Sirita Jimmina Sotelo
February 12, 2000 - January 25, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial
From the foster family of Sirita, who love her very much!

She was a sweet little girl. She loved music and she loved to dance. She knew she could always delay bedtime another 5 minutes by asking to see Mars; she could point it out in the southern sky. I was so proud, because I had taught her that. 

She liked clanking our glasses together and drinking root beer floats. I called her “Boo-Boo.” She liked it, and sometimes called me “Boo-Boo.” I said no, you are Boo-Boo, Mommy is Moo-Moo, and I am Ugu-Moo-Goo. She liked sitting on my shoulders waving the flag while I danced around the house humming “Stars and Stripes Forever.” 

She had a beautiful voice and picked up songs very quickly, often after only hearing me sing them once. She was a real fashion princess, she liked getting dressed up in outfits with her hair done up with hair pretties. She was smart, she was pretty, she was wonderful and we were lucky to have her in our lives.
 

Born with Cocaine in her system and the result of an extramarital affair, Sirita had a tough beginning to her short life.

Sirita was taken away from her birth mother, after her birth, due to her use of drugs. Over her lifetime, she would be reunited with her mother on several occasions only to be once again taken away and placed in foster care. Sirita's biological father was not involved in her life at all during this time. Sirita's mother was not able to overcome her drug use and she also had
psychological problems.

In May of 2003, based on the the amount of time that Sirita had been in the care of the state, the failed attempts to place her back with her mother and the fact that her father had not been in her life at all, the state filed papers to try to

terminate the parental rights of her mother, Patricia Sotelo. At that time, Sirita's father, John C. Ewell, came forward and said that he wanted her to live with him and his wife, Heather B. Ewell. After a home study was done and a service plan was complete in which John underwent drug and alcohol tests, parenting classes and weekly visits with Sirita as well as a psychological evaluation, on November 21 of 2003, Sirita went to live with her father, stepmother and four other children.

For 12 months after her placement, the department made visits to their home and provided case management. Several visits were made and it was determined that counseling was needed, though it was never provided. CPS had no concerns about the placement, though John told them that Sirita seemed to be having trouble adjusting to
living in her knew home. During a visit on December 8, 2003, John told a Catholic Community Services worker that Sirita and their youngest child would fight a lot.

John seemed to feel that part of the problem with Sirita was that she was allowed to go visit with her mother every week. John said that after the visits, Sirita would come home with a bad attitude and that she would not talk to them. According to John, Sirita started to throw fits at that time and stopped wanting to be around the other children.

The behavior issues were discussed at a meeting with the Guardian Ad Litem. A report dated January 5, 2004, said:

 "Due to Sirita’s current acting out behavior, I strongly recommend counseling services be made
available to John and Heather Ewell so that they are able to help Sirita adjust to her new 
surroundings and family and to adjust to visits with her mother"

By March, the notes on the case show that Sirita was settling down a bit better in the home. Notes also indicated that she was settling down and that her behavior had improved. Information provided also said that while Sirita and the youngest child still had a few problems and noted that they were not as frequent as they had been. The notes concluded saying that as long as Sirita is allowed contact with her biological mother, she would continue to have problems. John had said that he was going to look into getting counseling for Sirita to help her deal with all she was going through.

On May 14, 2004, a health and safety visit showed that Sirita was adjusting even better to her new home. The caseworker said that she appeared to feel safe and much more relaxed than when she visited with her mother. The caseworker noted that there were still problems with Sirita since she lied a lot and went into fits. The recommendation was that the family receive counseling and that a school assessment be made for Sirita. John was to check into the schooling and the case worker would handle the counseling. The counseling never happened.

A court report submitted by the caseworker on in August of 2004 states:

"This placement has been successful and the Department does not have any concerns about
Sirita that would warrant continued involvement in her life, except for the issue of visitation 
between Sirita and her mother"

In November of 2004, the department determined that Sirita was in a good place and custody was granted to John and Heather. On January 22, 2005, CPS would realize that they had made a HUGE mistake.

