On November 26th, 2011, Chicago police officers responded to a call and found little Christopher Valdez dead had been beaten to death in his home, as his family prepared to celebrate his fourth birthday. The boy was found to have died from multiple blunt force trauma and his death was ruled a child abuse homicide Saturday. Police were alerted to the house after he was discovered by his aunt and uncle, who had come to investigate after a neighbor told them that Christopher was sporting a black eye when he attended Thanksgiving at their home the previous day. Police charged the mother’s live-in boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, with first degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death, and for having a suspended driver’s license. The mother of the toddler was originally charged with concealment of a homicidal death and with endangering the life of a child. However, after it was revealed through police questioning that she observed Ruiz beating her son earlier in the week he was murdered, and had joined in by spanking the toddler herself, the charges against the mother were upgraded to include first-degree murder. Steven Valdez, the boy’s great uncle, previously described Ruiz, as anti-social and violent. He said that two weeks before the boy’s death, Ruiz beat a dog severely after it relieved itself in his home.
Family members want to know why Christopher was allowed to stay with his mother and Ruiz following her conviction in October for domestic battery after she admitted to punching Christopher in July “because she was angry” and to using make-up to cover his injuries. She was sentenced to parenting classes, given a conditional discharge, and was not sentenced to jail. Following the incident, but prior to her conviction, the Department of Children and Family Services determined that that there was “no credible evidence” of abuse and allowed the boy to remain in the home. The toddler’s death this month has naturally raised a lot of discussion and commentators to ask questions on DCFS’s oversight in allowing the child to remain at home.
What is disturbing to me however, is the statement by the toddler’s uncle that just two weeks prior to the deadly beating, the alleged killer had just severely beaten a dog for relieving himself in the house? This statement deserves further examination and attention, just as DCFS’s oversight does. His family wondered how little Christopher could have been allowed by social services to remain with his mother after the domestic battery incident. The next natural question that should follow is how the family let him stay with her and her live-in boyfriend after they knew he severely beat a dog just two weeks prior to beating the boy to death. And the fact that no one called the police to report that an animal had just been severely abused is beyond disturbing! Had that been done, perhaps the creep would be behind bars, which would have made it conceivably more difficult for him to beat the toddler to death. After all, under Illinois law, severely beating a dog could potentially constitute the felony of Aggravated Cruelty, pursuant to 510 ILCS 70/3.03, or even possibly Animal Torture, pursuant to 510 ILCS 70/3.02, depending on the facts. Sentences for both felony charges can involve jail time.
In a Utah State University study done in 1997 by Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D, Claudia V. Weber, M.S., and David S. Wood, on the connection between domestic violence and animal mistreatment and cruelty, women in domestic violence shelters were more likely to report that their partners had threatened to hurt their pets (52%) than the sample of women who were not living in domestic abuse shelters (16.7%). The severity of these threats was also higher in the shelter sample. Actual hurting or killing of pets was reported by 54% of the shelter women but only 3.5% of the women sampled who were not living in shelters. In the majority of cases, shelter women reported that multiple incidents of hurting or killing pets had occurred. In the shelter group, nearly one in four women reported that concern for their pets had kept them from coming in to the shelter sooner. Regardless of group membership, some women indicated that pets had been hit or kicked, or had been shot. The more horrific instances seemed to be restricted to the reports of shelter women who reported the following examples (among many others): pet was drowned, pet was nailed to the woman’s bedroom door, pet was given alcohol and poison, pet’s entire fur coat was shaved during the winter, and pet was thrown out of a moving car. Most of the incidents involved cats or dogs, but in the shelter groups, birds, gerbils, and rabbits were also mentioned as victims of abuse or killing.
The Animals & Society Institute’s website contains several links to recent studies that have been done on the connection between violent criminals and animal abuse. One such study done in 1997 by Northeastern University in conjunction with the SPCA in Massachusetts (MSPCA) revealed that 40% of all animal abusers had committed violent crimes against humans.
Studies also found that a history of animal abuse was found in 25% of male criminals, 30% of convicted child molesters, 36% of domestic violence cases and 46% of homicide cases.
While these studies reveal a lot of numbers and percentages, they also open the door to further examination on whether animal abuser is an indication of abuse against spouses, children, and other humans. In fact, taking into consideration what is potentially at stake, further exploration should be demanded. Consider the situation with little Christopher Valdez: in looking at the brutal bruises that covered his body from head to toe, police were shocked and horrified that a grown man could unleash so much violence on such a small little frame.
In conclusion, little Christopher Valdez died in vain. But perhaps he did not have to. Had this community stepped up to the plate and protected its most vulnerable members when required to, perhaps he would still be alive. I hope this brings encourages everyone person who has read or heard about this case in the news, to never take animal abuse lightly.