• Lawyer: CPS 'dropped the ball' in child abuse case

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    Six children claim they were abused in the home of a family friend and are now suing the state for not protecting them.

    Julie Kays, the lawyer representing the kids, said Child Protective Services dropped the ball in the case. She said there were obvious signs of abuse and the state didn’t follow up or adequately investigate and protect the kids.

    “It was, quite frankly, a living hell for these kids,” Kays said.

    According to the suit, the children were repeatedly beaten, whipped and forced to hit each other over a period of three years by a woman, Kays said, who was supposed to be a family friend entrusted with their care.

    That woman, Maria Gonzales Esquivel, is now in jail, pending her trial on assault charges.

    “She’s a monster. She’s a sadist,” Kays said.

    Neighbors said they didn’t have a clue anything was wrong.

    “Until the cops showed up, you don’t know anything was happening there,” said Mike, one of those neighbors.

    Others said they saw the kids playing out in front of the house, under the watchful eyes of Esquivel.

    “They had trikes and bikes out front all the time and just looked normal,” said Sherry, another neighbor.

    But Kays said the children were repeatedly threatened to not tell anyone what was happening to them. Nevertheless, 17 people, including teachers, counselors and day care providers noticed bruises on the kids.

    “Assaulting her with rolling pins and heavy objects, beating her face beyond recognition,” Kays said, describing the abuse suffered by one of the children.

    Some people also noticed the kids weren’t clean, or properly clothed or fed, and reported that to Child Protective Services.

    “CPS really dropped the ball in this case,” Kays said. “They dropped the ball repeatedly.”

    She said that’s why the kids are now suing the state for unspecified damages.

    KIRO 7 contacted the Department of Social and Health Services for comment, but the agency said it does not comment on pending litigation.

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