PALMDALE, Calif. (KTLA) -- The great-grandmother of a Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances last week said Wednesday that she cared for the child for years between stints in foster care, and he had begged not to be returned to his parents.
Noah Cuatro, 4, was in his birth parents' care when he died last Saturday. The parents took him to a hospital after they say he drowned in a pool at their Palmdale apartment complex, but investigators say medical staff found trauma on the boy's body that was inconsistent with drowning.
Eva Hernandez, the child's great-grandmother, told KTLA Noah was first taken from his mother at birth. After that, he was in and out of foster care until he was put in Hernandez's custody at 3 months old, she said.
The courts decided Noah should be returned to his parents at 9 months old, but he was again removed from their home about a year after that because of neglect and malnutrition, according to Hernandez.
After being placed in a foster or group home, Noah was eventually returned to Hernandez. He lived with her for more than two years in what she describes as very stable conditions.
But the last November, the boy was again returned to his mother and father — despite his own protests, Hernandez said.
“I told the social workers, ‘Please, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me,’" Hernandez told KTLA. “He would hold on to me and say, ‘Don’t send me back, grandma.’ I don’t know. I couldn’t do anything. I just had to send him back.”
Noah has an older brother who was also in an out of foster care, according to Hernandez.
Investigators say three children were removed from the home after the 4-year-old's death and placed into protective custody.
Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle said the department is unable to provide any information on the case due to privacy restrictions.
Noah's parents told authorities he drowned last Friday in the pool at their complex on the 1200 block of Avenue S before they took him to a Los Angeles-area hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 8 a.m. the next morning, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
Detectives have not described the injuries found on Noah's body, other than to say they don't appear to be drowning-related.
The boy's parents have been questioned, but as of Wednesday afternoon neither had been arrested.