for dead toddler
By Nicole Paseka - Rapid
Community members continued
to rally around
the Saunsoci family Wednesday following the death of 20-month-old
A family friend from Sioux
create a memorial fund in Nathaniel's honor to help pay for his funeral
expenses and assist the family financially.
"Not only do they not have
food, they don't
have a headstone or anything," Will Meier said. "They wouldn't have
if I wouldn't have prompted them."
Nathaniel, son of Jackie
and Nathan Mitchell, died Sunday at the University of Nebraska Medical
Center in Omaha after severe head injuries. He was living with a South
Sioux City foster family when his injuries occurred.
Members of the Saunsoci
family said Nathaniel
also suffered two breaks in his collar bone, a broken leg and a
to his nose.
Meier said when he first
asked the Saunsoci
family if there was anything he could bring them, they first responded
"apples," then "grapes." They also mentioned they did not have a
"It's a different kind of
you've been down there, it's difficult to understand," Meier said.
Donations to the family of
can be made in person or by mail to Central Bank in Sioux City, 522
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
While friends assisted the
Dakota County officials continued their investigation into the child's
"Children are the most
in our society, and it's important for everybody to know that this sort
of thing is treat appropriately," Dakota County Attorney Ed Matney said
Matney said 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," he said. "The autopsy report can take anywhere from a week up
a month to get the full report in."
After Matney receives
the investigators and evaluates the autopsy report, he will then decide
if criminal charges will be filed. He declined to speculate on how long
that will take.
No criminal charges have
been filed against
Nathaniel's most recent foster parents at this time.
Matney said he plans to
interact with members
of the Saunsoci family during the investigation.
"I think that the family
members of this
child ... they need time to get through the process and to grieve. I
them well through that process. It's obviously an extremely difficult
Matney added that the
been under way since Friday, when Nathaniel was first seen at the Mercy
Medical Center emergency room in Sioux City.
Nathaniel's burial will be
at 10 a.m. today
at the Omaha Indian Cemetery in Macy, Neb. A traditional dinner will
at the Alfred Gilpin Building in Macy.
Previous foster parents of
not the ones he was living with most recently, were shocked to learn of
"He was just a sweet little
boy, and I
wished they would have left him here," said Susan Goodburn. She and her
husband, Robert Goodburn, cared for Nathaniel from December 2005 to
March 2006. Nathaniel was not in the Goodburns' home when he received
injuries that ended his life.
Nathaniel as a wonderful
child who suffered from severe asthma.
"He was wheezing all the
time," she said.
"He could be fine one minute and not the next. You really had to stay
top of it."
Goodburn was upset to learn
in a foster home with five other children because he required extra
for his severe asthma.
Meier, the family friend,
Nathaniel's battles with asthma. He said the asthma made it more
for young Jackie Saunsoci to care for her infant son.
"She was a good mother, and
issues were so severe," Meier said.
"(Nathaniel) just had it
brutal ... battling
his health condition, then this."
Tisha Vega fighting
prosecution in Schuyler
Tisha Vega fighting
Schuyler beating case
January 13, 2010
SCHUYLER, Neb. -- A woman
for abusing her South Sioux City foster child, who later died, is
fighting prosecution on a separate attempted-murder charge.
Tisha Vega is one of four
suspects in the
July beating of 28-year-old Miguel Garcia. Others charged in the crime
are her husband, Carlos Vega, and two Schuyler men, Hermelindo
and Arnoldo Marroquin-Romero.
Tisha and Carlos Vega were
on charges that include attempted murder for the assault on Garcia, who
was Tisha Vega's neighbor in Schuyler.
Garcia suffered an epidural
cracked skull in the assault.
A prosecutor said Wednesday
that a county
judge has ordered Tisha Vega to trial, but she is fighting the order.
In August, the 35-year-old
Vega was given
consecutive one-year sentences on two counts of misdemeanor negligent
abuse in Dakota County for injuries suffered by Nathaniel Saunsoci
her 20-month-old foster child.
Nathaniel, one of 10
children living in
the Vega home, died at an Omaha hospital on Sept. 24, 2006, of
Vega was arrested in March
after the Journal found her address through a public-records search and
provided it to Dakota County authorities.
She was charged with
manslaughter for Nathaniel's
death, but the charge was amended as part of a plea deal.
