ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Stephen Casaus, the stepfather of an Albuquerque boy allegedly kicked to death by his mother, has been indicted on child abuse charges.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg made the announcement late Wednesday afternoon. Casaus was indicted on six child abuse charges, two witness bribery charges and a tampering with evidence charge.
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Casaus was heard on a 911 call verbally berating 9-year-old Omaree Varela. The boy was found dead months later. His mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus is charged with killing her son.
An autopsy later revealed the boy was severely abused during his short life.
Now Casaus has been indicted on charges his negligence led to Omaree’s abuse and death. The indictment lists a bite mark, laceration on Omaree’s head, burn on his chest, malnourishment and bruising.
The charges stem more from what Casaus did than what he failed to do, a message to parents and anyone who witnesses child abuse.
“[It] put everybody on notice that you all have the duty to report this,” said Ezra Spitzer with the New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks.
But Spitzer worries the crack down could have a different effect too.
“You’re asking families to report families and the risk is always do you push it deeper or do you bring it up and it’s hard to judge,” Spitzer said. “I don’t know where it will fall out.”
Casaus’ two witness bribery charges stem from allegations he intimidated or threatened two witnesses, likely Omaree’s siblings, to keep them from telling police about the abuse.
Casaus’ charges could get him life in prison.
The DA’s office did not make anyone available for an interview for this story.
There’s a bipartisan push in the state legislature to pass a law that would make it crystal clear that anyone who knows about child abuse must report it.