(Editor’s note: The charges against Kiria Lynn Milton have been amended by the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office. Milton is now charged with intentional abuse of a child resulting in death, a first degree felony, instead of an open count of murder. The amended criminal complaint was filed by the DA’s office on Wednesday, Nov. 17, after News-Bulletin press time.)
EL CERRO MISSION — Kiria Lynn Milton called for help shortly after 11 a.m., Monday, Nov. 8.
She told a Valencia County dispatcher she did not want to hurt her children. Seven days later, Waylon Padilla, her 1-month-old son, is dead and she is charged with an open count of murder.
Shortly after 8 a.m., Monday, Nov. 15, Milton, 30, called 911 a second time. Valencia County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to her home on Clearview Drive in El Cerro Mission again — this time for an unattended death of an infant.
When they arrived, deputies found Waylon unresponsive in his bassinet, with signs of blunt force trauma to his face and head, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
The child was pronounced dead on scene by the Office of the Medical Examiner. VCSO Sheriff Denise Vigil said OMI was still determining the cause of death in the case.
Milton is charged with an open count of murder in connection to her son’s death, and is being held at the Valencia County Detention Center on a no-bond hold.
During an interview with VCSO Detective Nicholas Lyle, Milton said she put the two boys — Waylon and his 4-year-old brother — to bed around 10 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 14. She told Lyle the baby didn’t have any marks or bruising on his body, and he slept through the night, something he’d never done before.
A VCSO sergeant on scene reported the baby appeared to have been dead for several hours.
A mother’s plea for help
During both incidents, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department was called to the scene for assistance.
“She basically said she felt overwhelmed and did not want to hurt her children,” Vigil said of the Nov. 8 call. “Deputies performed a mental-health check and when they arrived, they did contact CYFD.”
According to the case report filed on the Nov. 8 call, Milton told VCSO Deputy Brandon Lujan she was “stressing out and having an anxiety attack” due to the children.
“I asked if Kiria was having thoughts of hurting herself and she told me all the time but did not state if she was having them then …” Lujan wrote.
While emergency medical personnel were assessing Milton, Lujan called the CYFD statewide central intake to request an emergency caseworker be sent to the home due what Milton told him, and because she was possibly going to be transported to the hospital, leaving the two children unattended.
Lujan gathered up supplies for the boys, then took them to the sheriff’s office in Los Lunas, where they were met by a CYFD caseworker and the children’s father. The caseworker spoke with the father and determined the children would be left with him.
The deputy told the caseworker the home was clean, there was running water, electricity, food, and each child had their own bed. Lujan also reported medical personnel evaluated the boys and there were no signs of bruises.
In his report, the deputy wrote that the father told him he’d left for work that day and was due to go out of town for work, and that is what “set Kiria off. (The father) stated Kiria does drink a lot and she possibly has (post traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety.”
Sheriff Vigil said the father left the office last week with his children and the CYFD caseworker.
“They didn’t indicate to us how they would handle the case from there,” she said.
No safety plan in place
CYFD spokesman Charlie Moore-Pabst said Monday evening the agency is reviewing the incident of last week; however, he noted CYFD usually works collaboratively with law enforcement in cases of possible abuse or neglect, but “by state law, law enforcement is the only entity that can remove a child from a home in an emergency situation.”
Vigil said while CYFD likes to say law enforcement has full control over whether a child is removed from a home, on Nov. 8, there were no signs of abuse or a crime.
“We don’t mind being held accountable for (the removal of children) with the recommendation from CYFD, but to put the blame on us is unfair,” Vigil said. “We are not fully equipped for that; we’re not clinicians.
“If we don’t have visible injuries and other facts to determine child abuse, we do depend on (CYFD), as we should, to assist us in determining what the best options are for these children and their family.”
Vigil is reviewing the body-camera video from the deputy who responded to the Nov. 8 call and spoke with the caseworker and father at the station same day.
“I’m going to see exactly what that conversation consisted of between CYFD, the dad and our deputy,” she said. “We also spoke to the caseworker (on Nov. 15). We weren’t sure what CYFD had arranged for the family. During that conversation, she did tell us they did not do a safety plan; they thought they had seven days.”
On the morning of Nov. 15, VCSO Sgt. David Zalink made two calls to the caseworker who handled the call on Nov. 8. The sheriff’s office provided the audio recordings of both calls to the News-Bulletin.
In the first call, Zalink asks what the parenting plan was for the family. Sheriff Vigil said the sergeant wanted to know the details of any plans made by CYFD for the family before Waylon’s parents were interviewed.
The caseworker said there wasn’t a parenting plan because Milton wasn’t in the home; she had been transported to the hospital for a mental evaluation on Nov. 8. She told Zalink information from the hospital indicated Milton would be there for at least seven days.
Zalink asked again if a parenting plan was done or a safety plan made for the family.
“No, not right now. Mom’s not in the household. We are waiting for her to get out. They won’t let us talk to her in the hospital,” the caseworker said. “Once she’s discharged, we will come up with the plan.”
She added Milton was not to be alone with the children, something their father understood.
In the second call to the caseworker, Zalink tells her Waylon was found dead at the El Cerro Mission home and his brother taken to The University of New Mexico Hospital.
He again asked whether CYFD established a safety plan for the family. The caseworker tells him a plan wasn’t done because Milton was in the hospital and the father is not the offending parent.
She says she spoke to the father last week and he was supposed to contact her if Milton was released from the hospital before the seven days. Unless the children’s father told her about an early release, the caseworker said she had no way of knowing Milton was at the home.
“Shouldn’t there be a safety plan right away,” Zalink asked.
“I talked to my supervisor and it was not recommended; they didn’t bring it up,” she said.
Vigil said during the interview with the boys’ father, who is not charged in the death of Waylon, he said Milton was released on Thursday, Nov. 11. They went home, had a good day and she seemed like her old self, the father told investigators, Vigil said.
“He said Friday was another good day. He offered to stay home from work but she said she was feeling good and told him to go back to work,” the sheriff said. “He went back to work, out of town, on Saturday, Nov. 13.”
Vigil continued, saying the father indicated the caseworker told him the only way Milton would be allowed to be around her children again was if she started medication and made arrangements for counseling.
“They did both. CYFD was to stay in contact; he said they did not contact him in those seven days,” the sheriff said.
Waylon’s brother, age 4, was also at the home on Nov. 15. Deputies found him hiding in his bedroom, curled up on his bed under the sheets. He was transported to The University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque for a precautionary evaluation and put on a 48-hour hold by CYFD, Vigil said.
Messages left for Moore-Pabst asking about the status of the 4-year-old and whether he was still at the hospital weren’t returned before press time.
“This mother called last week, pleading for help. We did the things we were supposed to do, and CYFD did not keep us informed of their plan with the family,” Vigil said of last week’s incident. “Unfortunately, we’re here today with this result.”
(Albuquerque Journal staff writer Rick Nathanson contributed to this report.)