so deeply. He didn't hold back in court, pointing out that something was missing from a letter Tatara wrote about his bond with family.
"He doesn't say, I'm sorry for having killed a little boy."
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 4:06 AM
It took city officials five months to confirm what neighbors suspected immediately: 3-year-old Caleb Rivera was a murder victim.
“I had an idea,” said Nikki Whatley, 39, who performed CPR on the gaunt little boy outside their East Harlem apartment building last August.
“I still see that boy’s eyes in my nightmare and in my dreams,” said Whatley, the mother of four. “That boy was lifeless when I got to him.”
Caleb’s death was declared a homicide Friday after the city medical examiner determined he was killed by multiple blows to the head and neck.
The boy’s mother, who was in their apartment with two men when Caleb was mortally injured, insisted she had no idea who was to blame for her son’s killing.
“I am not talking to anybody about anything,” mom Alexandra Guzman said from behind the door of her apartment on Friday. “I am not giving up anything. Why are you harassing me?”
Asked specifically who killed little Caleb Rivera, the mother answered, “Nobody. It was — have a good day. Nobody. That is the only answer you’ll get from me.”
Construction worker Adrian Rivera, 24, the child’s father, said he’s suspected for months that Guzman was hiding something.
“He was a happy healthy baby and I loved my baby,” he said. “They should both go to jail. I want to know: Did he do this and then she covered up? If the police won’t do something, I will.”
Rivera said after he and Guzman broke up, she barred him from seeing Caleb. He said he begged her to bring the baby to his mother’s house. “She wouldn’t. I texted her the week before (Caleb died): ‘Please bring me my baby.’ She said she was good where she was. She wouldn’t bring him to me, and then this happened.”
April, Child Abuse Awareness month, has passed. It went by without any comment from the Director of Social Services, Ted Myers (“…blood is thicker than water…”, or attorney Andrew Wolf, (“…we do the legally correct thing…”).
interviews with Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV a few of years ago on the question
raised by a Ventura County Star editorial regarding the whereabouts of Mario,
these gentlemen, in making the above statements, attempted to explain why Social Service workers,
and an a child advocate attorney advocate and/or permit the re-unification of
an abused child with its abuser(s). Mario was a toddler beaten into a coma by his mother. Social workers reunified Mario with his mother even though he continued to be abused.
We have heard, and continue to hear, numerous times that Social Services’ purpose is to protect children from abuse. The child’s advocate in Court is supposed to also protect their right to freedom from abuse. Neither succeeds.
And the reason they do not is revealed by their statements. Their hands are tied. Mr. Wolf is correct, re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, never mind that questions of ethics and morality are raised by the re-unification of a person who lacks love and parenting skills with a child who is helpless to speak for or defend himself.
And, yes, though it is a convenient and telling euphemism, blood is thicker than water. It merely goes to prove the point that a tiny human feels a craving for and needs love from the only caregiver it has known from birth. Though the child bonds, the adult may not want to or cannot commit to a responsibility.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, saw the tragedies brought about by the abuse of children. They saw not only the physical and emotional effects, but also acknowledged that deaths of children were sometimes the outcome of such conduct. They further saw the financial toll upon society, not only for the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries, but upon the fact that some of these children become a financial burden rather than positive contributors to society. As Congress does best they began the battle against child abuse by passing laws, in this case, Title 42 of the United States Code, Chapter 67, Section 5106a.
This released money to fund Social Services and created responsibilities to fund programs. It created a confidentiality clause to protect not only the child’s identity and reputation but also that of the abuser. It required every State to pass a law saying that re-unification of the abused with its abuser was not required. But it also stated that despite a parent or caregiver having killed or assaulted a child the State (read as Judge), could, on a case by case basis, reunify a child of the sibling with the killer or abuser. Congress sat back; it had passed a law to protect children.
words, blood is thicker than water and re-unification is the legally correct
thing to do, regardless of what further injuries the
child will suffer.