Tisha Vega and
Husband Face Attempted
Jul 30, 2009 8:12
Tisha Vega is less than a
month away from
being sentenced for the death of a former foster child. Now her,
and her husband are facing attempted murder charges after attacking a
The 34-year-old Vega was
the foster mother
of 20 month-old Nathaniel Saunsoci of South Sioux City.
say he died in 2006 from blunt force trauma to the head while in her
Vega was originally charged with manslaughter, but ended up pleading no
contest to a reduced charge of two counts of child abuse. She is
set to be sentenced in late august.
According to court
documents, Tisha and
her husband, Carlos, were arrested Sunday after assaulting a neighbor
their home in Schuyler, Nebraska.
The two apparently went
into the unlocked
home and beat and strangled the man, cracking his skull and causing an
epidural hematoma. Both Tisha and Carlos are being charged with
murder, aiding and abetting assault, and strangulation.
Carlos later mentioned to
police that Tisha
had told him someone had tried to rape her earlier in the morning.
When question about the
simply said she had no idea what they were talking about.
Earlier this month Tisha
was arrested for
case: Family wants
Date: 2009-03-22 - Molly
For more than eight months,
has been wanted for manslaughter in the death of her 20-month-old
child, Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell.
She is accused of causing
the Omaha Indian
boy's death in late 2006 but as of Friday afternoon had not been
Although authorities would not discuss her whereabouts, public
indicate Vega and her husband, Carlos, live in the eastern Pennsylvania
town of Oaks.
family says the
boy deserves justice.
"Any time a life is lost,
you want answers,"
said Eleanor Baxter, Nathaniel's great-grandmother. "So far we haven't
provided little information
about efforts to find Vega. However, the Dakota County Sheriff's Office
said Friday officials were attempting to contact Pennsylvania
after the Journal provided information about the Oaks address.
life -- and his death -- were complicated.
He was a fragile child,
severe asthma and food allergies, taken from a teen mother who battled
substance abuse. Nathaniel was placed with an Iowa foster family, next
with relatives on the Omaha Indian Reservation and then with his final
family -- Carlos and Tisha Vega.
During his stay with the
Vegas, he suffered
serious injuries -- a broken leg, broken clavicle and dog bite on the
-- before he was hospitalized Sept. 22, 2006, with a fatal brain
He died two days later.
The case stalled for almost
until an arrest warrant for Tisha Vega was issued July 11.
Former co-workers say Tisha
Vega, 34, a
member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, worked as a public health nurse at
T. Curtis Health Center on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Macy, Neb.
She and her husband lived
at 409 Southridge
Drive in South Sioux City. Nathaniel was one of five tribal foster
in the home, which also included five of the couple's own children.
In the months after
former Dakota County Attorney Ed Matney said potential suspects
the Vegas and an unnamed baby sitter. He said the child was at a baby
house earlier on the day he died but had been at the Vegas' house
hours" before being taken to the hospital.
A search warrant
application alleges Nathaniel
suffered fatal, nonaccidental injuries while with Tisha Vega at her
An accompanying affidavit alleges that Tisha Vega injured and killed
"without malice upon a sudden quarrel or unintentionally while in the
of an unlawful act."
Carlos and Tisha Vega left
City after Nathaniel's death but before officials announced they were
Authorities said the couple
went to the
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in western South Dakota, headquarters of
the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and moved several times after that.
According to Dakota County
records of the sale of the Southridge Drive house, which closed Dec.
Carlos and Tisha Vega listed their new address as 1311 Egypt Road in
The city is northwest of
just north of Valley Forge National Historic Park.
The assessor's document is
dated Jan. 7,
but Carlos Vega listed the same address as the location of his
La Juanita Drywall, in a Pennsylvania Department of State filing dated
The phone number listed in
for the business is the same number the couple gave local real estate
when selling their home.
Betty Sherr, the Century 21
agent who handled
the sale, said she did not know there was an arrest warrant for Tisha
Sherr said she believed Tisha Vega had been back to the Sioux City area
three or four times to deal with the sale.
Jacki Saunsoci, Nathaniel's
most of what she hears about the investigation into her son's death are
rumors from her relatives. Several months ago the rumor was that the
had been closed, although that wasn't true.
"I still think about
day," Saunsoci said, tears filling her eyes. "I don't know what to
because I have my own thoughts."
Although she used to be in
Matney, the former county attorney, Jacki Saunsoci said she stopped
him when the case stalled. She has not been in contact with Dakota
Attorney Kim Watson, who was elected last year.
"It always seemed to me
like they never
even tried," Saunsoci said. "(That) they just let it go."
South Sioux City Police
Chief Scot Ford,
whose department investigated Nathaniel's death, said the case had been
turned over to the county attorney for prosecution.
