VC grand jury fails to indict Peralta woman accused of child abuse

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Patricia Vanderwagon, a Peralta foster parent, has been cleared of any wrongdoing following allegations she "beat" her children on several occasions at her home on Peralta Farms Court.

Last week, a Valencia County grand jury found no probable cause that Vanderwagon committed a crime, according to 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez.

Vanderwagon had been charged with two counts of child abuse after multiple visits to the home from Bosque Farms police and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department because of suspected abuse.

"We gave (the grand jury) all (the evidence) we had," Martinez said. "That's what they decided."

Martinez said the district attorney's office will not pursue further prosecution unless "new and different" information arises in the case.

In a phone interview, Vanderwagon told the News-Bulletin she couldn't comment on the matter.

But her attorney, Judy Caruso, said the fact that the grand jury failed to indict his client "speaks volumes" about the case.

Caruso said she couldn't specifically comment on what will happen with the five children who were removed from the home after last month's incident.

Henry Varela, a spokesman for CYFD, said he had not heard about the latest developments with the grand jury and said he could not specifically comment on the case. He said in general, there could "still be lingering concerns" with any foster parent who has been accused of abuse and is cleared of wrongdoing.

CYFD officials received multiple reports of possible abuse and conducted a welfare check on the foster children in late December.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Belen Magistrate Court, two of the children, ages 3 and 4, told police Vanderwagon "beats" them with a closed fist on their back and legs when they "pee in their pants."

Another child, who is 6 years old, told police Vanderwagon gets "really, really mad" when the children defecate in their clothing. He said that on one occasion, Vanderwagon put the 4-year-old outside and sprayed him with a hose on Christmas Day.

The child described the day as "cold, cold." It was apparently so cold that the child was shaking, the complaint said.

The complaint said the child told police the 4-year-old had to stay outside after he was sprayed down because it was part of his "time out."

During the home visits, police said one of the children had scratches on the right side of his face going from his ear to his cheek. Vanderwagon told police a door accidently hit the child and caused him to sustain minor scratches.

But a doctor from the University of New Mexico Hospital said the injuries "represented abusive trauma" rather than a result of accidental injuries.

According to the complaint, Vanderwagon told police the boy "must have" scraped his face on a door jam when the family was returning home on Christmas Eve. The complaint said the information she gave was not consistent with the child's injuries.

On Dec. 29, Vanderwagon told police she was "shocked" at allegations she abused her foster children and "unsure" why such allegations surfaced.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.