Father of toddler who choked to death criticizes DC police after nanny flees country
There are new details in the case of the toddler who died after choking while eating grapes. The little boy waited as long as 12 minutes for help to arrive at his Northwest D.C. home last month even though a paramedic was in a fire station just a little more than two blocks away.
We have now learned a criminal probe is underway after the child's nanny fled the country.
It has been just over a month since little Martin Cuesta died and his father is struggling to learn why.
Jose Cuesta told us in an exclusive interview that his nanny fled the country after he told her not to leave and he is struggling with why she lied about the food she gave the baby that day.
Cuesta said he and his wife have never been interviewed by the police, and despite a promise of help from the mayor's office, it has never arrived.
Cuesta sat in his lawyer's office Friday and wondered why his 18-month-old son had to die.
"I understand there is an investigation by the homicide department, but we haven't told him what we know because they never asked us what we know," he said. "I also have serious concerns about the conduct of my nanny that day -- why she did what she did. She gave my son grapes when we told her not to do it many times."
At the medical examiner's office, an autopsy was performed. But more than a month later, there is still no ruling on the cause and manner of death.
In the hours after the child was on life support at Georgetown University Hospital, Cuesta said the child's nanny told him she had only fed the baby one grape. It is a claim he now knows is not true.
Then the day after the baby died, Cuesta said the nanny came to him and said she was going to go back to Honduras. He told her not to leave and there is an investigation underway. But she left the country anyway, and now, he has no way of reaching her.
Cuesta said the nanny was questioned by D.C. police in what he was told was a recorded interview, but he is now haunted by what he says he was told by the detective assigned to the case.
"He said that he feels that there is no criminal intention of what happened, and for him, that's all -- the case is over," said Cuesta. "I think that whatever the intention was, there are responsibilities of what she did or she didn't do and I want to clarify those responsibilities.
"I want to know what exactly happened. I think I have the right, my wife has a right to know that, and especially my son has the right and deserves to know what happened to him. I just don't have those answers."
Then there is the question of the EMS response that day.
Cuesta said a houseguest got through to 911 at 8:36 a.m. and stayed on the phone until help arrived 12 minutes later.
On the morning the toddler began to choke, help was at the Tenleytown station just two and a half blocks away. A paramedic was assigned to an engine and there was an ambulance. But according to sources familiar with the investigation and as previously reported by FOX 5, the 911 dispatch center didn't know they were here and instead sent help from more than a mile away.
Why did this happen? The mayor's office said the wrong login information was entered into a tablet computer. But sources familiar with the investigation say otherwise and that the tablet lost its GPS connection with the 911 dispatch center and dispatchers didn't know the units were there.
"The family is concerned that the investigation is sort of stopping before it has even begun," said attorney Salvatore Zambri. "In the sense that there is a conclusory statement made by the detective that there is no criminal intent when the investigation, clearly in our view, has not been comprehensive."
"What do you think the feelings can be for a father or for a mother who loves her son like that," Cuesta told us. "I have already stated there is a lot of sorrow. We are also angry. We are disappointed. There are so many pieces that don't match, and right now, what we are focusing on now is just to get those pieces together."
Cuesta, who is a senior economist with the World Bank and a visiting professor at Georgetown University, said he just wants to know what happened. But he said nothing right now makes sense.
Cuesta said his 9-year-old daughter called 911 twice that morning, but the calls went unanswered. It is a claim disputed by the Office of Unified Communications.
An official in the mayor's office said the investigation into the EMS response is almost complete, but what will ultimately be put on the record is unclear.