Caseworker Rotchana Madera Admits to Forging Reports About Baby Who Died
The child, Natalee Hurst-Skinner, later died from her injuries.
Afterward, Natalee's father told a local TV station that Denver Human Services hadn't checked on the baby even though Newell-Skinner had numerous referrals in her name dating back to 2003 and had tested positive for marijuana use when the child was born.
The agency publicly denied dropping the ball, based on documentation by the caseworker assigned to the matter, Rotchana Madera. However, a subsequent investigation revealed that Madera had forged many of the reports — an act to which she's now pleaded guilty.
Warning: The material below may disturb some readers.
Newell-Skinner's apartment complex.
As we've reported, Natalee was hardly Newell-Skinner's first child. Even though she was just 21, she'd given birth to five children by two different fathers — and she was already on the State of Colorado's radar at 11 p.m. on July 27, when, according to her arrest affidavit (also shared here), a police officer was contacted in regard to an infant that had been brought to Children's Hospital.
The document states that Natalee, who'd been brought to another area hospital by her maternal grandmother, Krista Skinner, "was brain dead with severe bruising on her head, a swollen left eye, fractured ribs and suspected bite marks on her left thigh area."
The child lived at an apartment at 10700 Hampden Avenue with her mom, Newell-Skinner, and her father, Jonathan Hurst, as well a fifteen-month-old brother and three additional half-siblings — a set of three-year-old twins and a four-year-old.
Denver District Attorney's Office
The latter's dad is identified as Chantz Darrow. He told investigators that he received a series of texts from Skinner-Newell beginning at around noon on the 27th.
In one of the messages, she allegedly told him "she must have been very drunk last night, because she just woke up and the baby had been beaten," the affidavit notes. An additional text is said to have included Kelsy's acknowledgment that "she did not even remember last night and she felt horrible."
Darrow didn't exactly set a land-speed record getting to the apartment. He estimated his time of arrival at 2:30 p.m., and after seeing the beaten child, he phoned Kelsy's mother, Krista. During the call, Newell-Skinner is described as hysterical and she soon ran out of the apartment.
Next to be interviewed was Hurst, who said he'd last seen his daughter the previous evening before he'd gone to work — and he'd stayed the night at his mom's house owing to a fight he'd had with Newell-Skinner.
On the 27th, he revealed that he had e-mailed back and forth with Newell-Skinner, with her texting him just prior to 4 p.m. that "she was going to jail." Just over ninety minutes later, Krista phoned to tell him about the baby's injuries and he headed to the hospital.
During her interview, Krista Skinner said she'd gotten a text from her daughter earlier that day saying she was depressed because she didn't have any money. When she learned about the baby's injuries, Krista encouraged Newell-Skinner to dial 911 and raced to the apartment.
The entrance to Newell-Skinner's apartment building.
By the time she arrived, however, Newell-Skinner was gone, so she drove the child to Parker Adventist Hospital herself.
From the affidavit: "Ms. Skinner believes that Kelsy left the apartment because she thought the police would be called."
In the days that followed, 7News spoke to Jonathan, who said the family had never been contacted by Denver Human Services personnel despite Newell-Skinner's past history and the fact that she'd tested positive for THC at the time of Natalee's birth in May.
Shortly thereafter, the department issued a statement refuting that claim. The entire document is also included in this post, but a synopsis of Madera's report maintained that Newell-Skinner....
• Was bonding appropriately with her baby
• Knew how to care for her premature baby
• Had a safe and appropriate home with sufficient food for all of the children
• Knew appropriate discipline techniques
• Had the support of extended family, including the fathers of her children
In addition, the investigation is said to have found that....
• Ms. Newell-Skinner's alleged use of THC had not endangered the well-being of her children
• Natalee did not test positive for THC
• The children showed no signs of abuse or neglect
A Facebook tribute to Natalee.
Nonetheless, the 7News piece prompted a closer look into Madera's work, and her own arrest affidavit, included below, notes that an ombudsman concluded she "was fabricating her reports." His conclusion: Madera hadn't visited the house, hadn't seen the victim, had faked documentation about phone calls and had falsely reported that the baby tested negative for THC when the opposite was true.
The inquiry into Madera's actions was certainly thorough, with the affidavit documenting it stretching to ten pages and citing "multiple inconsistencies."
Madera, who subsequently resigned from her post, was arrested in January, and she's now pleaded guilty to forgery and official misconduct.
Her punishment is modest. She received a two-year supervised deferred judgment in regard to the forgery beef and two years of supervised probation for the misconduct charge that will run concurrently.
There's no guarantee that Natalee would still be alive if there had been better supervision of her mother, whose case is still pending. But we suspect this question lingers with her loved ones.
Look below to see Madera's booking photo, the 7News report about DHS' response to criticism after Natalee's death, the Department of Human Services Statement issued last August and arrest affidavits for Newell-Skinner and Madera.
Denver District Attorney's Office