A $25 million lawsuit against the state of Connecticut claims the death of three-year-old Athena Angeles should have been prevented as local police knew she was being neglected and abused, but did nothing about it.
The Washington Post reports that three-year-old Athena Angeles from Connecticut had two black eyes and a swollen face when she walked into a doctor’s clinic on October 18, 2011. According to court documents, the child had been punched in the face.
Roughly a month later, according to The Washington Post, this same three-year-old girl from Connecticut showed up to her preschool with bruises on her face, lips, and left nostril. The next day, she came to school with even more bruises on her face.
Three-year-old Athena Angeles died after she was punched in the stomach and rib cage. https://t.co/RSuaIiyjUi— Kristine Guerra (@kristine_guerra) October 12, 2016
It was at roughly 1:30 a.m. on November 23, 2011, that little Athena was taken to the hospital because she had a fever – along with lacerations on the back of her head that required several staples. On that day, the court records revealed the child had been shoved in a sink. The child was treated at the hospital and went back home.
Just 18 hours later, the three-year-old little girl from Connecticut was rushed back to the hospital because she was in cardiac arrest. She had bruises all over her abdomen and she was bleeding internally. Court records revealed the three-year-old from Connecticut had been punched in her stomach and rib cage.
This was the day three-year-old Athena Angeles from Connecticut died.
Given how many times this three-year-old girl had shown up at preschool with injuries and been rushed to the hospital or doctors with injuries far worse than a three-year-old should suffer from, why didn’t the police do anything? Why didn’t protective services step in?
In the month leading up to the death of Athena, police and officials with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families were aware of the fact that the three-year-old was being abused by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. Both Athena’s pediatrician and employees at the preschool she attended reported the suspected abuse to state officials. In at least five different instances, the child was allowed to go back to her abusive home in Connecticut. Police officials and child protective services did nothing to step in and save this child.
Rosa Gladis Diaz-Mendez, her mother, was sentenced to just six years for risk of injury to a minor. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, was sentenced to just 29 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter.
Now, the father of this three-year-old girl has come forward and has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the state of Connecticut. If police had stepped in and given the child to her biological father, would she still be alive? The media has made several unsuccessful attempts to get a statement from the child’s father.
The lawsuit was filed last month. It claims Athena’s untimely death “was a direct result of negligence and carelessness. Had police and/or child wellness employees stepped in and protected the child, she would still be alive. This wrongful lawsuit appears nearly four years after Athena’s father started pursing legal action against state officials who failed to protect his daughter.
The state of Connecticut, like many other states in the United States and the federal government, have sovereign immunity. This means they cannot be sued in court unless they give consent for the lawsuit to take place. Parties who wish to sue a state or the federal government must first go to the Office of Claims Commissioner and let them decide whether or not the lawsuit can move forward.
In Athena’s case, her father originally filed the claim to ask permission to sue the state of Connecticut back in 2012. At the time, he was asking for $20 million in damages for Athena’s death and another $5 million for his other daughter, Artemisa, who had also been abused by the boyfriend.
The claim requesting to sue the state of Connecticut remained pending for more than two years. In January of 2015, the attorney, Robert Reardon, wrote a letter to the senator of the state and asked state legislators to intervene.
“This tragedy occurred over three years ago and the evidence before the claims commissioner is overwhelming that the Department of Children and Families was negligent and the negligence of this State agency resulted in the death of Athena Angeles and serious injuries to her sister, Artemisa. The Angeles family has waited long enough to be granted their basic due process rights to have their case heard in a court of law. Any further delay would be a grave disservice to this family that has so patiently waited for justice.”
The lawyer’s firm also hired a lobbyist to work on trying to change the state law in Connecticut so the father of Athena could move forward with suing the state without getting trapped under any additional paperwork and formalities.
In light of a chance in state law, the father of three-year-old Athena finally had permission to sue the state. The lawsuit argued that police and child welfare officials could have prevented his child’s death if they had just stepped in. The lawsuit was finally filed on September 16 – roughly 5 years after the child died.
“As a state senator, I’m embarrassed by the facts leading to this child’s death,” Senator Len Fasano said, according to the Hartford Courant. “Some of the facts are almost uncontroverted.”
The death of Athena did prompt an internal investigation on the Department of Children and Families in the state of Connecticut. The department, however, declined to make a comment about the lawsuit.
Do you think police and/or child welfare could have prevented the death of three-year-old Athena Angeles? Should the state have to pay the $25 million lawsuit? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Featured Image Mugshots by Connecticut Department of Corrections]