Parents Sentenced in Torture, Murder of 4-Year-Old Son

A California couple, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., 32, and Ursula Elaine Juarez, 30, have been sentenced to several decades in prison for the torture and murder of their 4-year-old son, Noah Cuatro. In late March, both parents pleaded no contest to two counts each related to the child’s death in July 2019. The father was charged with first-degree murder and torture, while the mother was charged with second-degree murder and torture.

The couple initially reported their son’s death as an accidental drowning in a community swimming pool at their apartment complex in Palmdale. However, an autopsy revealed that the child had died from asphyxiation, with no water found in his lungs and his hair was dry when discovered. The autopsy also uncovered evidence of blunt force trauma, sexual assault, multiple healing rib fractures, extensive bruising, and other internal injuries, including a lacerated liver.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert G. Chu sentenced Jose Cuatro to 32 years to life in prison, while Juarez received a sentence of 22 years to life. As part of their plea agreement, both defendants relinquished any right to appeal their sentences or convictions.

During the sentencing hearing, Noah’s great-grandmother, Evangelina Hernandez, who had previously had custody of the boy, condemned the parents in a statement read by a prosecutor. She questioned the evil in them and referred to them as “sickos.” Hernandez also revealed that Juarez had confessed to her that she did not like her own son, and prosecutors alleged that Jose Cuatro did not believe Noah was his son and targeted him for severe punishment.

Adding to the tragedy, it was revealed that authorities were aware of the abuse Noah had endured for a significant period but failed to intervene, which some believe accelerated the boy’s death. Noah’s parents had lost custody of him once before, and he was returned to them in 2018. Two months before his death, a social worker requested that he be removed from his parents again, a request approved by a judge but never implemented by authorities.

A separate investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services was initiated a month before the murder, based on a tip that Noah had been sexually abused and other forms of domestic violence were occurring in his home. At the time of Noah’s death, child welfare agents were attempting to interview family members.

In a victim impact statement, Noah’s great aunt, Maggie Hernandez, said her fond memories of Juarez had been obliterated by her heinous crimes. She accused Juarez of portraying herself as a great mother while abusing Noah behind closed doors.