Nebraska State Patrol
Johnson, who signed the arrest warrant application, declined to comment
on the investigation and referred questions to Watson's office.
Staffers in Watson's office
told the Journal
earlier this month that someone had been charged in the case but did
On Friday, the Journal
about the Egypt Road address and Carlos Vega's business to a member of
Watson's staff and to the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.
Watson said there was
nothing to update
in the case until Vega is arrested. She said any information on
to find Vega should come from law enforcement.
Dakota County Sheriff's
Deputy Mike Kreegar
said Friday he was trying to make contact with Pennsylvania authorities
to learn more about the Vegas' whereabouts. A decision to arrest Tisha
Vega, if she's found, hinges on whether Watson's office would extradite
Vega to Nebraska, he said.
Watson did not return a
phone message Friday
asking whether she would pursue extradition.
-- Jan. 20, 2005
son of Nathan Mitchell and Jacki Saunsoci, is born in Cedar Rapids,
-- January 2006 -- Iowa
Nathaniel in foster care after they take custody from his mother, who
seeking substance-abuse treatment.
-- Feb. 24, 2006 --
Woodbury County Juvenile
Court transfers custody of Nathaniel to the Omaha Tribe, saying his
falls under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Tribal authorities place him
with his mother's sister, Tiara.
-- Summer of 2006 -- Tribal
remove Nathaniel from his relatives and place him with Carlos and Tisha
Vega, of South Sioux City. Authorities say he was one of 10 children in
the household, which included five Tribal foster children and five of
Vegas' own children.
-- July 11-27, 2006 --
a dog bit Nathaniel in the face during this time while he is in the
of Tisha Vega.
-- Sept. 1-13, 2006 --
fractures his left tibia while in the care of Tisha Vega.
-- Sept. 22, 2006 --
at Mercy Medical Center -- Sioux City with a head injury.
-- Sept. 24, 2006 --
Nathaniel dies at
the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
-- July 11, 2008 -- An
arrest warrant is
issued for Tisha Vega, 34. She's wanted for a charge of manslaughter.
documents allege Nathaniel suffered fatal injuries while in her custody
at her home.
January 13, 2010
Neb. woman fights
SCHUYLER, Neb. (AP) — A
already imprisoned for child abuse is fighting prosecution on a
Tisha Vega is one of four
suspects in the
beating of 28-year-old Miguel Garcia last July.
Prosecutor Francis Botelho
that a county judge ordered Vega to trial, but she is fighting that
A Colfax County district judge will rule on the matter.
In August, the 35-year-old
Vega was given
consecutive one-year sentences on two counts of misdemeanor negligent
abuse in Dakota County.
Before a plea deal, Vega
had been charged
with manslaughter in the 2006 death of her 20-month-old foster child in
South Sioux City.
April trial set for 1
Neb. beating case
SCHUYLER, Neb. (AP) _ One
of four suspects
charged in the beating of a Schuyler man will stand trial April 7. A
County District Court judge set the date in the case of Carlos Vega.
documents say he lives in Norristown, Pa. Vega, his wife Tisha Vega and
two other men, Hermelindo Perez-Gomez and Arnoldo Marroquin-Romero _
of Schuyler _ are charged in the July beating of 28-year-old Miguel
Garcia alleged that Vega tried to strangle him during the beating. Vega
has pleaded not guilty to strangulation and three related charges.
Vega is fighting prosecution on an attempted murder charge in the case.
She's already imprisoned for abusing her 20-month-old foster child in
Sioux City, who later died.
Friday, January 15,
Plea Deal in Foster
Former foster mother
charged with manslaugher
pleads no contest to child abuse instead
DAKOTA CITY, Neb. -- The
family of a 20-month-old
boy who died in foster care nearly three years ago is hurting anew now
that the woman who was charged with causing his death will be punished
only for child abuse.
Tisha Vega, who was
foster mother when he died in 2006, had been charged with felony
but prosecutors amended the charge Thursday morning.
In exchange, Vega, 34,
pleaded no contest
to two counts of misdemeanor child abuse. She faces up to two years in
prison and a fine when she is sentenced Aug. 25 in Dakota County
Court. According to court documents, she also agreed to repay
family for the cost of his funeral.
American Indian activist
Frank LaMere of
South Sioux City called the legal resolution of the case an "insult."
Evan Saunsoci, Nathaniel's grandfather, said the family is hurt by
decision to accept a plea to misdemeanor charges.
