Salt Lake County prosecutors will not file criminal charges against a Midvale mother whose son drowned in the Jordan River.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Neal Gunnarason said the evidence presented against Leticia Peralez, 28, doesn't meet the standard for criminal negligence. Her 4-year-old son, Josue, drowned last week in the Jordan River while playing in Winchester Park at 6400 South in Murray."We can't prove the mother knew the children would go to the water," Gunnarson said. "And I don't think even the mother knew how long they might have been out of sight. One report was 30 seconds, one was five minutes."
That unknown amount of time was among the major factors prosecutors considered in making their decision, Gunnarson said.
"The question is did something foreseeable happen in that five minutes that could have been prevented," he said.
Also considered were the number of discrepancies in the stories Peralez and her male companion, Franciso Enriquez, told police.
Initially, Peralez said she had been with her sons, Josue and Caesar, 5, at the canoe launch, leaving them only momentarily to use the park's public restroom. But then the story changed and both Peralez and Enriquez, 25, said they were in a car in the parking lot, watching the kids out the window. Police have been unable to determine what Peralez was doing in the car.
Prosecutors also considered filing charges against Enriquez but concluded there was insufficient evidence, Gunnarson said.
Gunnarson and Murray Police Lt. Dee Rowland said they have been unable to determine why the mother gave two different versions of what happened, but they said some of the discrepancies may be because Peralez speaks limited English. It could also be due to emotional stress, Rowland said.
Peralez has been despondent since the death of her son and has been hospitalized, Murray Police Sgt. Gary Christensen said. Her husband and the boys' father, Caesar Peralez Sr., walks the banks of the river daily looking for signs of his son's body, which has not been found, Christensen said.
Search and rescue crews from the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office spent two days and about 14 hours dragging the river last week with no luck. Murray police officers walked the river bank again Friday but also saw no sign of the boy, who would have turned five Feb. 17.
A final search with boat crews and jet skis is planned for Saturday, Rowland said.
The body could either be caught in debris on the river bottom or may have been swept down the river long before rescue crews started their search. If it is trapped, police expect it will eventually rise to the surface, Rowland said.
Murray police will turn the case over to the Murray city attorney for consideration of a lesser charge, Rowland said.
Gunnarson said the decision not to prosecute was a tough one. All parents leave their children from time to time and tragic accidents do happen, he said. But his department will not take the position that every time a child is killed a crime has been committed, he said.
"There are times in which every parent looks back and says had I been more diligent, this wouldn't have happened," Gunnarson said. "I am confident that (Peralez) would say that."