'He weighed 37 pounds, and he was 7 years old.' Questions linger following Newburgh boy's death
News 12 is taking a closer look into the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of a Newburgh boy, allegedly neglected and starved to death by his parents.
Peter Cuacuas should have had many happy times, but instead the little Newburgh boy’s cries for help behind closed doors went unheard.
“He weighed 37 pounds, and he was 7 years old," said Orange County District Attorney Dave Hoovler.
Cuacuas' stepmom, Leticia Bravo, is accused of starving the boy and locking him in a room – in the days before his death last February.
His father, Arturo Cuacuas, is accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse.
While those actions allegedly caused his death, authorities say the child, who had autism, had been missing from virtual classes in Newburgh for two months. This prompted people who have held weekly vigils outside of the home since his death to ask how his plight seemingly went unnoticed by people and policies in place meant to prevent a tragedy like this.
A representative for Newburgh schools wouldn’t comment on the case and referred News 12 to their absence policy, which says administrators are responsible for reviewing attendance records, intervening and notifying administration with concerns.
Authorities say the Newburgh district contacted the parents about the absences but never saw him in person.
Orange County Child Protective Services also wouldn’t comment on what – if any – involvement the agency had in the case but said people like teachers and doctors are required to report suspected abuse, adding, "When a child abuse case is referred, it's investigated. If it's not referred, it cannot be investigated."
So far, it’s not known whether the school reported the parents to CPS.
District Attorney Hoovler says his office is looking into what role the district and CPS may have played in the case, but said ultimately COVID-19 was a “tragic learning experience for everyone.”
Peter Cuacuas’ stepmother is facing murder charges and up to 25 years to life in prison.
His father is charged with criminally negligent homicide, which carries a sentence of up to four years behind bars.