Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell
Jan. 20, 2005 - September 24, 2006
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Born to Jacki Saunsoci, who was only 17 at the time, Nathaniel had severe Asthma and his mother had trouble caring for him properly. Jacki had problems with drugs and alcohol and the decision was made that she would go into rehabilitation for those problems. While she was in rehabilitation, Nathaniel was placed in foster care. Jacki's
mother would have taken him, she was not allowed to because she had a criminal record.

At first, Nathaniel was placed with Robert and Susan Goodburn though an American Indian child would normally be placed with an American Indian family. Eventually, Nathaniel went to live with his Aunt, Tiara Saunsoci, he was eventually moved again, for medical reasons. From there he went to another foster home, which would be the last place he would live. The family he was placed with, Carlos and Tisha Vega, are not American Indian. It is said that they had 12 people living in their home, five of their own children and five foster children, including Nathaniel.

Nathaniel was only 20 months old when on September 22, 2006, he was with a baby sitter before the Vega's came home and were there for a few hours before they took Nathaniel to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City where he was found to have traumatic head injuries. Nathaniel was flown to the University Of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He died two days later.

Nathaniel's death was not ruled as a natural causes death. That means that someone KNOWS that he was killed and no one is doing anything about it. His body showed other signs of trauma in the form of dog bits on his face, a broken clavicle and his broken leg was still in a cast. 

Ed Matney said:

"I am mystified at the placement of Nathaniel Saunsoci in the Vega household. The Vega 
household was quite full. A decision to place Nathaniel, that baby, in a household 
that size, is puzzling ... I hope a situation like that can be avoided in the future"

Authorities did not arrest anyone in connection with his death, citing a lack of evidence as for what had happened to him. In July of 2007, Nathaniel's family wanted to find out why no one had been arrested yet in connection with his death:

"I think it's a lot of frustration as to why no one is arrested" 
Olivia Saunsoci - Nathaniel's Grandmother

The family was meeting with the Omaha Tribal Council in Macy, Nebraska to request documents that might shed some light on why Nathaniel was placed with this particular foster family, from Child Protective Services. The council agreed to request the documents, though they couldn't say for sure if they would be released to them.

Policy states that Child Protective Services will not comment on any investigation, including that of Nathaniel, they chose not to make a comment in this situation, siting that policy:

"I do not believe the department will ever have a statement"
Thane Glenn - CPS Attorney

CPS is controlled by the tribal government which means any comment would have to go through the tribal council. Because of the ongoing investigation, a secretary said the council could not comment. The first foster family Nathaniel had live with was upset about his death:

"He was a sweet little boy, and I wished they would have left him here"
Susan Goodburn

On the day that Nathaniel died, the other four children who were from tribal foster care, were removed from the home. What about the other five children? Who was worrying about them? Ed Matney said that he was worried about tribal officials asking for an adult audit of their child protective agency where children are placed as foster children. It had taken an extended amount of time to interview all of the people in the household that day and it was taking longer since the removal of the children meant they needed to be located in order to be able to interview them:

"In such a full home, when something bad happens, there are a lot more people to look at" 

Ed Matney, a Dakota County Lawyer said that he was concerned that people were not coming forward with information that was crucial to the investigation. With the proper amount of information, he would be able to get a grand jury to seek and indictment and which would force the Vega's to tell what happened to Nathaniel. He also said that charges didn't seem very likely without information.

A memorial fund was created by a family friend to help pay expense related to his funeral and to help the family who was suffering from financial difficulties. When he asked what he could do to help, if there was anything he could bring them, the Saunsoci family asked for apples and then for grapes, then they said Nathaniel didn't have a head stone:

"Not only do they not have food, they don't have a headstone or anything. They wouldn't have 
asked if I wouldn't have prompted them. It's a different kind of poverty. Unless you've been 
down there, it's difficult to understand"
Will Meier

     

Donations to the family of Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell can be made in person or by mail to Central Bank in Sioux City, 522 Fourth St., P.O. Box 776, 51101. Amy Chace, vice president and branch manager of Central Bank, is overseeing the donations. The bank can be contacted at 712-293-2265.

