Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin announced Wednesday morning that he will not file charges in the case of Peyton Valiente, a toddler who almost died from injuries he suffered at an Ewa Beach day care run by the wife of a then-Honolulu police officer.
Everyone who could have inflicted the injuries, including the in-home day care operator, her two teenage children, and possibly a 9-year-old who also was there, asserted their Fifth Amendment rights in declining to testify, Peyton’s parents and their lawyer said after the announcement Wednesday.
“On the one hand, you have three, possibly four people within the household … who won’t give anything other than their names,” said Chris Bouslog, the Valientes’ attorney in a civil suit against the day care operator Manuela Ramos, her husband Mark and son Markus. “And on the other hand, you have a comatose toddler. That’s the sum total of witnesses that were capable of figuring this out.”
But Chin’s investigation did yield some new information, Peyton’s parents said. A review by medical experts determined that he was violently shaken before his head struck something hard, resulting in bleeding in his retinas and a subdural hematoma, a dangerous buildup of blood in the brain that caused him to have seizures for several days.
That review also showed that the toddler would have developed symptoms within five to 15 minutes of the assault, his mother, Chelsea Valiente, said, making it clear that he was at the day care when he was hurt.
The Valientes credited Chin’s office with doing all it could, but still found the outcome upsetting.
“It’s definitely not the outcome we hoped for,” Chelsea Valiente said, “because that’s not justice for Peyton, not justice for our family, and at the same time it leaves the community at risk because the assailant is still at large”
In a press release, Chin said, “It was difficult to have to break the news to the parents … that our findings did not result in charges against a perpetrator. Despite the outcome, we hope they receive some comfort by the renewed efforts to identify Peyton’s assailant and bring that person to justice.”
Chin took the unusual step of convening an investigative grand jury in Peyton’s case this year. An investigative grand jury can subpoena witnesses and put them under oath. It may also subpoena documents and information. It differs from a regular grand jury in that it does not indict suspects.
Peyton was injured on his third day at the day care. Ramos called Chelsea Valiente that afternoon to say that the boy had rolled to his side and become unresponsive, his limbs stiff, for no apparent reason.
Peyton’s parents lost custody for two weeks while authorities ruled them out as perpetrators, and a team of experts determined “the harm occurred outside the care of the parents and most likely in the babysitter’s home.”
A Child Welfare Services official wrote in a court filing that the state “will not confirm Physical Abuse by parents … and confirm Physical Abuse by baby-sitter, Manuela Ramos.”
Manuela Ramos and her teenage daughter, who was at the house at the time, were not interviewed by the HPD child abuse detail for several months. During that time, HPD did not interview her teenage son, also present, or the other children at the day care. Nobody screened them for signs of abuse, despite a recommendation from the team of experts.
Cary Okimoto, acting police chief at the time, admitted that HPD botched the investigation and ordered a new review. He also reassigned the detective in charge of the investigation. In April, HPD referred the case to Chin.
“I appreciate the trust and confidence placed in my office by the Honolulu Police Department when they asked us to review this case, and we appreciate their assistance and cooperation in completing our investigation,” Chin said in the press release.
Peyton, now 4, appears to be doing well, but doctors have told the Valientes that problems could still develop later. He also is more prone to head injuries.
“It is really early to tell how this has affected him,” Bouslog said.
He said that the grand jury also discovered that, after Peyton was injured, a 9-year-old stood outside the house to flag down the ambulance when it arrived.
“It looks like the people within the household were minimally interested in caring for Peyton after this incident occurred,” Bouslog said.
Eric Seitz, who is representing the Ramoses, did not return a phone call seeking comment.