Created: 05/01/2014 5:29 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
9-year-old Omaree Varela’s stepfather could spend many years in prison for the boy’s child abuse death – even if he never laid a finger on him.
Ultimately, it will be up to a jury to decide whether 41-year-old Steve Casaus will spend the rest of his life in prison – or just 18 years behind bars – or whether he is not guilty and walks away a free man. The charges in the indictment against Casaus will give the trial jury a wide range of choices.
Medics found Omaree’s cold and unresponsive body at his family’s home two days after Christmas. Police say his mother, Synthia Varela Casaus, told them she “kicked him wrong.” Casaus was at home when Omaree died. The indictment charges he either intentionally or negligently caused his stepson’s death by not getting medical attention for the boy until it was too late.
“It was either intentionally – that he knew about and perhaps under some theories participated in it, or he was negligent and allowed it to happen,” said District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. “That he knew the probability or potential for it to happen and didn’t do anything to protect the child.”
The indictment charges Casaus with permitting Omaree to be tortured, cruelly confined, or cruelly punished. He’s also charged with evidence tampering and threatening witnesses – Omaree’s two younger siblings who were present in the house when their brother died.
As a mother, Brandenburg admits she is horrified by the case. As a prosecutor, she’s preparing for trial.
“Regardless of what we think, it will depend on the testimony at the trial and how a jury evaluates the evidence. They’ll be the ultimate fact-finders.”
Casaus will probably be arraigned on the indictment charges next week. He will probably remain in jail while waiting for trial, because of an earlier narcotics conviction and because of the seriousness of the charges in the Omaree case. Casaus is also under indictment for another narcotics case, and he was arrested again last week – on drug-dealing charges.