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N.Y. Woman Gets Max Sentence for Starving and Killing 7-Year-Old Boy Kept ‘Locked and Secreted in a Bedroom’

Leticia Bravo

Leticia Bravo

A state judge in New York on Tuesday handed down the maximum prison sentence to a woman accused of “locking” her boyfriend’s 7-year-old son in her apartment until he starved to death.

Orange County Judge Craig S. Brown ordered 40-year-old Leticia Bravo to serve 15 years behind bars for killing young Peter Cuacuas in 2020, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

In addition to the 15-year prison sentence, Judge Brown ordered Bravo to serve five years of post-release supervision.

Formerly a professional childcare provider, Bravo in pleaded guilty in March to one count of first-degree manslaughter in connection with the young boy’s death. She had previously been facing charges of both murder and manslaughter before reaching a deal with prosecutors which included a recommendation that she serve the maximum 15-year sentence.

Under Jenna’s Law on Fist-Time Offenders, Bravo will be required to serve at least six-sevenths of her total sentence before she is eligible for release.

Prior to being sentenced, an emotional Bravo addressed the court and said she was sorry for her actions.

“I really don’t know how to express how sorry I am. If I could bring back Peter, I would. Even if I have to stay in prison for some years. I pray every night for Peter’s forgiveness,” she said. “This whole situation breaks my heart.”

She also apologized to Peter and his family.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, Bravo in September 2020 became the child’s primary caregiver, with Peter spending every night of the week at her apartment except for Saturdays, when he stayed with his father. Prosecutors said that Bravo kept the boy hidden inside of her Newburgh home in a bedroom that locked from the outside as he slowly starved to death.

Prosecutors also noted that concerns were raised when Peter didn’t log on for virtual school during the pandemic.

“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,” according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. “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.”

Following her arrest last year, investigators said Bravo “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.”

Leticia Bravo

Leticia Bravo, Orange County Jail

Peter’s father, Arturo Cuacuas, in February pleaded guilty to one count of criminally negligent homicide. He also received the maximum prison sentence permissible under state law, which is 1.33 to 4 years. As part of his plea deal, Cuacuas agreed to cooperate in the case against Bravo, telling authorities that he noticed his son’s deteriorating health for months and failed to take any steps to help the boy.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler thanked the City of Newburgh Police Department and New York State Police for their help in bringing Bravo to justice.

“There is no more innocent victim than a child,” Hoovler said in a statement. “The facts and circumstances of this case are unimaginable, and the community collectively grieves the loss of Peter Cuacuas. No one deserves the type of depraved mistreatment the victim in this case suffered. The dedicated efforts of the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of this case has resulted in a just sentence that will hold this defendant responsible for her actions.”

[Image via Twitter/News 12 Westchester screengrab ]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.