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N.Y. Woman Starved 7-Year-Old Boy to Death, Keeping Him ‘Locked’ and ‘Secreted’ in Bedroom: Prosecutors

Leticia Bravo

Leticia Bravo

A woman in New York State is facing murder and other felony charges after authorities say she kept her boyfriend’s seven-year-old son “locked” and “secreted” in her apartment as the boy starved to death.

Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler and Newburgh Police Commissioner Jose A. Gomerez on Friday announced that Leticia Bravo, 39, had been charged with second-degree murder and both first- and second-degree manslaughter in the February death of Peter Cuacuas. Prosecutors claim that Cuacuas was “kept secreted” inside a locked bedroom in Bravo’s Newburgh, N.Y. apartment without food while he starved to death.

“It is unthinkable that someone would accept the responsibility of caring for a child and then deny that child the basic necessities of life,” Hoovler said in a press release. “Children are the most innocent and vulnerable of victims. It is truly disturbing how this child was kept hidden from school authorities before he died. I thank the City of Newburgh Police Department, and the New York State Police for their ongoing investigation on this case.”

Bravo, who prosecutors say worked as a professional childcare provider, had reportedly became Peter’s primary caregiver in September 2020. The boy began spending nearly every night of the week at her apartment.

According to a press release, Bravo brought Peter’s “lifeless body” to St. Luke’s Hospital in Newburgh on Feb. 10 at approximately 8:00 a.m. Medical personnel pronounced the child dead shortly after arrival.

The Newburgh Police Department, the New York State Police, and a Child Protective Service Multi-Disciplinary Taskforce opened an investigation into Peter’s death and discovered that the child would live in Bravo’s apartment “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 that Peter, who weighed just 37 pounds,  had died as a result of malnutrition,” Hoovler’s office wrote. “It is alleged that Bravo kept Peter locked and secreted in a bedroom behind a door that locked from the outside.”

Authorities said that Peter had not logged on for virtual classes at Temple Hill Academy in New Windsor since January 2021, despite his teachers and other school administrators contacting Bravo on several occasions.

After several months of investigative work, officers with the Newburgh Police Department took Bravo into custody on Thursday. Based on the current charges she is facing 25 years to life in prison.

Also on Thursday, 56-year-old Arturo Cuacuas was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide for his role in his son’s death. He faces up to four years in state prison.

“Today is about justice for Peter Cuacuas. Our children are our most vulnerable community members,” Commissioner Gomerez said. “This is a devastating case for our entire community, who I know were frustrated over the past eight months with no arrest being made. This has been a lengthy and emotional case that has affected our department, specifically those involved in the investigation.”

Bravo and Arturo are both being held in Orange County Jail. They scheduled to appear before a judge in Orange County Court on Oct. 26.

[image via Orange County Jail]

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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.