Two years after the tragic death of a month old infant in El Cerro Mission, a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of him and his older brother.
On Nov. 10, Santa Fe attorney Dennis Murphy filed the suit in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe on behalf of Waylon Padilla, deceased, and his brother, who was 4 years old at the time of Waylon’s death.
The lawsuit claims the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department knew the boys’ mother, Kiria Milton, 31, was a significant danger to them and should not have been released from a behavioral health facility in Albuquerque in 2021 and allowed to return to the family’s home.
Milton was arrested and charged with the death of Waylon after she called 911 on Nov. 15, 2021, after finding him dead in his crib.
In August, Milton pleaded guilty to the sole charge of intentional abuse of a child resulting in death, a first-degree felony. A sentencing hearing has been set for Dec. 14. Her conviction exposes her to a sentence of life in prison.
On Nov. 8, 2021, Milton called 911, telling a Valencia County dispatcher she was having persistent thoughts about hurting her children, especially her 1-month-old son, Waylon.
Deputies were dispatched to the home on Clearview Drive. When they arrived, Milton told them she was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t want to hurt her children.
Milton was taken to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque for a mental health assessment. According to the lawsuit, deputies contacted CYFD, reporting suspected abuse and neglect of the two boys and requesting the agency put a 48-hour hold on the children.
Instead, CYFD allowed the children to stay with their father while Milton was being assessed at the hospital. While she was in the hospital, CYFD assessed the children to be “conditionally safe.”
According to the lawsuit, Presbyterian reported Milton was agitated, uncooperative and slamming her fist into her palm. An assessment identified Milton had an “imminent” risk level for homicide, was at a high risk for harm to self or others, presented a clear or imminent danger to self or others and should be involuntarily admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment.
Presbyterian placed Milton on a seven-day hold for involuntary admission for psychiatric concerns, and on Nov. 9, she was transferred to Central Desert Behavioral Health Hospital — a 64-bed inpatient behavioral health hospital in Albuquerque for her inpatient psychiatric care, for an expected five to seven days.
Central Desert, its parent and management companies and its CEO Kelley Whitaker have been named as defendants in the case, in addition to CYFD.
That same day, CYFD allegedly received another report of suspected abuse and neglect of the two boys. The report is purported to have contained more detailed and specific information about Milton’s threat to harm her children, as well as the reporter’s concern that their father was unable to appreciate the gravity of the situation.
Central Desert confirmed again on Nov. 10 that Milton was estimated to stay at the facility for five to seven days, according to the lawsuit, but she was discharged on Nov. 11 and returned home to her two young children. She was sent home with medications and instructions to schedule an appointment with a therapist.
The lawsuit claims Central Desert failed to provide Milton with appropriate treatment for her significant psychiatric condition and breached the applicable standard of care when it discharged her after less than three days.
The suit also claims Central Desert knew Milton had minimal support systems in place and was a substantial threat to her children.
On Nov. 15, the day the boys father returned to work, Milton “was overcome by her fragile psychiatric condition and killed her newborn child, Waylon Padilla.”
Other claims in the lawsuit allege the department knew Milton had six prior CYFD reports and investigations for suspected abuse and neglect, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had allegedly physically abused one of her children and cursed at one of her children for not sleeping at night, and there were concerns about her “going into rages,”
“Even though CYFD knew that Kiria Milton posed a high risk of harm and posed safety threats to the children, CYFD failed to follow its policies, procedures and the standard of care to ensure Waylon and (his brother’s) safety following Kiria Milton’s hospitalization,” the suit reads. “As a direct result of CYFD’s failures and breaches of duty, Waylon suffered a horrifying and untimely death … and (his brother) witnessed the death of his younger brother and lost his mother.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.