Toddler’s death last year in Waimea under investigation by prosecutor’s office

  • Alcosiba
  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo

    Kawika Spencer Oliveira and Keziah Grant Spencer hold signs in support of justice for Fabian Garett-Garcia, during a March 23 sign-waving event in Waimea.

  • Courtesy photo Fabian Garett-Garcia, 3, died July 25, 2017, at North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea after police and medics responded to a foster home in Waimea, where the child was found not breathing.

KAILUA-KONA — The parents of a 3-year-old toddler who died last year while in foster care are hopeful a 44-year-old Honokaa woman arrested for murder in connection with the boy’s death will be brought to justice.

“Today, our suspicions and worst fears were confirmed when we were told that our 3-year-old son, Fabian Garett-Garcia, was murdered,” says Fabian’s parents, Sherri-Ann Garett and Juben Garcia, in a statement via their attorney, Jeffrey Foster. “There are no words that can describe the way we feel today.

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“We would like to send our heartfelt thanks and aloha to Detective Carrie Akina and the Hawaii County Police Department for their hard work and dedication in bringing Fabian’s killer to justice,” the statement continues. “We would also like to thank our ohana, friends and community who have offered prayers, love and support during the most difficult time of our lives. Mahalo.”

County police officers arrested 44-year-old Chasity Alcosiba shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday at a home off Kahana Drive in Hamakua on a warrant for second-degree murder. After her arrest, police contacted the county prosecutor’s office, which declined to press charges against Alcosiba at the time. She was then released from custody.

Reached Thursday, Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth acknowledged his office has the case and said it was under investigation.

“We have deputies (prosecutors) who are now looking into it,” said Roth, who declined further comment because of the ongoing investigation.

Garett and Garcia on Thursday also expressed their desire to see charges brought against the suspect and said they hoped their situation can inspire changes throughout the state Department of Human Services Child Welfare Services division.

“We are hopeful that criminal charges against Fabian’s killer will be filed promptly and pursued vigorously by the prosecutor’s office,” the statement reads.

“We also hope that Fabian’s murder will result in long-overdue changes to the way the state of Hawaii responds to complaints of child abuse against children in the state’s custody. We do not want any other family to have to endure the daily nightmare that we will be living through for the rest of our lives.”

Fabian was pronounced dead July 25, 2017, at North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea after police and medics responded to a foster home in Waimea, where the child was found not breathing.

Since then, family and friends have organized sign-waving events to show support for the toddler’s mother and keep the public aware of the child’s death.

A pathologist’s report, which the Hawaii Police Department said it received Feb. 22, determined Fabian’s cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head,” according to a media release. The manner of death was listed as “undetermined.”

In June, police said the case was being reviewed by a second doctor. On Thursday, police said the forensic pathologist determined the cause of death to be “blunt force trauma to the head” and the manner of death “non-accidental head trauma.”

“Due to these results, a murder investigation was initiated,” police said Thursday in a press release.

The case’s reclassification to a murder investigation and Wednesday’s arrest follows a June Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that overturned a family court ruling that prohibited the parents from speaking about the case.

That August 2017 gag order restricted Garett and Garcia from speaking publicly the names of their two surviving children or publicly releasing reports or other information relating to the case or the parents’ two surviving children. It was ordered after Garcia spoke to the media and Garett wrote a post on Facebook about the case.

The gag order had yet to be lifted Thursday pending a standard 45-day appeal period.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Family Court in January 2016 awarded DHS family supervision of the parents and children based on a petition asserting the parents had substance abuse issues and there were “hazardous and dangerous” physical living conditions on the parents’ property.

Six months later, the Family Court awarded DHS foster custody, based on representations from the DHS that the parents were not complying with the Family Court-ordered service plan. Their three children were eventually placed in a general licensed foster home.

After 3-year-old Fabian’s death, the DHS and the Hawaii Police Department initiated an investigation, and DHS removed the parents’ two surviving children from the home, the ruling states. The children were placed in a different DHS-licensed foster care home.

DHS spokeswoman Keopu Reelitz said Thursday that the department intervenes in cases where children’s safety and well-being are at risk or threatened.

“Part of our interventions may include removing a child from their parents’ custody and placing them in foster care with a licensed resource caregiver (formerly referred to as foster parents),” she said. “Each resource caregiver goes through extensive licensing requirements, which include orientations, trainings and studies of their ability to safely care for kids.”

Should a caregiver be accused of abuse, neglect or other wrongdoing, the department investigates. At the time of the allegation and throughout the investigation, the department removes any children still in the caregiver’s care and places them with another resource caregiver.

“For now, we want to assure the public that the above outlined policies were followed and the individual identified has not been caring for foster youth since July 2017,” Reelitz said after noting the department generally “cannot provide any confirmation of a family’s involvement in CWS.”

Attempts to reach Alcosiba were unsuccessful Thursday. She also did not respond to a message sent via social media seeking comment or referral to a representative.

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If anyone suspects a child is being abused or neglected, Reelitz said DHS urges people to call its 24-hour hotline at 832-5300.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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