The Honolulu Police Department has reassigned a detective who investigated the case of a toddler assaulted at an Ewa Beach day care, which the department admitted this week was botched.
That same detective also handled three other child abuse cases that HPD, after a review prompted by problems in the toddler abuse case detailed by Civil Beat, said this week need to be looked at more closely because they may not have been investigated thoroughly enough.
HPD declined to identify the detective. But the mother of the injured toddler, Chelsea Valiente, said she was told this week by Assistant Chief Richard Robinson that the detective in question is Carl Grantham, the primary investigator in the case of her son, Peyton.
Two other detectives took part in interviews of potential suspects.
Valiente said Robinson told her that Grantham explained to his HPD superiors that he “kind of lost track” of the case.
Valiente said she had a hard time understanding that explanation. She recalls calling Grantham every week for months to try to get updates on the case.
HPD did not respond to a question about what the detective’s new assignment will be.
HPD Acting Chief Cary Okimoto admitted at a Honolulu Police Commission meeting on Wednesday that the department had botched Peyton’s case. The toddler nearly died from injuries he sustained at a day care run by Manuela Ramos, the wife of then-HPD Cpl. Mark Ramos.
Mark Ramos retired from the force on Tuesday, the day before the commission meeting.
Okimoto and Robinson told the commission that the slow place of the investigation will make it hard to get a conviction, as potential suspects have now gotten lawyers and witnesses are less likely to come forward.
A Civil Beat story on Feb. 8 detailed several ways in which the investigation fell short of what experts recommend.
For one, experts say all of those who had access to an abused child should be separated and questioned closely as soon as possible to root out inconsistencies that could lead to a conviction, ideally within 24 hours. HPD’s child abuse unit did not interview Manuela Ramos or her then-18-year-old daughter Theresa, who also was present, for several months.
An interview with Markus Ramos, her then-16-year-old son who also was there when Peyton was hurt, was put off for weeks so that he could finish the school year and attend a baseball tournament on the mainland.
Based on a heavily redacted police report, Civil Beat reported that HPD eventually did interview Markus Ramos. But Chelsea Valiente says she has now been told that HPD never questioned him. The section of the police report regarding him was merely the record of a phone conversation to set up a formal interview that never happened.
In addition, HPD failed to interview other children present at the day care. Experts say that even very young children can provide valuable information. Parents of the other children say that no one ever contacted them, contrary to a recommendation from a panel of child protection professionals that HPD screen the other children for signs of abuse.
Nor is there any indication in the police report that HPD examined the crime scene.
In response to Civil Beat’s reporting about the investigation’s flaws, Okimoto ordered an audit of all child abuse cases in the past three years.
Of the 44 criminal cases, 10 were transferred to federal or military authorities and 13 were investigated but led to no arrest. Twenty were sent to Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro. Of these, eight were charged as felonies and five as misdemeanors. Another six were declined for prosecution and one more is pending review.
Another case, in which a 5-year-old was stabbed by a household member, was transferred to the homicide detail.
Peyton was injured on Jan. 9, 2015. He was fine when Chelsea Valiente delivered him to day care that morning. But that afternoon, Manuela Ramos called her to report that Peyton, while laying on the floor near her, had rolled to his side and become unresponsive.
At the hospital, Peyton was found to have sustained a large subdural hematoma, a dangerous build-up of blood on the brain, and part of his skull had to be cut out to relieve pressure. He also had bleeding in his retinas and finger-shaped bruises on his back, all classic indicators of abuse.
Now 3, he’s doing well, but neurologists have told the Valientes that the long-term prognosis is uncertain. For one thing, he may be susceptible to seizures.