WASHINGTON - Nineteen months after a toddler died in the care of his nanny, D.C. police and city officials are refusing to turn over key information in the case about what the nanny told investigators in a videotaped interview before fleeing the country.
The toddler's father desperately wants to know what she said, but the nanny is nowhere to be found and the videotape remains under lock and key.
In March of 2015, 18-month-old Martin Cuesta died after choking on grapes at his Northwest D.C. home. It was discovered that a series of mishaps by city agencies and the dereliction of duty by a single firefighter also prevented timely help from getting to the house.
Questions still run through Jose Cuesta’s mind over and over again about his son's death. What did his son’s nanny, Judith Lopez, tell D.C. police in a videotaped interview about the incident?
Lopez was never charged with a crime. The little boy’s death was not ruled a homicide, but yet she fled the country and went back to Honduras where she has apparently gone into hiding.
"She had a telephone here, a mobile phone here in the states,” said Jose Cuesta. “We obviously tried to call her number. It didn't go through. We called the family she had in Honduras and of course they said they didn't know where she is. That is all we have tried directly with her. We have tried with the police here in D.C. and of course they told us they wouldn't go to Honduras to find her. We have tried with the attorney’s office in Honduras.”
Cuesta said Lopez was an acquaintance of his wife's family and he is now convinced someone in the country is protecting her. But why? He just wants to know what she told police so he can compare it with what she told him before getting on a plane and leaving the same day Martin died.
But D.C. police have refused to turn the information over of what she said despite two Freedom of Information Act requests filed by FOX 5 and the Cuesta family.
"They said that she is entitled to a right of privacy, which apparently is more important than my right to know what happened [to my son],” Cuesta said. “Again, this is a person who fled. We don't know where she is. We don't know why she did what she did. We haven't had the chance to talk to her and we told the police we thought that she was thinking of leaving the country and they didn't do anything. To this day, I have no idea why she did that and I have no idea what she said to the police.”
What baffles Cuesta is the fact the nanny was under orders not to feed the baby grapes, but still she did. But why? Is the answer in that videotaped interview?
In a response to FOX 5's Freedom of Information Act request, D.C. police said, "D.C. Official Code provides an exemption from disclosure for ‘[i]nvestigatory records compiled for law-enforcement purposes … to the extent that the production of such records would … (C) Constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
They also said, "…we do not have an authorization for disclosure from (the nanny) -- (and) as you have specifically identified an individual, redaction of her name would not protect her privacy interest.”
"It is very tragic to lose a son in the circumstances that I lost him,” said Cuesta. “The police, the fire emergency services, the mayor’s office are making the whole process even more painful and traumatic.”
We reached out to the mayor's office for further comment, but have not heard back as of Monday evening.
Cuesta said he has no intention to sue the city and just wants to see the interview with police. It is his hope the information would then force the authorities in Honduras to locate Lopez and get to the bottom of his son’s death.