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Police say plastic bag death accidental; child services starts probe

Investigators say no charges will be filed against foster mother

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Kyle B. Hansen

Metro Police Lt. Ray Steiber speaks to the media Thursday afternoon at police headquarters about the death of a 3-year-old foster child who was found with a plastic bag over his head.

Updated Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 5:38 p.m.

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  • Metro Police Lt. Ray Steiber speaks about the death of a 3-year-old

Metro Police said Thursday that the death of a 3-year-old boy found Tuesday night with a plastic bag over his head was accidental, but child protective officials are just starting to begin separate investigations.

The boy and his biological family were in contact with child protective workers over the past two years, according to records obtained by the Las Vegas Sun.

Police and paramedics responded to an apartment near Tropicana Avenue and Pecos Road Tuesday night and found the boy, who the Clark County Coroner's Office identified as Adrian Madrid of Las Vegas. Madrid was taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The coroner's office has not ruled on the cause and manner of the boy's death, a spokeswoman for the coroner said this afternoon.

The Clark County Department of Family Services is awaiting the coroner's results as well as launching two separate investigations, said Christine Skorupski, a spokeswoman for the child welfare agency.

Child Protective Services officials will review the conditions where the boy and two of his siblings, ages 8 months and 2 years, had been living in foster care for eight months in two separate homes, Skorupski said. Such a review in the case of a child's death is typical, Skorupski said.

During a news conference on Thursday, Metro Police Lt. Ray Steiber said the foster mother has been a licensed foster parent in Clark County for five years. He called the foster home "extremely clean."

Officials will also conduct a licensing investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the death, Skorupski said. Findings of the investigation would determine whether the foster mother can continue caring for children or if the license could be modified or restricted -- or if the foster parent could lose the license.

Investigating the death of a child takes time and involves several agencies, Skorupski said. "It's a complex issue," she said.

Police did not find anything amiss in the foster home.

"Everything that was revealed to us through the course of our investigation revealed to us that the (foster) mother's actions -- the way the (foster) mother cared for these children -- were proper," Steiber said.

Steiber, who is in charge of Metro Police's special victims unit, said the foster mother had put the three children to bed at about 8 p.m. Tuesday night. About an hour later when she went to check on the two older children, who shared a bedroom, she found the 3-year-old boy with the bag over his head and called 911, Steiber said.

Police investigators determined that shortly after his foster mother said "good night," the boy crawled out of his bed and found a one-gallon clear plastic zipper bag filled with toys on the floor of his room. He removed the toys from the bag and put the bag over his head, Steiber said.

Steiber said after a joint investigation by Metro, the coroner's office and child protective services, no charges would be filed against the foster mother. She was the sole caregiver for the children and there were no other adults living in the home, he said.

The 3-year-old boy and his biological family had been in contact with child welfare officials on several occasions, record shows.

A report of a jailed parent abusing drugs that was given to authorities on June 26, 2007 was unsubstantiated and the investigation was closed Oct. 8, 2007.

Another referral about the family on July 19, 2007, "did not rise to the level of warranting further investigation" and was considered information only.

A court record did indicate child neglect with a parent with substance abuse and the mother was unable to take care of the children at the time, an Oct. 7, 2008 report said. Both parents were provided with a community resource list and referred to Safe Nest and community counseling, the report said. The mother was further referred to West Care Healthy Families program. The investigation was closed Dec. 12, 2008.

A sexual abuse, neglect and sexual penetration complaint was received by child welfare officials on Dec. 10, 2008. The 3-year-old boy, who was 2 at the time, was taken to a hospital for an exam. Nothing was found and the investigation was closed Jan. 20.

The remaining children have been removed from the foster home while the Department of Family Services conducts its investigation and will remain in protective custody until the investigation into the foster home is complete, Skorupski said.

Metro investigates about 3,000 abuse and neglect cases per year, Steiber said.

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