ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Four-year-old James Dunklee told CYFD caseworkers he was being physically and sexually abused by his mother’s different boyfriends. Yet, he had to return back to a home where eventually he was beaten to death. The department released its own investigation into his murder.
A grandfather and attorneys blame CYFD for not doing more to save 4-year-old James Dunklee. So what did the department know about the alleged abuse? KRQE has been asking since Dunklee’s death in December 2019.
More than two years later, CYFD finally released its own investigation into his death, and it shows they knew a lot. Caseworkers looked into four allegations just months before Dunklee’s death.
- Wrongful death lawsuit outlines horrific life events in James Dunklee case
- CYFD’s Broken System Part 1: The death of 4-yr-old James Dunklee
- Man still seeking answers in grandson’s death
- Arrest made in 2019 death of 4-year-old boy
- Albuquerque mother speaks out at vigil for 4-year-old son
- Family of deceased 4-year old boy questions home placement
In June 2019, James told caseworkers his mother’s boyfriend at the time hit him. CYFD placed the boy with his aunt. But by September, he was back with his mother and CYFD was back to investigating. This time, police had been called because the boy was found running around outside late at night and no one was watching him.
Dunklee’s mother, Krista Cruz, told caseworkers she was moving to live with her friends in an apartment. But the report says Cruz ignored multiple calls from them as they tried to do a home visit.
A month later, James disclosed that three different men allegedly injured him, including his mother’s roommate, Zerrick Marquez. CYFD told Cruz she had to move out. The report states Cruz lied to caseworkers, telling them she was moving to live with family in Arizona.
By November, caseworkers would finally get a hold of Cruz who admitted she was still living in Albuquerque. By Dec. 10, James was dead.
Doctors say he has a skull fracture and is covered in bruises. Police arrested Marquez who wasn’t supposed to be taking care of the boy, in the apartments James wasn’t supposed to be living in.
Monday night, the department gave a statement saying in part, “Rather than focusing on blame, the department is engaged in a process that will enable it to examine carefully systemic processes and procedures that require change to minimize risk of child fatalities in New Mexico.”
A wrongful death lawsuit against CYFD details horrific neglect and abuse starting just days after James was born. CYFD has not said if any caseworkers were punished in this case.
Marquez is charged with intentional child abuse resulting in death and recently agreed to a plea deal. Dunklee’s mother was also arrested for allowing the abuse. Her trial is expected to begin in December.