SANTA FE (KRQE) - A lawsuit filed by a grieving father claims the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department is responsible for the death of a 3-year-old Pojoaque boy.
The boy was beaten to death , and his mother, Tabetha Van Holtz, and her boyfriend, Steven Gallegos, have been charged.
Van Holtz and Gallegos have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
But now the boy's father is suing the county sheriff and a deputy for failing to act months earlier.
No one denies 3-year-old Leland Valdez suffered terribly.
The boy was rushed to the hospital on Jan. 24, 2011, when he fell unconscious. He never woke up.
An autopsy showed he died from blunt-force trauma to the head and neck. There was evidence of old injuries all over his body from his face and stomach to his back legs and groin area.
Leland's dad Andrew Valdez was very aware of those injuries.
He found them in August 2010 when his son returned from a visit with his mother and her boyfriend.
Valdez reported those injuries to both the state Children, Youth and Families Department and the Santa Fe county sheriff.
A detective met with him and the boy, but the case didn't go anywhere. Five months later his son was dead.
Now Valdez has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the detective, the sheriff and the county alleging they are responsible for Leland's death.
The suit claims Van Holtz and Gallegos were allowed to remain free and have full access to the boy because of the defendants' failure to properly investigate and report the abuse.
"That report should have been completed and forwarded to the District Attorney's Office in a timely manner," Sheriff Robert Garcia said.
Garcia said he has not seen the lawsuit but concedes mistakes were made.
The detective who was supposed to investigate the case did complete it after Leland's death and forwarded it to the district attorney's office resulting in additional charges against Van Holtz and Gallegos.
"In that case it didn't happen," Garcia said. "Six months later, sadly, a little child lost his life."
CYFD also received reports of abuse in the case but never removed the child from Van Holtz's care.
According to a spokesperson, the two CYFD employees involved in the case are no longer with CYFD and an investigation of the incident is complete.
CYFD is not named in the lawsuit. KRQE News 13 was unable to reach Valdez's attorney to find out why.
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