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NEWBURGH – Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on March 16, 2022, Leticia Bravo, 39, of Newburgh, pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree in connection with the starvation death of seven-year-old Peter Cuacuas. Bravo previously dated Peter Cuacuas’s father and was the boy’s primary caregiver. Pursuant to the plea agreement placed on the record at the time that Bravo pleaded guilty, the District Attorney’s Office will recommend that Bravo be sentenced to fifteen years in state prison and five years of post release supervision when she is sentenced on June 21, 2022.
On February 2, 2022, Arturo Cuacuas, 54, of Newburgh, the boy’s father, pleaded guilty to the felony of Criminally Negligent Homicide. Prosecutors alleged that the seven-year-old was kept secreted inside Bravo’s City of Newburgh Apartment, while he starved to death. Arturo Cuacuas did not live with Bravo during the time-period relevant to the charges. Arturo Cuacuas admitted that in the months prior to Peter’s death, he would see Peter with Bravo once a week and noted his deteriorating condition and that she failed take appropriate steps to help him. Pursuant to the plea agreement placed on the record at the time Arturo Cuacuas pleaded guilty, he will be sentenced to one and one-third to four years in state prison, the maximum legally permissible sentence for Criminally Negligent Homicide. The plea agreement required that he cooperate against Bravo.
At the time Bravo pleaded guilty, she admitted being Peter’s primary caregiver, knowingly under-feeding the seven-year-old, and failing to provide him with medical attention that she knew he required. Bravo previously worked as a child-care provider. Bravo also admitted that she intended on causing physical injury to the boy and that she recklessly created a grave risk of serious physical injury to the boy, which ultimately culminated in his death.
On February 10, 2021, shortly after 8:00 am, Bravo brought Peter Cuacuas’ lifeless body to St. Luke’s Hospital in Newburgh. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. An investigation conducted by the City of Newburgh Police Department, aided by the New York State Police and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, revealed that during the school year that commenced in September of 2020, Bravo became the primary caretaker of Peter Cuaucas. Bravo was the girlfriend of Peter Cuacuas’ father, Arturo Cuacuas. Peter would stay with Bravo at her apartment on William Street in Newburgh everyday but Saturday, when Bravo and Peter would stay with his father at Arturo Cuacuas’s apartment.
An autopsy conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner concluded that Peter, who weighed just 37 pounds, had died as a result of malnutrition. It is alleged that Bravo kept Peter locked and secreted in a bedroom behind a door that locked from the outside. Since January of 2021, Peter never logged on for virtual schooling, despite numerous conversations between Bravo and Peter’s teachers and other school representatives.
District Attorney Hoovler thanked the City of Newburgh Police Department and New York State Police for their investigation and the arrest of the defendants.
“We may never know why this defendant subjected an innocent child in her care to what must have been such an agonizing and wholly preventable death,” said District Attorney David Hoovler. “It is unthinkable that someone would accept the responsibility of being a young child’s primary caregiver and then deny that child the barest necessities of life. It is truly disturbing how this child was kept hidden from school authorities before he died. Absent the COVID-19 pandemic, school and social service protocols would likely have revealed Peter’s deteriorating situation to authorities. Nevertheless, this defendant bears ultimate responsibility for Peter’s death.”
The case is being prosecuted by Chief Trial Assistant District Attorney Richard Moran, Special Counsel to the District Attorney Stewart Rosenwasser and Assistant District Attorney Alexis Gregory.
This criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the State of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.