I recently attended a meeting where I listened to
gut-wrenching stories from adults who feared for the safety of their children
who were reporting sexual crimes against them by family members. As the founder of The Children’s Wall of
Tears™, these stories are not new to me as I hear hundreds of cases each year.
Recently Leo and I visited the great city of Oklahoma and toured the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. Without a doubt, this memorial strengthened our faith in the American people, our patriotism and our feelings against terrorism. We could not help but walk away from this great monument with a passion that undoubtedly carved our futures. Throughout our tour of the memorial we could not help but think about the 168 lives lost in this horrific event. There was one particular photo on the wall of the daycare center showing children that were signed-in that fateful day. It haunts us. What madman would callously murder innocent children, let alone adults?
We read every sign and studied every photo in the museum. We were overwhelmed with sadness and rage at the very same time. We began to systematically think about terrorism and what it really means and how it affects our lives.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terroization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Terrorism begins with creating a fear within the victim and escalates quickly to injury and in many cases death. Until September 11, 2001, few Americans were aware that terror existed beyond that seen on movies or on TV. After 911, we became aware of our vulnerability to suffering at the hands of people who find it acceptable to inflict pain on innocent people without blinking an eye. The bombing in Oklahoma City traumatized this great nation. We were forced to face the anxiety of knowing that at any time, in any place, violence can strike, and in that respect, we are now victims of terrorism.
While we feel a deep sadness for the victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the plane crash in Pennsylvania and their families and the Oklahoma City Bombing and their families, who have lived to suffer the devastating pain of the loss of a loved one, we began to think about the children here in the United States who live under this anxiety every day. How did we overlook their terrorism? Most call it child abuse. We call it child cruelty.
In child’s world, violence comes not at the hands of politically motivated extremists, but from their parents or caregivers. Suffering comes not from weapons of mass destruction, but fists, belts, scalding water, locked in dark closets, and cruel words. Attacks are not a rare occurrence, but a daily reality. Knowing that it is coming is the epitome of terrorism especially since a child is incapable of defending himself and does not know where to turn to avoid the torture and pain of neglect or abuse.
We kept thinking about the fact that while we watched news coverage of buildings crumbling and thousands of terrified, innocent people running for their lives, young spirits are being crushed at the hands of heartless adults with no high-profile media coverage to spark a country to awareness and action. Yes, we occasionally see, hear and read of young victims being abused or killed, but, few people are moved to act. The usual response to such news is an “…Oh, no!...” statement, and then on to breaking news.
While troops of rescue workers sift through debris in a desperate attempt to recover victims, young children are cowering in corners after yet another merciless beating, wondering if anyone cares enough to rescue them. While an entire nation mourns for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City Bombing, abused children continue to suffer horrifically with no tears of sadness shed on their behalf. Is it apathy on the part of the general public? Apparently so. we don’t see any great rush of humanity at the breaking story of another child being beaten or killed. Nor do we see more than platitudes from public officials or legislators. Yes, you will hear comments that such and such should be investigated. You hear that so and so is understaffed, overworked, and over whelmed but you do not hear from the front line workers who deal with child abuse on a daily basis.
For the past 25 years, we have been working to increase America’s awareness to the horrors of child cruelty and to bring the reality of the unimaginable level of physical and mental suffering these children deal with to the forefront.
We have written numerous commentaries and letters to the editors of newspapers and given speeches and talks to various groups and organizations. We have spoken in Washington, D.C. before a distinguished group of professionals and even sponsored a law in the California Legislature to provide computerized criminal history to child protective service workers so that they do not reunify the child with criminals. Unfortunately, that law failed in the appropriations department. Apparently $50,000 for the entire State of California is not worth protecting children. We have spent anguished hours over the opposition we have received and welcomed the pats on the back. But, child cruelty continues and children continue to live the daily terror awaiting the next blow.
