NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city has launched an investigation following the death of a 4-year-old Bronx boy who might have ingested rat poison, and new questions have arisen about his mother.
As CBS 2’s Sonia Rincon reported, investigators with the city Buildings and Homeless Services departments were in and out of the building at 976 Tinton Ave. in the Morrisania section of the Bronx on Thursday.
Neighbors said the investigators were asking them how clean the building usually is. The neighbors told CBS 2 the building been nice and clean since Sunday, when little Juan Sanchez was rushed to the hospital after eating what his mom thinks was rat poison, and drinking from a beer can left in the hallway.
Neighbors said the building is not usually kept in a clean condition.
“Pretty bad — it’s dirty,” said one resident, named Tiffany. “The floors will be black and stuff like that; garbage everywhere; drug bags all over the place.”
Juan’s mother, Migdelia Morales, was out in a nearby park Sunday morning with her five sons, ranging in age from 3 to 10. When they came back to the building, Morales said they saw the boy grab a can of beer left unattended in the hallway and drink it.
Morales made pancakes for the child, hoping they would absorb any alcohol.
But Morales told police that around noon, two of the children approached her and said Juan wasn’t breathing properly. He was blue and frothing at the mouth.
“I called 911 and I told them to help me keep my son alive,” Morales told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer earlier this week. “(They said) to elevate him on his side and just keep on wiping whatever was coming out of his mouth.”
When emergency medical technicians arrived, they began CPR and transported Juan to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. But sources said there was no alcohol in the boy’s system.
An autopsy by investigators at the New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Juan’s death inconclusive and pending further studies. The office was waiting Thursday for more tests to determine the exact cause of Juan’s death.
Meanwhile, Juan was buried Thursday in Brooklyn. His siblings were staying with family there, while the New York City Administration for Children’s Services investigated his mother – and not for the first time.
ACS has not commented on the ongoing investigation. But sources told CBS 2 the agency has investigated Juan’s mother 10 times in the past for allegedly neglecting her children — not taking them to school or giving them enough food.
Neighbors such as Tiffany were not surprised.
“They were all like, little; like, undersized. And they never go to school,” Tiffany said. “I always see them during the weekdays in the hallway running around.”
Back in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced what he called an interagency Children’s Cabinet – in other words, better communication between the ACS and other city agencies. That announcement came after the homicide death of 4-year-old Myls Dobson, whose family had also been investigated by ACS.
On Thursday, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios Paoli issued a statement saying she has asked the Department of Homeless Services to initiate a full review of protocols, policies, and procedures related to ensuring the safety of children in shelters.
Earlier this week, Morales told us CBS 2 blamed the Department of Homeless Services for placing the family in unsafe conditions. But residents said they are given a choice of rat poison or traps when the exterminators come.
Most people said they choose traps because they don’t want to risk having poison in homes with children.
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