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Family says foster home concerns brushed off before toddler’s death

The mother and grandparents of a foster child placed in the same home as 16-month-old Michell Momox-Caselis, who was killed Oct. 12 in an apparent murder-suicide involving her foster father, said they raised concerns about the foster home on numerous occasions, but that authorities didn’t listen.

The grandparents said they had complained to the Clark County Department of Family Services about the foster couple’s ability to properly care for their grandson, a 9-month-old special needs child earlier identified by police as a 6-month-old.

“I’m just totally shocked nobody would listen to me about these people,” Robert Charles, the boy’s grandfather, said Monday.

Michell’s biological parents on Friday were mourning the loss of the toddler, as was a couple who initially had taken the girl in as a foster child and who planned to adopt her.

Nicolasa Robledo-Hernandez, 60, and Jose De Jesus Hernandez, 50, received Michell in their home last summer, but on June 19, she was removed because of an abuse allegation involving another foster child. That child was left with the couple, however, and has since been adopted by them. The couple have three adopted children.

Michell’s second foster father, Joaquin Juarez-Paez, 37, of Las Vegas, was found dead in his car in front of the Oasis Vinings apartment complex at 6100 Carmen Blvd., near North Jones Boulevard and Vegas Drive, shortly after 8 a.m. Oct. 12, according to Las Vegas police.

When officers arrived at the apartment and sent Juarez-Paez’s wife inside for the car keys, she found Michell dead in her crib. The 9-month-old foster child was not harmed. Police have said they believe Juarez-Paez killed the child and then took his own life.

Citing “confidentiality statues and state policies,” Clark County officials would say little Monday about why Michell was removed from the Hernandez home and why the couple was still allowed to adopt the other foster child in their care. Nor would they comment on when Nicolasa Robledo-Hernandez had called Clark County’s child abuse hotline to report bruising on one of Michell’s arms after the toddler was removed from her home, only to be told there was nothing officials could do.

The county officials also declined to comment when asked if any concerns were raised about the foster couple involved in the murder-suicide.

Maria Charles, the grandmother of the 9-month-old, said both she and her daughter, who is the mother of the child, expressed concerns to officials about the Juarez-Paez’s couple. Her grandson was losing weight and now weighs just 12 pounds, she said, and special needs stemming from a premature birth were not being met. He was placed in foster care because of drug-related issues, she said.

Family Services officials always told them the baby “was fine,” she said.

Maria Charles said she’s not blaming Child Protective Services, but has many unanswered questions about the foster parents.

“What’s the cover up?” she asked.

Donna Coleman, a longtime child advocate, said transparency and accountability are needed.

“We need a public hearing on this and someone needs to be fired on this,” she said Monday.

No one has been disciplined in connection with this case, said Erik Pappa, Clark County spokesman.

Michell’s parents, Sergio Momox, 41, and Maria De Jesus Caselis Toxtle, 42, on Friday said they were aware the Juarez-Paez couple had multiple jobs. Maria Charles also said the foster mother told her she worked three jobs and her husband had one job, but that her mother would help with the children.

Pappa said information that both foster parents had multiple jobs “may not be correct,” but cited confidentiality and would say little more.

“It is not uncommon for parents in Las Vegas to work unusual shifts and odd hours. But for parents who do work uncommon hours, there are appropriate day-care options,” Pappa said in a written statement. “This is Las Vegas, and that is the nature of our community.”

Pappa said officials review foster parent work schedules and may coordinate day-care arrangements if needed, but he did not answer when asked if work schedules of this particular couple were reviewed.

Maria Charles said she feels “terrible” about Michell’s death, noting that her grandson could also have been a victim. She’ll go to court Thursday to try to get legal custody of her grandson, who is now at Child Haven, the county’s shelter for abused and neglected children.

“We are happy he’s alive,” she said. “I was right. It wasn’t the right home. I don’t want this to happen to any other innocent child.”

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.

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