Family of deceased 4-year old boy questions home placement

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The family of a four-year-old boy who was found unresponsive at an Albuquerque apartment is raising questions about whether his death could have been prevented.

James Dunklee-Cruz was found at the Cinnamon Tree Apartments near Central and Louisiana last week. So far, no has been charged in the boy’s death.

Family members tell KRQE News 13 the boy was in his mother’s custody, but that same person had given up custody to other family members earlier this year.

“He was a loving little boy,” said Kevin Nelson. “He’s just going to be missed.”

Kevin Nelson is James Dunklee-Cruz’s grandfather. Nelson says he took care of Dunklee-Cruz for two to three months around the summertime after the state placed the boy in Nelson and the boy’s aunt’s custody.

“I mean, I’d walk in and see him, he’d run to me and say, ‘papa’ and grab ahold of my leg, and he would hug my leg,” Nelson said of the boy.

Albuquerque Police say the boy was found unresponsive around 10 p.m. late Tuesday, December 10. Two people were with the boy when he was found, but neither individual is related to the boy. Police said the two people were “friends” of the boy’s mother.

“(My) first thought is how? And why? And then what happened?” said Nelson of when he heard of the boy’s death.

Albuquerque Police have interviewed the mom in the case; however, she has not been charged with the boy’s death. Police have yet to name any suspects or arrests in the case.

Nelson believes the death could have been prevented.

“It shouldn’t have happened, there’s no way it should’ve happened, and it should never happen again to anybody else,” said Nelson.

Nelson’s words are based on how the boy first came into his temporary custody this summer via the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). He says the boy was in poor health and hygiene when the state placed the boy with Nelson. The boy had been in his mother’s care.

“He came here, he had holes in his clothes they smelled really bad, I mean they smelled like cat pee, he was hungry,” Nelson said.

Nelson says despite the boy’s history with his mother, CYFD took James back to his mother after just two or three months in Nelson’s custody. Nelson says he opposed the reunification.

“Our argument was, well, has the living situation improved?” Nelson said. “But as far as we knew, it had not.”

Nelson feels that the boy was left in a poor situation, which led to his eventual death.

“I think the state overstepped their bounds,” Nelson said.

CYFD says it’s investigating the case, however, they can’t talk about it because of the state’s “Children’s Code.”

A vigil in memory of James Dunklee-Cruz is for Tuesday night at the ABQ Party Place at 3700 Menaul Boulevard NW, near the intersection with 4th Street. The vigil is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

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