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SANTA FE — As a father finalized funeral arrangements for his 3-year-old son this week, New Mexico’s governor is placing the state’s child welfare agency under scrutiny in the investigation of the boy’s death.
Gov. Susana Martinez wants to know what the state could have done to save Leland Valdez, and is placing the state Children, Youth and Families Department under a microscope. Leland died Wednesday in an Albuquerque hospital two days after the couple say he fell off a kitchen chair in their Pojoaque home and hit his head.
Department caseworker Donald Romero and his supervisor, Gabriella James, have been placed on paid leave as the state investigates why Leland was not removed from the home of his mother and her boyfriend.
Doctors and police concluded that bruises and cuts covering most of the toddler’s body were the result of repeated physical abuse over time, according to a court document.
Tabetha Van Holtz, 22, who is pregnant with her third child, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Steven Gallegos, were arrested and are being held in the Santa Fe County jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bonds. They’re each charged with child abuse resulting in death, which carries a mandatory 18 years in prison if convicted.
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