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In re Kristopher J.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 28, 2015

In re Kristopher J

Providence County Family Court. (P12-798-1). Associate Justice Laureen D'Ambra.

For Petitioner: Karen A. Clark, Department of Children Youth and Families, Shilpa Naik, Court Appointed Special Advocate.

For Respondent: Catherine Gibran, Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 966

Flaherty, Justice.

This case is but another example of the great tragedy of child abuse that plagues our society. The respondent-father, Christopher Jimenez, was indicted for inflicting numerous injuries over the span of several weeks on his five-week-old daughter Christina, resulting in the infant's death. In response to the allegations lodged against the respondent with respect to his daughter, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) filed a petition to terminate his parental rights to his other child, a one-year-old son named Kristopher. After an eight-day trial, a justice of the Family Court terminated the respondent's parental rights. The respondent timely appealed. The matter came before the Supreme Court for argument on April 29, 2015, pursuant to an order directing the parties to show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments and examining the memoranda filed by the parties, we conclude that cause has not been shown and we shall proceed to decide the appeal at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the decree of the Family Court.

I

Facts and Travel

On August 23, 2012, DCYF filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mayra Gonzalez (Mayra or mother)[1] and respondent-father to their son, Kristopher J. The petition alleged two grounds to support the termination of respondent's rights: (1) " The parents are unfit by reason of conduct or conditions seriously detrimental to the child, in that the parents have committed or allowed to be committed, conduct toward any child of a cruel or abusive nature," and (2) that the father, specifically, was unfit because he committed a criminal act, namely the murder, manslaughter, or assault, of his daughter, Christina. However, because respondent's criminal charges were still pending at the time of trial, DCYF withdrew the second ground during trial.[2]

Trial on the Petition

In March and April of 2014, a trial was held before a justice of the Family Court. Eight witnesses testified during the trial: respondent, a first responder who treated Christina, a doctor who treated Christina at Hasbro Children's Hospital, a Providence Police detective assigned to Christina's death, three DCYF employees assigned to the family, and Mayra's mother, grandmother to both Christina and Kristopher. At the time of Christina's death, respondent and his girlfriend, Mayra,

Page 967

were the parents to two children, Kristopher and Christina. The respondent and Mayra shared, with their two children, one bedroom in a home on Congress Avenue in Providence. Mayra's parents also resided in ...


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