Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tragedy in the River City

There are few things as tragic as the death of a child, but when a child is taken from their own yard and then murdered, the tragedy is especially traumatic. Louisville experienced such a tragedy in the well publicized death of 4 year old Cesar Ivan Aquilar-Cano. For those not living in Louisville, let me briefly recap what happened to “Ivan” as he is now commonly called. Ivan disappeared from behind his home, an apartment building near historic Churchill Downs on June 29, where he had been playing. He was last seen by one of the neighbors talking to what appeared to be a White couple, who were picking through some furniture dumped on the lawn; apparently the result of an eviction. The couple appeared to briefly chat to Ivan and then turned to walk away according to one neighbor who was trying to keep an eye on the youth. Momentarily distracted, the couple quickly turned and grabbed Ivan and drove away. After an intensive search, Ivan’s severely decomposed body was found in the back of a city dump truck on July 7. It was several long hours before the police were called. No “Amber Alert” was ever posted for little Ivan.

Investigators revealed through their interviews with neighbors that it was not uncommon for Ivan to run the neighborhood unsupervised by his mother or her boyfriend. Ivan’s father was working in Lexington and rarely around. Neighbors said his mother and her boyfriend worked at Churchill Downs. She was a “hot walker”, which meant she walked the horses around after their run until they cooled down and can be taken to the stalls. Some of the neighbors said that the 4 years old child was often left alone, and on at least one occasion, was seen walking alone across Central Avenue, a busy four lane road. Little Ivan had even been seen riding his bike…naked. One can’t help but wonder why Child Protective Services weren’t called in, but the story continues.

Police, using cadaver dogs, zeroed in one particular apartment building directly behind Ivan’s apartment. Of interest was an apartment occupied by a convicted child molester and another adjacent apartment in the same building which had been "tagged" by the dogs. The man, identified by the police only as a “person of interest” (since there’s been no arrest, I will not include his name at this point) served time for molesting a 9 and 11 year old, was interviewed by the police on three occasions and released. He admitted arguing with the mother (ironically) about the dangers of letting Ivan roam the neighborhood. It should also be pointed out that the “person of interest” lives alone in the apartment. His male partner lives nearby. A broader search also reveled several other convicted child molesters in the area. Now, here’s where the true scope of the tragedy begins to play out.

Up to this point, the identity of “person of interest” remained confidential, as it should since he wasn’t being charged with the crime. A clerk mistakenly released the name and address of this individual to the media. Like jackals, they rushed to see who could get it out first. While the police requested that the information not be released since it could compromise the investigation, plus wrongly imply guilt on this individual. With an ethics be damned attitude, WHAS 11 and the Courier Journal went forward with the information with most of the local media closely behind. The result was a frenzy of hatred directed toward an individual who thus far had only been questioned. This “trial by media” resulted in him fleeing his apartment, abandoning all his possessions and losing his job. A good friend of mine who is VERY close to the family told me that this individual had even attempted suicide as a result of all this.

It was bad enough that a child was murdered, but was there any reason for the media, in an attempt to make the biggest splash, to release information regarding a person the police had only interviewed? Granted he ruined his own life when he molested those two children, and believe me, I’m the last person to defend scum like that, but he paid his debt to society by serving time in prison ( personally, what I would like to see happen to child molesters is not fit to print). He has remained current reporting his whereabouts and has been in compliance with all rules imposed on him because of his prior convection. He has not been arrested. He has not been charged with the crime. He has only been questioned thus far. So what gave the media the right to imply his guilt? And to make matters worse, the media has descended on his elderly parents and siblings at all hours in the hopes of getting “another” scoop. Thanks to advice by friends and other family members, they have refused to discuss the matter with the press. Yet the media seems intent on establishing a link, no matter how tenuous, between the crime, their son (with whom they maintain little to no contact by the way) and them. I’ve been told that some of the media has been trying to get a Release in order to avoid a lawsuit. Nevertheless, my friend tells me the family has retained an attorney and is considering a possible lawsuit against the City of Louisville for the release of the information, along with WHAS 11, the Courier Journal, and perhaps others.

But that’s not the end of the story. It seems the reason the police weren’t called during the first critical hours of Ivan’s disappearance is because his mother, Rosalina Cano, her boyfriend, and her ex-husband are illegal aliens and they were hoping to avoid notice by the authorities. That too was one reason given as to why no Amber Alert was put out. Now, the mother wants to return to her native Guatemala in order to bury her son but is concerned that she won’t be allowed to reenter the country (duh). The Louisville Police Department has apparently offered to help her return to Louisville and has declared her a “critical witness” to the crime so she can get her temporary emergency travel visa. Really? What did she witness? She was never around, not even at the time of her son’s disappearance. What additional information could she provide that she hasn’t already shared with the police? To add another twist, the Feds have apparently been looking for Ms.Cano and Company for some time in order to forcibly deport them. If allowed to return, it will be interesting to see how long she and the others will be allowed to remain before efforts to deport them are made again.

Lastly, there is one other party in this drama which has managed to avoid the media’s attention thus far and that is Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs officials have already publicly announced that Ms. Cano won’t lose her job by taking time off to bury Ivan in her native country. Huh? Excuse me, but I was under the impression that employing illegal aliens was a Federal offence. Section 8 of the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act pertaining to the employment states “…that Conspiracy to commit the crimes of sheltering, harboring, or employing illegal aliens is a separate federal offense punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or five years imprisonment” ( Also see How can Churchill Downs so brazenly say to Ms Cano, an illegal alien, “Don’t worry about your job, it will be here when you get back”. It’s bad enough that Churchill Downs is exempt from the Smoking Ban, but are they exempt from Federal law to? Why isn’t anyone questioning Churchill Downs about their policy of hiring illegal workers? Is anyone at Churchill Downs going to be prosecuted over this? Some how, I doubt it. It seems like just another sad chapter in the unfolding tragedy of a young child’s death amid the ratings driven media and a disregard for ethical reporting; a broken home; an irresponsible parent; illegal immigration and those who protect and support them; the public’s shock and disgust over not just the murder, but those who prey on our most precious possession, our children, amidst a world increasing full of fear and apprehension.

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