“Shocking. Shameful.”

December 20, 2017

(Hartford Courant)

Sorting through the “shocking” and “shameful” signs leading to the starvation death of Matthew Tirado while on the radar of child-protection and school officials, and court-appointed lawyers, state Sen. Len Suzio said one element struck him almost as deeply as the manner in which the autistic, nonverbal teenager died.

“I was shocked to read that you withdrew from this case,” Suzio, a Republican of Meriden, said to Commissioner Joette Katz of the Department of Children and Families at a legislative hearing Tuesday.

The session was held in the wake of Child Advocate Sarah Eagan’s stinging case study of the short life and agonizing death of the 17-year-old, allegedly at the hands of his mother, who was back in court Tuesday on manslaughter and cruelty charges.

“When you got to third base, you stopped … knowing there were a lot of unanswered questions,” Suzio told Katz.

Her department withdrew a neglect petition and closed its file on Katiria Tirado and her son, Matthew, and daughter Vicki a month before Matthew died from malnutrition and physical abuse.

Katz testified that DCF is legally constrained from making contact with a child over a parent’s objections in the absence of proof of imminent physical danger.

Katz said the agency knew of all the years that Matthew hadn’t been in school, but that educational neglect didn’t amount to physical danger.

Eagan testified that there were periodic reports of the mother hitting her children and that Matthew’s autism and intellectual disabilities, coupled with the educational neglect and the mother’s defiance of court orders, should have ratcheted up the risk in DCF’s eyes.