State watchdog failed twin girls starved by their mother, lawsuit says


    Kai Martinez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for abusing her twin girls. This week the girls' guardian sued the state for negligence. (KIMA-TV News photo)

    YAKIMA, Wash. — Two girls who were nearly starved to death by their mother are now suing the state of Washington and a for-profit substance-abuse treatment provider.

    The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that a lawsuit filed Monday in Thurston County Superior Court says the state Department of Children, Youth and Families and Triumph Treatment Services failed to properly supervise Kai Martinez when she was granted custody of her twin daughters.

    The suit was filed by the girls' legal guardian and attorneys Bryan G. Smith and Vito de la Cruz.

    Martinez was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015 for torturing and starving her own twin daughters, who were found huddled in the corner of a dark room, starving and surrounded by their own filth.

    An investigation found that Martinez confined the girls confined to their bedrooms without access to a toilet, reports KIMA-TV News in Yakima.

    The lawsuit says the state failed to check on the children's welfare and treatment facility failed to check on Martinez.

    The twin girls were born June 14, 2006, in Yakima and were drug affected because Martinez used tobacco and illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine, during pregnancy.

    Their biological father, James Jaime, was in prison for murder when they were born and remains in prison to this day.

    The girls were sent to live in a foster home for seven years, and the lawsuit says the girls were well taken care of by their foster parents. The state then sent the girls back to live Martinez even though she didn't want them.

    Smith thinks the state's intentions were good, but the lack of follow-up is disturbing.

    “If the state rips those kids out of the foster home (and) puts the kids back with their parents, it’s the state’s responsibility to make sure that it is a safe choice," Smith said. "We want to reunite families, we want families to be together, but we don’t want to do that at the expense of the health and safety of the child."

    In 2014 Martinez's sister, Simona Long, went to Martinez's apartment in Yakima and found the girls in a corner frightened and hugging each other.

    The lawsuit says they appeared to be in poor health and were very malnourished, emaciated, skeletal, frail and pale. Everything in the room smelled of urine.

    Smith is outraged that the state failed to do its job and wants the department held accountable for what it didn't do and wants to make sure this never happens again.

    “To take these young girls, who were in a safe and loving home, and put them in a home where they were in danger," Smith said. "To close the file and to not follow up, check up on their health and safety and welfare, that is a breach in the standard.”

    The girls are now back in foster care though Smith says they will have emotional damage for the rest of their lives because of their mother's abuse.

    Smith expects the state to respond to the suit within the next 30 to 60 days.

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