Dad Admits Role In Child's Death, Will Testify Against Girlfriend

·3 min read

NEWBURGH, NY — A Newburgh man admitted that he let his child starve to death without any intervention.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said Arturo Cuacuas, 54, of Newburgh, pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony criminally negligent homicide in connection with the starvation death of his 7-year-old son Peter Cuacuas.

An Orange County grand jury previously charged the child's primary caregiver, Leticia Bravo, 39, of Newburgh, with crimes including second-degree murder in connection with Peter's death. Prosecutors said the child was kept secreted inside Bravo's city of Newburgh apartment while he starved to death.

Arturo Cuacuas pleaded guilty, admitting that in the months prior to Peter's death, he would see him with Bravo once a week and noted his deteriorating condition but failed to take appropriate steps to help him.

Cuacuas's plea agreement means he will be sentenced to one and one-third to four years in state prison, which is the maximum legally permissible sentence for criminally negligent homicide, and will cooperate with prosecutors, including testifying against Bravo at any hearings or trials.

The agreement also provides that if Cuacuas fails to testify truthfully the district attorney's office would not be prevented from filing additional charges against him.

Prosecutors said, shortly after 8 a.m. Feb. 10, Bravo brought the 7-year-old's lifeless body to St. Luke's Hospital in Newburgh. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

An investigation conducted by the City of Newburgh Police Department, aided by the New York State and Orange County district attorney's offices, found that during the school year that started in September 2020, Bravo became Peter's primary caretaker. Bravo was the girlfriend of Peter's father, Arturo Cuacuas.

Authorities said it was believed that Peter would stay with Bravo at her William Street apartment in Newburgh every day but Saturday, when Bravo and Peter would stay with his father at Caucuas's apartment.

An autopsy conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner concluded that Peter, who weighed just 37 pounds, had died as a result of malnutrition. Prosecutors said that Bravo kept Peter secreted in a bedroom behind a door that locked from the outside.

Since January 2021, Peter never logged on for virtual schooling, despite numerous conversations between Bravo and Peter's teachers and other school representatives.

Bravo, who had worked as a child-care provider, was charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter. She faces 25 years to life in prison on the murder charge alone.

Bravo was arrested Oct. 7. Cuacuas was charged Oct. 7 with criminally negligent homicide. He will not be sentenced until after criminal proceedings against Brave are concluded.

Hoovler said even though Cuacuas was not the child's primary caregiver and did not live in the same home he bears responsibility for Peter's death for not intervening when it should have been apparent his son was not receiving appropriate care.

"Defendants must always be treated individually and consistent with the relative culpability," he said. "This plea agreement ensures that although this defendant will be punished with a state prison sentence, his truthful testimony will also be available at a trial of the person who took on the responsibility of being Peter's primary caregiver and then failed to provide the most basic of care."

Hoovler said it was unthinkable someone would accept the responsibility to care for a child and then deny the child the barest necessities of life.

"It was truly disturbing how this child was kept hidden from school authorities before he died," he said, adding that had there been no COVID-19 pandemic school and social services protocols would have revealed Peter's deteriorating situation to authorities.

This article originally appeared on the Mid Hudson Valley Patch