Two children who suffered abuse in the Gresham foster home that has already led to Oregon’s largest ever child welfare settlement filed lawsuits Thursday against a state agency and their former foster mom.In May, Oregon paid $3.75 million to the family of then 2-year-old Stephanie Kuntupis, who was shaken so badly by her foster dad, Cesar Cruz-Reyes, in 2005 that she was left blind in one eye and permanently disabled.
Two other foster children were living there that day: a brother and sister listed in the court documents as A.N. and C.N. The suit, filed by Portland attorney Neil Jackson on their behalf, alleges the young boy and girl (now 11 and 8), also were beaten and subjected to harsh conditions. The two suits combined ask for more than $8 million.
The suit—much like the one filed on behalf of Kuntupis—alleges that the Oregon Department of Human Services child welfare workers Patricia Hall-Jones and Daniel Rembert, failed to find Cruz-Reyes’ extended criminal background. The suit also alleges the state failed to follow up with two reports in just six days that the children appeared to be neglected and abused.
C.N., the young sister, had her hair pulled so hard it broke blood vessels in her eyes, bruised her head and face and lead to hair loss, the suit says.
The suits also say the children were “hit on soles of feet, palms of hands and buttocks with a plastic or metal rod; forced to take cold showers; forced to remain on her knees with her hands behind her head for long periods of time; forced face down to the ground with her legs bent back over her shoulders; (and) being locked in the closet for long periods of time.”
Both will need long term therapy to regain trust in others and for other side effects, the suit says.
The children’s suit also goes after the former foster mother, Michele Cruz-Reyes, who has since changed her name to Michele Schmer.
In an odd twist, The Oregonian's Aimee Green reported in May, Schmer became the beneficiary of a record $2.1 million neglect case in Cruz-Reyes 2009 in-custody death while serving a 2.5 year prison sentence for battering Kuntupis.
Cruz-Reyes suffered liver failure due to the side effects of a tuberculosis medication. The newspaper says that medical staff “failed to properly monitor him, ignored his pleas for help when he was so sick he could barely walk and waited days before sending him to Salem Hospital, where he died from side effects of the drug.”
The suit says that Schmer was wrongfully enriched by the settlement, and asks that the money be put into a trust for the children’s care. It also seeks an additional $8.05 million from Schmer.
The children’s attorney did not return a call for comment. Oregon DHS and the state Department of Justice declined to comment. A.N. and C.N., the lawsuit says, now live with adoptive parents in California.