A 3-year-old boy who was starved, beaten and left to die on a bed of leaves "was killed by every person in this state," a Juvenile Court judge said in an emotional rebuke of the child-welfare system.
Judge William Gladstone called state officials into court Friday to castigate them about the death of Lazaro Figueroa, who had been under state supervision for two years. The judge also took personal blame for the death.The boy's mother, Ana Marie Cardona, 29, and her roommate, Olivia Gonzalez-Mendoza, 24, were charged last week with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, and were being held without bond.
The dead boy's sister, Taimy Cardona, 5, and a brother, Juan Puente, 10, have been taken into state custody.
The case drew widespread attention because the boy's body was left in front of a home in a wealthy Miami Beach neighborhood and went unidentified for a month. A baby sitter finally tipped off police.
A utility crew found the body Nov. 2. The child was 33 inches tall but weighed only 18 pounds. His head was disfigured from swelling around a healed bruise on his forehead.
As weeks passed with no clues to his identity, he was nicknamed "Baby Lollipops" because his T-shirt was decorated with lollipops.
His mother and her roommate told police they had left him "alive but injured" four days before, but an autopsy determined he had been dead less than a day. He had brain damage from a skull fracture, and other fresh and old injuries were found.
Lazaro came under the supervision of the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services when he and his sister were abandoned for three months with a baby sitter. The agency lost track of the family three months later when Cardona vanished.
The women told investigators they expected someone to find the boy and take care of him.
"In their minds, someone rich would find him. They'd clothe him and feed him," said Miami Beach detective Gary Schiaffo.