Home Safety Scalding bathwater killed Yonkers tots

Scalding bathwater killed Yonkers tots

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Yonkers – Two young boys died from exposure to extreme heat and scorching water after being left in a bathroom with scalding hot water running Friday, an autopsy revealed yesterday.

Yonkers Detective Sgt. Kevin Scully said the autopsy performed yesterday by the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that the children died from hyperthermia, or exposure to extreme heat. Scully is heading the investigation into the deaths of Elijaha Santana, 2, and his half brother, David Maldonado Jr., 20 months, in the Cromwell Towers at 77 Locust Hill Ave.

“These cases are homicides,” Scully said. “It is burns when you have loose skin and reddening of the flesh.”

The children suffered second-degree burns on their backs, legs and feet from the hot water.

The children were in the scalding water for more than 2 1/2 hours as it spilled over from the bathtub onto the floor, police said.

The autopsy also found that the children did not have water in their lungs, ruling out drowning as the cause of death.

Their parents, David Maldonado Sr., 31, and Luz Arroyo, 25, both of 77 Locust Hill Ave., were arraigned separately yesterday in Yonkers City Court before Judge Arthur J. Doran Jr. Both appeared without attorneys, saying they couldn’t afford one.

Arroyo was charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide.

Her husband was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter and a count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

A .32-caliber revolver was found in the apartment, police said.

After declining to set bail for the couple and ordering them held in the Westchester County jail in Valhalla, Doran told them to appear back in court Monday, when an attorney from the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County will be assigned to represent them.

Arroyo appeared in court wearing a black sweater, grey sweat pants and black sneakers. Shackled with leg chains and handcuffs, she wept during the hearing. Maldonado, wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt, was silent during his arraignment.

Two rows of the courtroom benches were filled with family members and supporters of Maldonado. Some shouted, “Love you, David,” as he was being escorted out of court in leg shackles and handcuffs.

Jose Rios, Maldonado’s cousin, said the family was there to support him but declined to discuss the case.

“He was a good father, just like any other father,” Rios told reporters.

According to court records filed in Yonkers City Court, Arroyo caused the death of her children by “voluntarily becoming intoxicated while being the caretaker of Elijaha Santana and David Maldonado Jr. While in this condition the defendant failed to supervise the care of her children, and the children were severely burned and died.”

Maldonado, the court records say, “did turn on scalding water in the bathroom and then leave the children unsupervised while he and the children’s mother were sleeping. As a result of these actions Elijaha Santana and David Maldonado, Jr. were severely burned and died.”

At a news conference Friday, Yonkers Police Commissioner Robert Taggart said the parents might have been in a “narcotic stupor” while the children were in the bathroom. The scalding hot water built up and poured out into the apartment, the hallway and other apartments.

During the arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Laura Murphy, chief of the Child Abuse Bureau, told Doran that Arroyo used two aliases and two dates of birth and had two prostitution convictions. Both were in New York City. She was convicted Oct. 25, 2001, and Nov. 10, 2001, of loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

Her husband also has a criminal history.

Maldonado had a conviction for fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and three misdemeanor convictions for third-degree assault, one on a police officer.

The Westchester County office of Child Protective Services had an open case on the family. Donna Greene, a spokeswoman for County Executive Andrew Spano, said yesterday that while county officials acknowledge “that there was a CPS case,” they could not comment until they gathered all the facts.

Yonkers police were called about 11:20 a.m. Friday to Cromwell Towers, a 12-story apartment complex, on a report that two children were not breathing.

They arrived to find water ankle-deep in the hallway, and Officer Richard Rubin of the 4th Precinct found Maldonado clinging to Elijaha, who was not breathing.

The children’s mother had taken young David downstairs by elevator.

Police, fire and Empress Ambulance workers tried unsuccessfully to revive the children. The boys were pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

The parents were detained and, after almost a day of questioning and investigation, were arrested.

Six police officers and a firefighter who responded to the 317-unit apartment building were debriefed by stress counselors and removed from duty.

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