"If it's just child abuse,
how come Nathaniel
still ain't here?" Saunsoci asked.
District court officials
said the child
abuse charges stem from when Nathaniel was bitten in the face by a dog
and when he broke his leg, injuries he suffered while in Vega's care.
Omaha Tribe had placed Nathaniel, whose parents, Jacki Saunsoci and
Mitchell, are tribal members, with Vega in her South Sioux City home.
was one of 10 children in the household, five of whom were foster
Nathaniel died from a brain
24, 2006, at an Omaha hospital. His family and other members of the
community waited for authorities to make an arrest, but even after
issued an arrest warrant for Vega in July 2008, they did not
arrest her, as she had moved out of the area.
In March, the Journal
conducted its own
investigation, found a Pennsylvania address for Vega and provided it to
police. The day after the Journal ran a story about its search for the
suspect, Vega was arrested at that address.
"(The arrest) just takes
away a lot of
the anguish over no justice for Nathaniel," the boy's grandmother,
Saunsoci, said then.
But on Thursday, LaMere
said he was taken
aback by the latest developments in the case and said he plans to
them with members of the four local tribes: Winnebago, Omaha, Ponca and
"I am stunned," LaMere
said. "This young
man was loved. Judging by what I heard today you wouldn't think that.
is no justice for Nathaniel. Only insult."
Dakota County Attorney Kim
not immediately be reached for comment to answer questions about why
allowed Vega to plead to lesser charges or whether they would continue
to investigate Nathaniel's death. Watson refuses to communicate with
Journal except by e-mail.
Evan Saunsoci said he plans
to pray for
Vega, the judge and the prosecutors. If Vega didn't kill Nathaniel,
said, he believes she knows who did and will have to live with that for
the rest of her life.
"It's going to eat away at
her," he said.
"It's going to bother her to where she may not live a normal life."
-- Journal writer Dolly A.
to this report.
Tracking the news
What we knew: Former South
Sioux City resident
Tisha Vega, 34, was charged with felony manslaughter for causing the
of Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell, her former foster child, when he lived
with her in September 2006.
What's new: Vega pleaded no
two lesser charges, misdemeanor child abuse, at a hearing Thursday in
County District Court. American Indian activist Frank LaMere called the
new developments an "insult."
What's next: She faces up
to two years
in prison and a fine when she is sentenced Aug. 25.
Vega Sentenced in
2006 Saunsoci Death
(DAKOTA CITY, NE) Tisha
Vega will spend
two years behind bars in connection with the 2006 death of Nathanial
Last month Vega accepted a deal, pleading guilty to two counts of child
abuse. Tuesday she received two consecutive one-year terms for the
Despite the ruling, Nathanial’s family still want answers and closure.
“Justice in this case is
still a long way
It’s been almost three
years since 20-month-old
Nathanial Saunsoci died in September 2006.
“There’s not a day that
doesn’t go by that
we remember Nathanial with tears in our eyes,” says Eleanor
Nathanial’s great grandmother.
“His little spirit is still
Mary Saunsoci, Nathanial’s great aunt.
Tisha Vega will now spend
two years behind
bars after pleading guilty to lesser charges in the case.
“It was a slap on the
hand,” says Saunsoci-Baxter.
“When they say children are sacred, I believe that. And today it was
Since Vega did not plead to
Nathanial’s death, the case is still open.
“We are still seeking
Nathanial’s death. Someone knows what happened to this child. We need
person to come forward,” says Kim Watson, Dakota County Attorney.
Nathanial’s family believes
Vega did not
get what she deserves.
“Her sentence is going to
come when she
does meet her Creator and it won’t be til that day,” says Saunsoci.
Native American child
advocate Frank Lamere
says the community must learn from this loss.
“We must take away from
this tragedy a
knowledge that we must see the red flags that are evident in foster
and adoptive when our children show up beaten and broken like
says Frank Lamere, Native American child advocate.
Nathanial’s family wants
closure and they
will keep fighting until they get it.
“It’s not over. There has
to be more to
this. We want justice to be served,” says Saunsoci-Baxter.
Vega will serve her time at
Correctional Center for Women in York.
But this isn’t the end of
her legal troubles
in the state. Vega appeared in Colfax County Tuesday for a plea hearing
in connection with DUI, 3rd-degree assault, and willful reckless
charges from June. That hearing was continued until September 15th.
On that same day, Vega and
Carlos will also be in court for attempted murder charges from a July
in Schuyler, Nebraska.
Reported by Erika Thomas.
You can contact
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.