Colorado woman's suspicious death in Mexico raises questions about the safety of her children

11:40 PM, Oct 7, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - The suspicious death of a Colorado woman just days after making a panicked phone call from Mexico is raising questions about the safety of her children.

"My life could be in danger," Domonique Borrego said in a voicemail last month shortly before she was found dead.

Borrego was in Mexico trying to make arrangements to get her American born children safely back to Denver.

Those two boys are still in Mexico and some are worried that the boys may be in danger.

Borrego was an admitted drug addict, raising her kids in rundown motels along East Colfax.

Her two sons, Pedro and Joey, were paying the price for their mom's raging drug addiction and tumultuous marriage to a deported Mexican national named Pablo Vasquez.

Borrego was forced to give up her kids to foster care in September 2010, after Vasquez was deported to Mexico.

A woman whose name is being changed to Kate, for safety reasons, contacted 9Wants to Know about the boys.

"These boys were in rough condition," Kate said. "When I first met the boys, they were in diapers at 5 and 7. The youngest wasn't speaking in full sentences. There was a ton of fear around everyone and everything."

Back then, Kate had hope that the boys would lead a happy, normal life. Kate's close friend, the boy's foster mom, was planning to adopt them.

The law prevents that foster mom from talking to 9NEWS about Pedro and Joey, but Kate has been by their side all along.

Kate is also a foster mom who provided short-term "respite care" for the boys.

"They are incredible boys," Kate said. "They were happy. They were playing sports. By a year, the boys were at grade level. They were speaking in full sentences."

The boys' bright future fell into question in Denver juvenile court. Their deported father, Pablo Vasquez, decided Pedro and Joey should be with him in Mexico.

"I've sat in on just about every single hearing," Kate said.

Kate watched her friend fight for custody in juvenile court, listened to days of testimony, and arguments that a return to Mexico would be a return to the boy's painful past.

According to 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson, even though Pedro and Joey are U.S. citizens, the law heavily favors placing children with their parents.

"When it comes to custody hearings, biological parents have an enormous advantage," Robinson said. "It's far more likely that the court will side with the father, almost regardless of the facts."

After listening to arguments, a Denver juvenile court judge decided the boys belonged with Vasquez. In January, attorneys and case workers flew 1,700 miles to Misantla, Veracruz, Mexico to hand over the boys to their father.

The boys could be seen smiling with their father and Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center Attorney Chris Henderson in a photo published on a Mexican government website.

Both Henderson and the nonprofit law center, which represents children in foster care, had no comment. Kate says, immediately, there were signs of trouble.

"I've watched in court one lawyer say the boys have reported being beaten and whipped while in Mexico with their father, saying they hate it there. They have to work all day," Kate said.

The boys return to Mexico also meant a reunion with their mother.

Borrego traveled to Misantla, defying a court order to stay away from the boys.

"My husband told me again that everything would be different. And it's not. I wanted to be with my family. With my kids," said Borrego in a phone call last month to the boy's foster mom.

Borrego, who claimed she was sober, sounded paranoid and frightened during the recorded 9 minute phone conversation.

"I've got to get out of here," Borrego said at one point.

Borrego said she wanted the boys back in Colorado, back with their foster family. She said in Mexico, they weren't even going to school.

"Joey is working. Working all day long," Borrego said.

Borrego was also afraid she'd end up dead, if anyone knew she was trying to get her sons out of Mexico.

"Please make sure to tell them that my life is in danger if they call here," Borrego said. "Please tell them if they do call over here not to say that I called because they will hurt me."

When 9Wants to Know attended a juvenile court hearing regarding the boys last week, Henderson asked Judge Donna Schmalberger to close the hearing, citing confidentiality concerns.

Because the hearing was closed and juvenile case records are confidential, we don't know what case workers said when they called Mexico.

But we do know; Borrego was dead days later. Vasquez says he found her hanging in his home.

The law does not allow the foster mom's attorney, Leta Brandes, to comment to 9Wants to Know, but in open court just last week Brandes told Judge Schmalberger, "It's disheartening the [phone] recordings have not been listened to yet."

Mexican police quickly ruled it a suicide, but Metro State University criminology professor Joe Sandoval says pictures of the crime scene raise questions.

SEE PHOTOS HERE [WARNING: Some of the images are graphic and may be disturbing to some users]

The photos show a dead Borrego in a standing position with a noose around her neck.

"It's just very troubling, very unclear," Sandoval said. "It looks like a hangman's noose but her feet are on the ground. It's almost as if someone is trying to make it appear as if she did commit suicide when in fact she didn't."

There was no suicide note but for Mexican police it was case closed.

"It looks bad. It smells bed. But unless there's a full and complete investigation, no charges could be filed with the evidence that exists right now," Denver immigration attorney Shawn Meade said.

Meade says the boys will now almost certainly stay in Mexico with Vasquez, their only surviving parent.

"The tragedy is the young boys," Meade said.

Kate vows to keep fighting, even though it appears to be a losing battle.

"We're just terrified if [Pedro and Joey] have to stay in Mexico. And what could happen to them after we've seen what happened to their mom when she spoke up," Kate said. "We're failing them. We as a community took them out of their home and said we'll give you something better. We're failing them."

Because the father is a Mexican citizen living in Mexico, Denver Human Services is working with Mexican officials on this case.

Another hearing is set for next month in Denver where a judge will review Pedro and Joey's case. The question is: if the judge determines the boys are unsafe in Mexico, can a Denver court force the boys' return?

9Wants to Know will to continue to follow this case.

9Wants to Know has alerted the U.S. State Department and a spokesperson says the agency is looking into the situation.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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