At the time friends were helping the family, Dakota County Officials would continue to investigate Nathaniel's death:

"Children are the most vulnerable people in our society, and it's important for everybody to know 
that this sort of thing is treat appropriately. It is difficult to say how long the investigation could take. These sorts of things take a long time to get all the materials in. We want to make sure we have everything in place. The autopsy report can take anywhere from a week up to a month to get t
he full report in"
Ed Matney

Ed said that he had plans to talk with family members while the investigation took place:

"I think that the family members of this child, they need time to get through the process and to 
grieve. I wish them well through that process. It's obviously an extremely difficult process"

Evan Saunsoci, Nathaniel's greatgrandfather said he has heard a lot of negative comments about American Indians since the death of his grandson. Some of that feedback was on the Sioux city Journal web site. He is upset about how closed minded people can be. He also said that he knows Nathaniel was sent here for a reason:

"As soon as they hear the word 'reservation', they think the worst. It's not like that. Maybe that 
reason is to show that our children are being mistreated"

The Saunsoci family has stated that they had wanted Nathaniel to remain on the reservation, with them.

Nathaniel was buried in the Omaha Indian Cemetery in Macy, Nebraska. Black smoke rose into the air as the as his tiny, white coffin arrived at the cemetery where he would be buried on top of the grave of his paternal Grandfather, Nathan Mitchell Sr, while two grandfathers and one great grandfather kept watch over the flames near his grave:

"Even the fire itself represents life. Without that fire, we wouldn't be able to live"
Adrian Saunsoci

At 10:30 a.m., Nathaniel was buried with more than 100 people around his grave. Adrian Saunsoci is considered a grandfather to Nathaniel, he is the brother of Olivia Saunsoci, said:

"Because he wasn't raised with his father's family, in this sense, we are giving him back. 
His grandfather will hold him in his arms"

Family members were crying as they shoveled earth over the grave of Nathaniel. Two red, heart shaped balloons that said "I love you" were released into the air. Children carried flowers and toys to his grave. Family and friends circled the grave:

"The circle is one of the biggest symbols of Native life. Nathaniel is in the middle. Nobody 
told them where to go. It just happens"

Sarah Dick, Nathaniel's great grandmother cried, with her hands over her face. She had never even met Nathaniel due to him having been moved from home to home and the fact that she is disable and not able to get around easily. Sarah said the hardest part of what had happened was not knowing what really DID happen:

"I just imagine everything. Maybe he was crying, or whether he was knocked out and didn't hurt. 
It's like a puzzle, and a piece of it is missing. I need to find that missing piece"

Jacki Saunsoci was calm throughout the ceremony. In her hands she had a scrapbook full of pictures of Nathaniel:

"He was very sweet. He was really smart. He was very lovable. He meant everything to me. He was 
my first baby, and everybody loved him."

Jacki says that she knows Nathaniel is happy:

"I don't want to grieve too much because his soul's not going to rest if I continue to grieve"

Only when she spoke of who had hurt her son, did Jacki's voice begin to tremble:

"I hope that whoever did it to him gets arrested and locked in prison or executed. They just can't get away with this. It's not right"

Nathaniel's cousins shared happy stories about times they had been able to spend with him. They had taught him sign language when he was a baby. Nathaniel brought his hands together when he wanted more of something. He would place his hands over his mouth when he was hungry and he put one hand over his heart to say love.

Josephine Saul said that Nathaniel loved chocolate chip cookies and often had chocolate on his face. When she spoke of him and that memory, she smiled:

 "We all loved him so much"

UPDATE:

Today is June 12, 2014 and while searching for updates in Nathaniel's story, I found the following information:

In August of 2009 it was reported that Tisha Vega, who was 34 years old at the time and Carlos Vega, who was 42 at the time, were arrested an charge with attempting to kill a man who was a neighbor of Tisha. Tisha was already facing charges for the death of Nathaniel which at first was felony manslaughter and was later reduced to a plea of no contest since she was able to plea.

On July 29, the couple were arrested and being held on $750,000. bond for attempted murder, aiding and abetting an assault and assault by strangulation. Miguel Garcia told Police that the two had come into his home at about 2:00 a.m. on July 25th and attacked him. Miguel had an epidural hematoma and a cracked skull that were both described as life threatening.

Later that month, Tisha was sentenced to an INSULTING TO NATHANIEL'S MEMORY two years in prison and
$2,000. in fines.

I am unable to find any information about Carlos being sentenced.


Death Occurred in the state of Nebraska

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