Statistics show that everyday, scores of children are terrorized by abusive parents and that list continues to grow each year. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Every 5 hours a child is killed. In cold, hard terms that means that every day a small hand is held over a flame, an infant is dipped in scalding water, a child is forced to swallow household cleansers, an empty stomach grumbles while parents eat, a terrified toddler trembles in a dark, locked closet, a tiny arm is broken, a life comes to a premature end. The scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were difficult to look at, but, they can’t compare to the scenes that flash in front of the small eyes of an abused child.
I leave it to you to decide if a child, under these circumstances, is experiencing not only terror but wondering when it all will end.
The unified resolve shown by the American people following the recent terrorist attacks is impressively powerful and elicits confidence that swift, sure action will be taken to punish and prevent terrorist acts. If only that same level of mass resolve were focused on saving abused children. If only our country stood unified in the defense of these helpless children, how many young victims of daily terrorism could be saved? How many small spirits could be recovered? How many terrorists could be stopped?
We wonder what horrendous atrocity must occur to a child before every American resolves to put an end to child cruelty in every home in which it occurs.We have stated before, in print and speeches, that there is a pandemic of child cruelty throughout the world. Now, with the advent of the bird flu, mad cow disease, tainted spinach, Aids and other “epidemics”, the word pandemic has become as familiar to us as the word terrorism and, unfortunately, we must now state that a pandemic of child cruelty now exists on this Planet.
Simply put in perspective, if a
disease were killing hundreds of children in America each year, the Center for Disease
Control would mobilize everything it could to find the cause. Federal and State governments would spend
millions on treatment and trying to find a cure. No stone would be left un-turned and no sum of
money would be too great in an effort to end the pandemic. Over 3,000 children are kiled through abuse and neglect each year. Is that not an epidemic in your eyes?
Yes, our lives were forever changed by our visit to the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial
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Body of Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found Near Lake Cachuma as His Father Is Accused of His Murder
The body of a missing 5-year-old California boy last seen in late April has been found near a Santa Barbara County lake, homicide detectives confirmed to PEOPLE Saturday.
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was found near Lake Cachuma on Friday, after additional leads brought homicide detectives back to the area searching for additional evidence.
The discovery came hours after the boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was extradited to Los Angeles where he has been charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. The 35-year-old man was detained on June 23 in Las Vegas in connection with his son’s death, and is being held on $10 million bail on a single murder count.
The boy was last seen on April 20, when he and his father visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They left the theme park around midnight.
Within a week of the boy’s disappearance, police arrested his dad on suspicion of one count of child endangerment and one count of child abduction. But they released him days later , citing “insufficient evidence.” It was not immediately clear what prompted his re-arrest.
Officials confirm that Andressian, Sr. and his wife, Ana Estevez, are embroiled in a bitter divorce, but they shared custody of their son.
Andressian, Jr. was supposed to be dropped off by his father in San Marino, California, on April 22 — but the elder Andressian failed to show. Instead, he was found passed out near his car in a nearby park. Police have alleged that the inside of his car was doused with gasoline and there were matches in his vehicle.
Andressian, Sr. told investigators he believed he was attacked, but he had no memory of the assault. He also told police he had taken some prescription medication that morning before falling unconscious, CNN reported .
“There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the timeline around his disappearance,” Andressian, Sr. wrote in a statement issued nearly a week after his son vanished. “The last time I saw my son was on Saturday morning, the 22nd, at Arroyo Park near my home in South Pasadena. After breakfast Aramazd Jr. wanted to go to the park before we were to meet his mother for a custody exchange at 9:00 a.m.”
“In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later,” he continued. “I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition.”
“My family and I are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm’s way,” he continued. “I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.’s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance.”
Estevez has also spoken publicly , pleading for the public’s help at a May news conference with law enforcement.
“There are no words to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am,” Estevez said through tears, before speaking directly to her son. “This message is for you my love: Be brave, honey. Don’t ever forget that mama loves you to the moon and the stars. I am counting the days until I see you honey, and I will never stop looking for you.”
“To those who are concealing my son, I pray every day that God will touch your heart and guide you to do the right thing and return my son,” she said.
Anyone with any information about this ongoing case can call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or police in South Pasadena, California, at 626-403-7297.