Whistleblower suit says baby’s death could have been prevented

Reported by: Henry Ramos
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Updated: 5/03/2013 10:09 pm

In early January, the FBI and Texas Rangers were assisting Crosbyton Police in the search for a toddler believed to have been kidnapped. An Amber Alert was issued for two-year-old Leah Marie Aguirre.

However, later that same week the search abruptly ended. The girl's body was found stashed in the cellar of her caretaker's home. The caretaker Matilda Almaraz is facing multiple charges including capital murder.

Last month, the case takes another surprising turn. A former probation officer has filed a whistleblower lawsuit in connection to Leah's death. 

Austin Attorney John Judge represents that probation officer Shane Lance. He said his client got a raw deal. Lance has filed a lawsuit against two of his former employers: Lubbock-Crosby County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, Crosby County Juvenile Board, and two board members: Lubbock County District Judge Ruben Reyes, and Crosby County Judge David Wigley.

"Both of those employers fired him because he reported what he in good faith believed was a violation of law committed by other public employees to some appropriate law enforcement authorities," Judge said.

Lance claims employees with Child Protective Services did not do their job to protect the welfare of Leah months before she was found dead.  In fact, as a probation officer Lance had dealings with Almaraz and another woman who lived in the house.

"He recognized that the child was at risk for abuse and physical harm," Judge said.

Judge said his client contacted and warned Lubbock's CPS about the child's at risk situation.  In November, the plaintiff claims a CPS investigator was directed to seek a non-emergency removal of the child from Almaraz. Lance claims that never happened.

The Director of Lubbock County Court Administration Dean Stanzione said he is aware that a petitions had been filed involving Ruben Reyes, the 72nd District Court Judge of Lubbock and Crosby counties.

"As we do with all pending litigation," Stanzione said, "there will be no comment regarding the nature of the action described in the plaintiff's petition. We ask the public to allow the legal process to run its course."

Attorney Judge said in January, his client told multiple law enforcement agencies what he reported to CPS months before.  He said as a result, Lance was fired by his employers. He is now seeking remedies and damages.

"CPS got all bent out of shape because he told those law enforcement authorities that they had dropped the ball," Judge said. "After looking at the documents that he brought to us we are satisfied that he is telling a truthful story."

Lance in part is asking for compensation for wages lost during the period of termination and demands a trail by jury. There is also this chilling claim by Lance.  He said after the child was found murdered, a CPS employee told him quote: "We messed up, and as a result a little girl is dead."

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Denis - 5/3/2013 5:29 PM
0 Votes
I knew Shane when he worked at CPS. He was absolutely fantastic. Hard worker, honest - wish I could decide the outcome of this suit. Hang in there Shane and stay strong; I know you did everything in your power to protect this child. Staci

rdsjw967 - 5/3/2013 4:58 PM
0 Votes
I knew something did not seem right about the situation with the baby. I could not see how these people could just assume control of such a young minor. I felt someone knew more than we were being told. This is another case of negligance by an agency who is suppose to protect children. I dont think the west Texas wind can blow away the stink of this!!!!

Liberty Seeker - 5/3/2013 9:23 AM
1 Vote
It is not merely Lubbock city hall that fails to respond to the people. In this case, the government employees' failure to serve the public, resulted in death. Let's not allow this death to be in vain. When any government employee or official receives any request or communication, a timely and friendly response is absolutely necessary to each and every communication. Those who are to sickly, either in body or mind, to respond, should be immediately removed from the payroll. Governments refusing to answer to the people are hiding something. Sometimes it may be that they are hiding their incompetence. Usually they are covering up violations committed by themselves and/or those of their co-workers. Those who retaliated against the whistle-blower are also responsible for the child's death, and should face charges as accomplices for the murder. At the very least, they should surrender all salaries and benefits they accepted since their initial attack against the whistle-blower. Any government employee or official that retaliates against any person, that issued documents that displeased the official is not only guilty of assault, but since the violating criminal is a public servant, the charge should be escalated to a first degree felony and should forfeit, to his victim, at least a Thousand Dollars for each day his target is subjected to his corrupt regime sponsored intimidation. Those who are unable or unwilling to wholeheartedly serve the public, should never be public servants.
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