Judge calls emergency hearing after 9Wants to Know investigates custody case

5:26 PM, Oct 15, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Denver Juvenile Court Judge Donna Schmalberger called an emergency hearing on Tuesday afternoon to address a 9Wants to Know investigation of Joey and Pedro Vasquez, two American born boys who are 1,700 miles away in Mexico.

We've been asking questions about Schmalberger's decision to send the two Colorado boys to live with family in Mexico, despite concerns for their safety.

ORIGINAL STORY

The boy's mother Domonique Borrego was found hanging in her husband's home last month, two days after making a phone call saying she felt she and the boys were at risk.

"My life could be in danger," said during the call.

Borrego also said the boys were not in school, and that oldest boy Joey was "working all day long."

Judge Schmalberger says Borrego's behavior before her death was "out of control," that she "lost credibility" with the court, and was only in Mexico to "make trouble" for the boy's father Pablo Vasquez.

The judge defended her decision to send the boys to live with Vasquez, and remove them from a Denver foster family who planned to adopt them.

"They were happy. They were playing sports," a friend of the foster family told 9NEWS.

The judge also removed two experts from the case, an attorney and therapist who felt the boys were better off in Colorado.

Schmalberger replaced them with new experts, who visited Mexico three times and say they found Vasquez to be "a good father," who was clean and sober, taking parenting classes, and making progress.

Judge Schmalberger says she addressed reports of "physical discipline," by the boys' father, described by those who listened to testimony as the children being "beaten and whipped."

Schmalberger says the boys continued to report feeling safe and happy with Vasquez and their other family members in Mexico.

She says the boy's foster mom "is unwilling to accept that."

"It would be absolutely natural for foster parents to fall in love with children," said Denver Human Services spokesperson Revekka Balancier.

Balancier cannot comment on the case, but did say foster parents hoping to adopt need to accept that the system's first priority is to reunite kids with their parents.

"And that can be a very painful process for foster parents. However we do know that reunification with biological parents produces the best long-term outcomes for kids," said Balancier.

Deborah Stinson spent more than four decades working in a system that's supposed to protect kids and help families, including time in Denver juvenile court.

"It's just very, very, very distressing," Stinson said.

Stinson points to chronic problems she believes are a lack of funding, too many cases, and not enough prevention.

"My 45 years of working not much has changed. We are still in a mess and failing children," Stinson said.

"I am heartsick and so saddened at the news coverage that has suddenly been focused on this case," Judge Schmalberger said in court.

Schmalberger threatened criminal charges and jail time for anyone who talks to 9Wants To Know about the case.

The judge told the boy's foster mom she can no longer call Joey and Pedro in Mexico.

For the record, that foster mom has never spoken to anybody at 9NEWS nor has she or her attorney given information to 9NEWS.

Schmalberger also says there will likely be one more review before she closes this case, essentially leaving the boys in Mexico until they're at 18.

That's another 8 and 10 years from now.

The judge did say case workers believe Vasquez is a good father and boys will be safe with him.

Friends of the foster family told 9NEWS after the hearing, it's interesting that the two experts who expressed concern for the boys' safety were removed from the case.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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