This may be one of the most horrific cases of child abuse I have heard. The abuse and violence inflicted upon Omaree Varela are gut wrenching, but that is not what makes this case so tragic. What makes this case so hard to bear is that the very things we have set up to protect our children from these horrors failed him.
Omaree was beaten and verbally abused repeatedly and without abandon by his mother Synthia Varela-Casaus and his stepfather Steve Casaus. While many children suffer silently, Omaree had the strength and courage to call for help. Though he likely faced even more beatings for it, he secretly called 911 and left the line open for the dispatcher to hear what was happening in his home. Of the two times he called, police officers responded once. They interviewed Omaree in front of his suspected abusers then left saying they would file a report with Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). That report never happened.
Only 6 months after the 911 call heard in the news clip below, Omaree was murdered. The autopsy revealed that he had died of blunt force trauma. He also showed multiple wounds in various stages of healing, indicating a long period of consistent abuse. He had bruises, bite marks and even burns on his body. Varela-Casaus told police that she had shoved him into a dresser, after which he fell to the ground. She then stomped on him twice, and kicked him in the abdomen.
Since his murder, the officers who responded to the 911 call are being investigated for breaking protocol. They also looked further into CYFD and found that there had, in fact, been 9 previous referrals made to the agency dating back to when Omaree was just a baby. In two of those investigations, abuse was confirmed, but no further action was taken.
This is more than a story of two horrible parents, this is a story of how an entire system failed to protect this young child. We may see signs of abuse in a neighbor, or a classmate of a child, but we opt to stay silent. There is a strong inclination to stay out of another’s business, or not to stir up trouble. If anything comes out of this tragedy, it should be a reminder that we are all, as a community, responsible for our children.