I TEAM: County won’t take blame for death of 5-year-old

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CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County child welfare workers tell the FOX 8 I TEAM their agency is not to blame in any way for the death of a little boy found murdered and buried in his yard even though the County had a long history of complaints and investigations with the family.

The County Department of Children and Family Services has just completed an internal review of the case of 5-year-old Jordan Rodriguez.

His mother, Larissa Rodriguez, and her boyfriend, Christopher Rodriguez, are facing murder charges. The boy was found buried in the back yard of his home on Cleveland’s west side in December.

County child welfare workers had received 18 complaints about the mother’s parenting which led to 13 investigations over many years. The County over that time had taken children away from Larissa Rodriguez. But the little boy’s death led relatives and others to scream that the county had not done enough to spot danger and do something about it in this case.

Agency director Cynthia Weiskittel told the I TEAM, “I would say that this case was handled well.” She argues no county workers had been in the home for about a year. No new complaints had been received. The county does, however, point the finger at a family case worker with Catholic Charities who’d been in the home. Investigators say Nancy Caraballo had bought thousands of dollars worth of food stamps from Larissa Rodriguez, but she never reported deplorable conditions in the home or danger.

Weiskittel added, "I think in a situation like this that there were concerns in this home that this provider was not sharing that they should have shared."

Rodriguez is a mother of nine. Now she and Caraballo also face charges related to the food stamps. Court records show a plea deal has been worked out in that part of the case. Guilty pleas for that are expected next week before Judge Nancy Russo.

We pressed Cynthia Weiskittel, asking if she had concluded her workers had handled the case perfectly. She responded, "I would never say anyone did anything perfectly. What I would say is, those referrals span a good twenty-plus years."

This comes at a time when the County also faces hard questions following the death of little Aniya Day-Garrett. She was beaten to death, and that came after a long history of complaints about abuse surrounding her.

The county is just beginning an internal review on that case. Meantime, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has begun an administrative review in that case. And the state agency is also “evaluating the case record” in the Jordan Rodriguez case.

The murder trial in Jordan’s case could happen in the next several weeks.

Continuing coverage of this story here

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