Chief: Officer lacked enough evidence to probe child abuse case further
May 16, 2018 10:13 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Although special agents in the New Mexico Attorney General's Office believe a 7-year-old girl was forced into prostitution, the Albuquerque Police Department claims they didn’t have enough evidence to question her further.
Records reveal on Nov. 14, 2017, a school employee gave the girl a change of clothes when she smelled of urine. The staff member noticed the girl had blood in her underwear. The next day, the girl missed school and a school employee called police.
For police, it was a routine welfare check. On Nov. 15, 2017, an officer stopped by a hotel where the girl and her parents, Teri Sanchez and James Stewart, were staying. Though Children Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson admits caseworkers should have done more, interim Police Chief Michael Geier said the officer did everything he could.
"If you watch the [lapel] video and if we're able to release it, I'm sure that you'll see that you can make that judgment yourself," Geier said.
KOB-TV has requested that lapel video and is still waiting for it to be released.
Geier added that APD did send a Crimes Against Children investigator to the hotel, according to policy, but admitted that the girl was interviewed in the hallway away from her parents. No forensic interview took place.
"The officer won't be able to check that and see he's got 20 arrests for this and that," Geier said. "That won't come out. You have to do a separate search for that and there are a lot of privacy laws dealing with that."
KOB-TV reviewed APD’s most recent crimes against children policy, which states "officers will conduct a complete and thorough preliminary investigation and will write reports on all cases of child abuse." After the November call, an officer did not collect the bloody underwear from as evidence.
Police have interacted with the girl's parents before. The girl and her sibling were caught panhandling in 2012. Geier said because an officer conducted a welfare check at the hotel, the officer didn't have the complete background of Sanchez and Stewart at his fingertips.
"The lesson we learned here and the way we're going to make something positive of this is to take this knowledge from what went wrong here and hopefully prevent this in any child in the future," Geier said.
The girl is one of 1,200 monthly welfare checks who may have been lost in the shuffle. In hindsight, Geier said he wishes more forensic interviews with children were conducted.
"Ideally, we wish we could on every case,” Geier said.
Updated: May 16, 2018 10:13 PM
Created: May 16, 2018 09:54 PM
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