The father of a severely injured 3-year-old whose mother is now charged with child abuse petitioned for an order of protection to keep her away from their children in September 2010 after the child disclosed the abuse.
Three-year-old Leland Valdez was unconscious and covered with bruises Jan. 25 when he was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital for treatment, and had injuries all over his body. The criminal complaint now filed against the child's mother, Tabetha Van Holtz, describes injuries disturbingly similar to those reported last year by the child's father, Andrew Valdez.
Andrew Valdez stated in a petition for an order of protection from domestic abuse that he discovered the injuries after picking Leland and his sister up from school.
"Leland asked for help to use the restroom. As he was using the restroom I noticed bruises all over his back, neck, legs, chest, arms," Andrew Valdez wrote. "I asked him what had happend (sic) to him he said 'my mommie hit me.'"
Andrew Valdez notified the Santa Fe Sheriff's Office and the Children Youth and Families Department, who photographed the child's injuries, according to the petition. First District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer signed a temporary order of protection Sept. 8, 2010, the same day the petition was filed. She granted Andrew Valdez temporary full custody of the children and ordered Van Holtz to have no contact with the children and to stay 100 yards away from their school.
Judge Marlowe Sommer's clerk says the case was subsequently transferred to Judge T. Glenn Ellington. After a Sept. 21 hearing, Ellington revised the order of protection to allow Van Holtz supervised visitation with the children six days a week for two hours each day. On Sept. 27, Ellington dismissed the order of protection, indicating that Andrew Valdez and Van Holtz "reached an agreement which has resolved this matter."
According to an online court database, an emergency motion for custody was entered in the 2008 domestic case between Andrew Valdez and Van Holtz Oct. 25, 2010. The hearing was set for Dec. 16, 2010, and a bench warrant was issued for failure to appear, though the database doesn't make clear which party was served.
Van Holtz was arrested Jan. 24 and is being held at Santa Fe Adult Detention Facility on $500,000 bond. Her boyfriend Steven Gallegos is also being held there on the same charges and bond.
Ellington, CYFD spokeswoman Romaine Serna and Sheriff Robert Garcia did not immediately return calls for comment.
Updated Jan. 27, 9:30 a.m.
Leland Valdez died yesterday morning at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
According to Santa Fe Sheriff's Capt. Ken Johnson, that agency reviewed the August 2010 case and found there wasn't probable cause to charge Van Holtz.
"I think there was a delay in the time from when the injury actually took place [to] the time it was actually reported," Johnson says. "But they did do an investigation into it and there just wasn't enough probable cause to support charges at that time. Just with the statements and the scene and just everything combined in the investigation, there just wasn't enough at that time."
Serna says two caseworkers who investigated the case in August closed it after failing to substantiate abuse. They are now on administrative leave pending an investigation into their decisions.
"During investigations, [caseworkers] try to make a decision regarding the child's injuries if that's the case and whether the explanation [given for them] makes sense," Serna said. "That's exactly what happened in this case. At that time they did not substantiate abuse...we are investigating and trying to sort all of it out and come to some conclusions as to what happened."