|Birth: ||Sep. 8, 2007|
New Mexico, USA
|Death: ||Jan. 26, 2011|
New Mexico, USA
Leland James Rogelio Valdez
Leland James Rogelio Valdez was born September 8, 2007 to Tabetha Van Holtz and Andrew Valdez. He passed away January 26, 2011. Leland was the sweetest most loving little boy, always playing and never leaving his sister Alyssa's side. He loved being at the lake, sailing, riding his bike, skiing and being an outgoing three year old. He was the most beautiful, benevolent boy and brought the entire family so much pride and joy. Our baby boy will be forever missed and never forgotten. He is survived by his mother, Tabetha Van Holtz; sister, Alyssa Valdez; grandparents, Cindy and Jeb Stewart; aunts, Kayla Van Holtz and Sara Stewart; as well as numerous other relatives, including his father's family. Services will be held privately.
3-year-old Pojoaque boy dies in suspected abuse case; CYFD places 2 on leave amid investigation
'This boy was failed somewhere'
Geoff Grammer | The New Mexican, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011
He loved playing basketball.
He loved running around outside.
He loved his older sister, Alyssa.
Leland Valdez was a child full of love.
The 3-year-old Pojoaque boy — his whole life ahead of him — died Wednesday morning in an Albuquerque hospital room. Police say he was severely beaten by his mother and her 20-year-old boyfriend.
According to doctors, Leland's injuries appear to have occurred over a long period of time.
Now the boy's father, mired for months in a bitter battle with his ex-girlfriend over custody of Leland and his 4-year-old sister, is wondering why his reports of child abuse to the state Children, Youth and Families Department seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
"I knew something bad was going to happen if they let the kids stay with her," Andrew Valdez, 25, said of Tabetha Van Holtz, the mother of the children. "I was doing everything legally I could do to make sure they were safe, and it's hard not to sit here today with my son beaten to death and not think that CYFD failed to help my son."
A CYFD investigator and supervisor, who looked into Andrew Valdez's claims of abuse in August and determined there was not enough evidence to take the children from their mother, have now been placed on paid administrative leave.
"We have serious concerns regarding the decision-making in this case, and until we have all the answers for Mr. Valdez, the public and ourselves, these two individuals will be on paid leave while we conduct our own investigation into what happened," said CYFD spokeswoman Romaine Serna.
Asked if she felt the system failed Leland, Serna paused for a moment.
"Well, we have a 3-year-old boy who has died," she said. "This boy was failed somewhere, and we need to find out where."
Andrew Valdez, now married and living in Jacona with a stepdaughter and the couple's 1-month-old son, says a CYFD official informed him Tuesday while he was at University Hospital that he could take custody of Leland and Alyssa.
Van Holtz, 22, and her boyfriend, Steven Gallegos, 20, are in the Santa Fe County jail, each being held in lieu of $500,000 cash bonds on charges of child abuse and endangerment resulting in great bodily harm or death.
The two brought Leland to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center on Monday, saying he hit his head after falling out of a kitchen chair, where he was seated while eating chicken noodle soup. Doctors immediately alerted police when it was apparent the boy, who was unresponsive and vomiting when he arrived, had injuries inconsistent with a mere fall from a chair, according to police reports.
The doctor who alerted police of the possible abuse case said Leland "had several visible abrasions and contusions to his face, stomach, back, legs and groin area ... (that) were noted to be of varying stages of the healing process," a search-warrant affidavit states.
Gallegos told police he had not taken his medication for anger management Monday morning and only takes "his anger out (on) adults and his peers but never kids or animals," an arrest-warrant affidavit states.
Both Gallegos and Van Holtz had similar stories about how Leland was hurt Monday, but not about how he sustained past injuries.
A final cause of death will be determined through an autopsy conducted by the state Office of the Medical Investigator.
A CYFD social worker at the hospital told police Van Holtz and Gallegos "had been the focus of a prior Child Protective Services investigation in which they were suspected of abusing Leland and his older sister."
In a petition for an order of protection from domestic abuse that Andrew Valdez filed Sept. 8 at state District Court in Santa Fe, Valdez wrote he was "in fear for my kids' well being when she is around," referring to Van Holtz. He said he discovered "bruises all over (Leland's) back, neck, legs, chest, arms" on Aug. 8.
"I asked him what happened, and he told me, 'Mommy hit me in my tummy,' " Andrew Valdez said Wednesday. "And Alyssa told me 'Mommy's boyfriend' would hit him, too."
Court documents reflect Andrew Valdez reported the injuries to CYFD the following day. CYFD has confirmed its investigation into the abuse allegations was launched in August.
"The guy who did the investigation told me they couldn't determine if she (Van Holtz) was doing the abuse or whether it was him (Gallegos)," Andrew Valdez claimed. "So they told me they had to close the case, and then they just let the kids go back."
Serna said she could not at this time comment on specifics of the CYFD investigation.
In fiscal year 2010, 14 percent of the child-welfare positions and 9 percent of youth-care specialist posts at CYFD were vacant.
While the vacancies are serious concerns for the department, Serna refused to cite this as an excuse.
"A high vacancy rate is not an excuse for (not providing) excellent care of children by this department," Serna said.
The department had a general-fund budget of about $184 million in the 2011 fiscal year, and Gov. Susana Martinez's administration recommends adding about $14 million to the budget this year.
The Legislative Finance Committee, meanwhile, is recommending a general-fund budget of $191 million for the department this year, a 3.8 percent increase.
Van Holtz, through her attorney, Margaret Kegel, filed a motion in October seeking full custody and wrote, "(Valdez) has made false allegations of abuse against (Van Holtz). The investigation by CYFD is now closed."
Santa Fe County Undersheriff Ron Madrid said investigators believe the injuries observed on Leland's body this week had "been going on for some time."
A telephone message left at Kegel's Santa Fe law office was not returned.
Court records show an arrest warrant was issued for Andrew Valdez when he failed to appear in court for a hearing related to child-support claims, but he maintains he was never served notice of that hearing.
But on Dec. 16, state District Judge T. Glenn Ellington signed off on a motion drafted by Kegel granting "emergency custody" to Van Holtz. That motion stated Van Holtz was granted "sole physical and legal custody" of the siblings and that they were to be taken Dec. 17 from Andrew Valdez's grandparent's home, where Van Holtz and Andrew Valdez had mutually agreed the children would live while the custody issues were being debated.
Andrew Valdez hadn't seen his son or daughter between that day and Tuesday, when a CYFD employee called him to inform him his son was in an Albuquerque hospital room.
"He was joyful," Andrew Valdez said of the last time he saw his son in December. "He was happy."
He said CYFD social workers spent time Tuesday interviewing his daughter about the abuse she witnessed — and may have sustained herself — at the hands of Van Holtz and Gallegos.
As of Tuesday evening, he still had not been able to muster the strength to tell Alyssa that her little brother is dead.
"She knows he was hurt," Valdez said, "but I haven't been able to figure out how to tell her yet.
"I don't know how I can tell her."
Reporter Kate Nash contributed to this story.
Note: Father is Andrew Valdez
Nambe Catholic Cemetery
Santa Fe County
New Mexico, USA
Created by: Dan
Record added: Jun 25, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 71952574
Precious Leland, I am very sorry for what happened to you. I am thankful God's gentle heart & loving arms keep you safe & happy in Heaven.|
Added: Sep. 23, 2013
Descanse en Paz|
Added: Apr. 11, 2013
Such a short time, for such a long road. You will never be forgotten|
Added: Oct. 29, 2011
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