Nearly three years after a 17-month-old boy was apparently physically abused in an Ewa Beach day care facility, his parents are no closer to seeing someone held responsible for the crime.
And that’s a tragedy, not only for Peyton Valiente, who is now 4 years old, but for public confidence in Hawaii’s criminal justice system.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin concluded this week that the case must be dropped because the three or four people who could have harmed Peyton — including day care operator Manuela Ramos — pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
That Ramos was married to an officer with the Honolulu Police Department at the time further erodes trust. HPD later admitted that it failed to follow proper protocol in the case, including taking much too long to interview suspects and seemingly never even visiting the alleged scene of the crime.
The attorney general’s abandonment of Peyton follows the decision of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro to turn down the case earlier this year. This, from a prosecutor who frequently touts his vigilance for victims’ rights.
Peyton’s parents, Rey and Chelsea Valiente, fear no one will be held accountable for their son’s injuries. The harm was so severe that Peyton’s brain had shifted from its normal position, requiring surgeons to remove part of the child’s skull to relieve the pressure from swelling blood.
“The child has been exposed to neglect and physical abuse,” a social worker for the state’s Child Welfare Services concluded.
Peyton seems fine now, but he may experience physical or mental problems in the future.
‘Assailant Still At Large’
One development from the Chin review is that medical experts say Peyton had been shaken violently before his head struck something hard. They also determined that the incident must have occurred at the day care.
Shockingly, other parents whose kids were cared for at the Ramos home were not told about what happened to Peyton. His parents had to suffer the humiliation of temporarily losing custody of their child until police cleared them as suspects.
Perhaps a civil suit against Manuela Ramos, her husband Mark and son Markus, may yet result in some measure of recompense to the Valientes.
For now, though, Chelsea Valiente captures the disgust that many of us feel:
“It’s definitely not the outcome we hoped for 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.”
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Jim Simon, Richard Wiens, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell and Landess Kearns. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at email@example.com.