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Toddler dies while in foster care; state issues temporary gag order in case

Updated: 
August 5, 2017 - 10:31am

KAILUA-KONA — Police are investigating the death of a toddler found lifeless in his foster care home last week.

The state medical examiner has not yet determined a cause of death for the 3-year-old boy who was pronounced dead at a Waimea hospital on July 25. On Monday, the state granted the Department of Human Services’ request for a temporary gag order. The matter is currently set for a hearing before a family court judge next week.

Keopu Reelitz, public information officer and communication specialist for DHS, confirmed the state agency filed a motion to have all of the parties comply with the existing statutory provisions in Chapter 587A-40, which states all information and court records with regards to the Child Protective Act may only be shared by order of the court.

Parents have identified the toddler as Fabian Garcia-Garett. West Hawaii Today reached out to Fabian’s mother Sherri-Ann Garett, who referred the reporter to her attorney, Jeffrey Foster.

“We are opposing the gag order,” Foster said.

Foster added he could not discuss any facts of the case at this time due to the gag order.

According to Hawaii Police, the child was found not breathing at a Waimea home while in foster care. Hawaii Police Maj. Robert Wagner said officers arrived at the residence at 7:18 p.m. where medics were already performing life-saving measures on the child.

The toddler was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:54 p.m.

Wagner said the foster parents gave police an indication of what happened to the toddler throughout the day. However, police are not releasing details of anyone’s statements due to the ongoing investigation.

Wagner said the foster parents have been cooperative.

Fabian’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office. Wagner said investigators are waiting for the medical examiner to determine cause of death.

The autopsy report has also not been released.

Fabian’s father, Juben Garcia, spoke to the Honolulu-based TV station KHON2 last week. According to the station’s report, Garcia’s son and two other children were removed from their home in August 2016 due to Juben Garcia’s drug use.

According to KHON2’s report, Garcia said officials told him his son was wearing some type of virtual reality glasses and had fallen about four feet.

Since 2006, Reelitz said, five children have died while in the state’s care.

Reelitz also explained when Child Welfare Services (CWS), which is a part of DHS, gets involved in the removal of a child from its home. She said someone reports to them about a child or children they’re concerned about, CWS will do an assessment.

“We’re judging on safety and risk factors,” she said.

Reelitz said they don’t remove a child immediately from their home unless it’s necessary. CWS also tries to keep children with family members to cause less disruption in their lives.

Defense attorney Brian DeLima, who is not connected to the case, spoke generally about why a gag order would be issued. He said when CWS is involved in any investigation it’s always confidential.

“It seems prudent that no one should speak about it if there are siblings or other parties involved,” DeLima said of gag orders.

A relative of the family started a Go Fund Me account to help with funeral costs of Fabian. For details, visit, https://www.gofundme.com/fabian-garciagarett.

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