Santo Niño manager and three others charged with obstructing child abuse report

June 28 – Santo Niño Regional Catholic School principal Robin Chavez, who faced calls for her ousting by parents for dealing with a sexual abuse allegation against a former employee in 2021, makes now facing a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a report of child abuse or neglect.

Three other people are charged with the same charge: school employee Maida Esquibel, Archdiocese of Santa Fe superintendent Susan Murphy and victim assistance and environment coordinator Annette Klimka. sure of the Archdiocese.

New Mexico State Police originally filed the charges, which carry up to 364 days in jail, in March in Santa Fe County Trial Court. A report says police suspect the women knew of an alleged April 2021 incident involving former school health assistant Robert Apodaca and a 9-year-old boy, but did not report it to law enforcement or child protective services authorities of State. Chavez said she placed Apodaca on leave following the incident and he quit soon after.

The district attorney’s office dismissed the charges in trial court late last month, according to court records, and refiled them Monday in state district court.

Misdemeanors are usually prosecuted in lower court, but District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement Tuesday that she transferred the cases to district court because she wanted to prosecute them in a court of record. .

Officials from the local Catholic school and the archdiocese did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

A state police report into the investigation into Apodaca’s conduct in Santo Niño was released in September, months after he was charged in an unrelated boy assault case. at the Gonzales Community School. This sparked outrage from some parents of Santo Niño, who said Chavez did not inform them of the criminal investigation into the orderly in April 2021 or even after Apodaca’s arrest in July 2021.

He has since been charged with assaulting the boy Santo Niño, as well as another child and teenager. He is being held without bail at the Santa Fe County Jail pending trial.

His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Chavez’s attorney, Dan Cron, called the accusation against his client a “senseless lawsuit” during an interview on Tuesday. He said the principal was innocent and that he intended to file a motion to dismiss her case.

“What was reported to him was that a child was sitting on [Apodaca’s] knees in the presence of other children,” Cron said. “No allegations have been reported to [Chavez] that any sexual contact or child abuse had taken place. Although it was against school policy, the report did not constitute a crime, otherwise she would have reported it immediately.”

The principal immediately put Apodaca on leave, Cron said, and the orderly quit before the school could go through the process of firing him.

Tom Clark, an attorney for Murphy, said he was eager to defend her against the charge and was sure it would be vindicated.

Klimka’s attorney, Todd Wertheim, declined to comment.

Esquibel’s attorney, Kitren Fischer, wrote in an email: “Ms. Esquibel saw a child sitting on Mr. Apodaca’s lap late in the afternoon. Ms. Esquibel did not witness any no abuse, but what she saw still reported it to her supervisor the next business day Ms. Esquibel never failed to report child abuse, nor stood in the way of a child abuse investigation.

This conflicts with a probable cause statement filed by State Police Officer Eric Jackson, who said Esquibel reported the April 23, 2021 incident three days later on April 26.

Jackson’s report says he attended the child’s home on April 28 in response to a report from a woman of possible sexual contact with a minor. He interviewed the Santo Niño boy’s mother, who said Chavez spoke to him that day about Esquibel’s concerns about the April 23 incident, in which she walked into a darkened room where several children were watching a movie and had seen the boy sitting on Apodaca. round.

The officer then went to the school and spoke with Chavez, who told him that Esquibel had reported the incident on April 26, he wrote in his report. Chavez contacted Murphy, who told him to speak to Klimka about the incident. Neither woman had contacted law enforcement, he wrote.

“Chavez said when she spoke to Murphy…Murphy said to wait because the situation hadn’t reached the level of reporting to law enforcement or the Department of Children, Youth and Families of New -Mexico,” the officer wrote.

He added, “Chavez said she never reported the incident to law enforcement…because she was ‘nervous’ and wanted the Archdiocese to help her report it.”

The boy said in a forensic interviewer on April 29 that Apodaca would give him ‘lollipops’ and rub and hug him in a way that made him uncomfortable, according to the probable cause statement. .

The officer wrote that he interviewed Klimka and Murphy in October. Klimka said Murphy told her about the incident and that she and Chavez decided that Klimka would investigate further before contacting law enforcement.

“[Klimka] said it was ‘reasonable’ for a child to sit on a school employee’s lap because there were other children around,” the officer said. But, a- he added, she said it was “a lack of judgment” on their part not to contact the law enforcement immediately.

Murphy told Jackson she did not recall telling Chavez that the incident was not worth reporting, Jackson wrote.

However, while reviewing the contents of Chavez’s iPad in January, the officer wrote that he found confirmation that Murphy told Chavez on April 28 that the incident did not appear serious enough to report.

He also found a note in which Klimka said she did not believe it was a child endangerment issue, according to her report.

“Based on the evidence collected from the iPad, this proves that Klimka, Chavez and Murphy lied about the decision not to report,” the officer wrote.

“Eu [the boy’s] mother did not contact law enforcement herself,” he added, “the incident would have remained undocumented and the sexual abuse allegations would not have been investigated. further investigation”.

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