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3 referrals made to DHS prior to toddler's fentanyl overdose death

One complaint indicated that the boy's mom did drugs while pregnant. Another indicated his dad was a drug dealer.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Concerns were reported at least three times to the Department of Human Services prior to the death of a 15-month-old boy from a fentanyl overdose in Colorado Springs.

On Nov. 12, 2021, the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) was notified of the death of Cairo Astacio. The department's investigation revealed that the child died from a fentanyl overdose at his home.

The child's parents, Joenny Astacio, 36, and Kira Villalba, 29, were both found to be under the influence of fentanyl at the time Cairo passed away, CSPD said.

RELATED: Parents face felony charge after toddler's fentanyl death

On June 10, 2022, detectives in the Crimes Against Children Unit were granted arrest warrants for both Astacio and Villalba on the following charge:

  • Child abuse knowingly/recklessly resulting in death, a class 2 felony.

On the day Cairo died, according to an arrest affidavit, Astacio said he went into a bedroom and found the boy lifeless on the bed. Villalba was in the bed, and she believed she might have rolled over on him while he was sleeping or that he might have been sleeping with his face down on the mattress.

Cairo was taken to the hospital, where staff performed CPR for about 45 minutes, hoping that the boy's parents would arrive at the hospital.

According to the affidavit, it took "longer than expected" for them to arrive and the boy was ultimately pronounced dead before they got there.

When police interviewed Villalba at the hospital, she was "falling asleep" and picked at her hands, the affidavit says. It was also difficult for her to provide a timeline of events.

She admitted to police she had used heroin and methamphetamine during her pregnancy, but said she had not used meth since Cairo was born, the affidavit says.

RELATED: 8 indicted after seizure of drugs including 200K fentanyl pills

DHS complaints

The first complaint was made Aug. 26, 2020, two days after Cairo was born, and alleged that the newborn was exposed to drugs. The reporting person said Villalba had admitted to using drugs including meth, heroin and marijuana while she was pregnant.

The person said Villalba tried to reduce her drug use, but she admitted to smoking five to six times a day for the first six months of her pregnancy and admitted to smoking meth in her second trimester.

A second complaint was made Oct. 6, 2020, that related to substance abuse and an "injurious environment."

The reporting person said that the family's living space was "very messy and cluttered." That person also alleged that Astacio was a drug dealer who sold heroin and meth. They also reported that both of Cairo's parents were actively using drugs.

Less than a week later, a third complaint was made with similar accusations. This time, the reporting person said that Cairo was not being seen regularly by a physician and that when he was seen, his parents were very late for their appointments. The person also said Cairo was not gaining weight as expected.

Police reviewed medical records from a visit on Oct. 10 2020, which indicated there were "concerning behaviors" from the parents at the end of the visit. It also indicated that neither parent seemed "actively" interested in pursuing WIC benefits to obtain high-calorie formula for their son.

Search of home

During a search of their residence, a large amount of drug paraphernalia was found, the affidavit says.

It included:

  • Scales
  • Prescription bottles filled with pills
  • Baggies
  • White powdery substances
  • Tinfoil with black residue
  • Straws
  • Pillowcase filled with drugs in the master bedroom closet

Other incidents

According to the arrest affidavit, both Villalba and Astacio were with a 13-year-old girl who overdosed on Dec. 12. 2021. She was taken the hospital and survived. The girl later said that Astacio gave her a substance.

The same girl overdosed again in February of this year and again reported that Astacio provided her with the substance she consumed, the affidavit says.

Phone records showed that the two exchanged phone messages about selling, trading and picking up drugs, the affidavit says.

Astacio was arrested in 2006 by the Department of Homeland Security after he was stopped by border patrol at Newark International Airport after arriving from the Dominican Republic, the affidavit says.

Agents noticed an "unusual package" in his groin area and found a brown powdery substance that tested positive for heroin, the affidavit says.

Astacio and Villalba were both due in court July 20 for a preliminary hearing related to their son's death.

DHS response

A spokeswoman for the El Paso County Department of Human Services said they couldn't comment on specific cases but did offer insight into their processes and procedures.

In general, when a referral comes in through the state hotline, it's evaluated and then may be assigned to a child welfare case worker who will do a visit.

That initial evaluation is based on criteria set by the state.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, it could be noted that the visit should be made within eight hours or within three days. If it's determined after the visit that a child should be removed from a home, DHS will reach out the courts to begin that process.

According to DHS, the decision to remove a child from their home is not made on the spot. Multiple people and agencies are involved.

DHS also said there is not a magic number of complaints or calls that will result in action, but rather the information contained in those calls.

People who work in certain professions are required to report any suspected abuse, but anyone can report concerns through the state hotline, 1-844-CO-4-KIDS, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Callers to that hotline can remain anonymous.

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