That night, Police called CPS to report a suspicious death of a child. That child would turn out to be Sirita. According to reports, Heather Ewell had called poison control stating that Sirita had gotten sick after she ate a glue stick solvent of some kind. Later in the evening she had checked on her and she was dead. Nothing was found in her system that backed up the glue gun story. She would later change her story and say that Sirita had fallen backwards and hit her head. That story would also prove to be a lie.

Authorities were called to the home and noticed that Sirita seemed to be malnourished and pale. A medical examiner determined that her death was caused by blows to her head which had caused her skull to fracture and she also had a severed liver. Heather would later admit that she wasn't able to handle the fits that Sirita had been
throwing so she had put her into a cold shower and beat her after she had wet her pants.

From prison, Patricia Sotelo said:

"I prayed to God that it was an accident. I didn't want to hear somebody caused harm to 
my angel. I just don't understand" 

Information would come to be known that during her own life time, Heather had been abandoned by her own mother, abused by her father who was addicted to drugs and raped when she was a child. Heather had her first child when she was in the ninth grade and by age 25 she was raising four children that were her own and one child, Sirita, that was the result of her husbands affair with Patricia.

CPS had not bothered to do a background check on John or Heather. IF they had, they would have found out about Heather's troubled past and that of John. Reports would have shown that one of the children in their home was at risk of losing their place at preschool due to a lot of missed days. That child always seemed to be afraid and spoke very little. CPS would have also learned about alleged reports of drugs being sold out of the home. John and Heather had also been allowing one of their children to stay overnights with Patricia, who was suspect of physically abusing Sirita.

The office of the Family And Children's Ombudsman conducted an investigation of the Division Of Children And Family services and the case involving Sirita and her parents. A review was done of all of the records, treatment reports, professional evaluation and procedures and state laws that applied to this case. The reason for the their 
involvement was to determine if DCFS had complied with all of the policies set in place to protect children and to see if and where any improvements could be made in policy that would help to better protect children.

Heather Ewell was charged with manslaughter, though oddly, she was not arrested or taken into custody, immediately. Heather plead guilty to the charge. The remaining children in the home were removed for their own protection.

Superior Court Judge George Bowden listened to testimony in court. Heather stood before him and read a statement after she was found guilty:

"My intentions were to help Sirita, never to harm her in any way. I tried so hard, but she 
struggled every day, never smiled"

Heather said that during the 14 months that Sirita had been with them the conditions didn't improve and had in fact become more and more difficult for her, every day. She was overwhelmed with having to take care of five children, school commitments and other factors that caused her stress in her life. Heather also brought up the fact that the case worker had never arranged for counseling as she had said she would:

"We asked multiple times for counseling, but it was never granted. I loved Sirita just as 
much as my other children"

Heather went on to talk about the night Sirita died:

"I do remember that I lost it; my mind went blank. Despite all these things that happened, 
I know I am responsible for my actions"

Heather's attorney, Mark Mestel asked for leniency for her, wanting her sentence to be between four and six years:

"This was a woman who never intended to hurt anyone"

Deputy prosecuting attorney, Craig Matheson said that way Sirita had died was appalling:

"It is inconceivable anyone could be so depressed, so angry they would commit the acts 
of violence that the defendant did in this case"

The judge didn't agree with Heather's lawyer and sentenced her to eight and a half years, not at all concerned with what Heather had been through in her life:

"I don't find that it serves as a justification or excuse for what happened"

GOOD FOR HIM!

Gary, Sirita's former foster father, commented after the sentencing. He and his wife had been the foster parents of Sirita before she had gone to live with her father:

"She was marked by drugs from birth to death" 

Heather's mother-in-law commented:

"We were pretty much ready for it. She's a good woman. 
Heather is a good mother"

Gary and Magda decided that they needed to do something to help protect children. They worked hard to get new legislation passed and they were successful:

"It's too late for my little girl, but there are thousands more children at risk today, just like 
Sirita.  If the death of my daughter is what it takes to change the law - the price was too high"
Gary

I totally agree with him!

     

Sirita Jimmina Sotelo - Please Visit This Site To Learn About Sirita's Law
Foster Care Justice

Death occurred in the state of Washington

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