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Young abuse victim regains consciousness

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ROOSEVELT — The prognosis is brightening for a 4-year-old boy who was almost beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of his grandmother.

Jose Rodriguez remains hospitalized at Primary Children's Medical Center but has regained consciousness and is able to walk with help, said his aunt, Yesenia Rodriguez.

"He's doing much better. They have been telling us that he will be able to be a normal kid again, but they don't know how long it will take," said Rodriguez, who lives in West Valley City.

Jose, who sustained a fractured skull after he was allegedly thrown to the floor numerous times by Charlissa Sireech, underwent surgery to remove the pressure on his skull on Aug. 30. According to court documents, the boy also sustained other injuries consistent with child abuse. Doctors initially reported he had little brain activity.

He cannot use the right side of his body and has not spoken yet. According to Rodriguez, doctors predict that with therapy he can regain use of his right arm and leg and is expected to learn to talk again. He faces one more surgery to repair damage to his skull, but Rodriguez says that hasn't been scheduled yet.

Sireech, of Fort Duchesne, had custody of Jose, his 3-year old brother, Emilio, and their 2-year old sister when authorities say she allegedly beat and tortured the two boys. The little girl was unharmed.

Sireech is in federal custody. She has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and assault with a dangerous weapon while within Indian country. Her next court appearance is in November.

Rodriguez said that Emilio talks about the abuse he suffered while living with Sireech for three weeks. The three children were taken from the home of their paternal grandparents in Palmdale, Calif., under the guise that the Ute Indian Tribe had legal claim to them.

According to court documents, Sireech admitted to using a hot curling iron to move the boys where she wanted them to go because they did not speak English. Charging documents duplicate what Emilio has said about the abuse. Investigators claim Sireech hit the boys with her fists, a wooden cane and fly swatters. The 8-year-old half-sister of the boys, who was also living with Sireech, told authorities their grandmother would throw Jose and Emilio onto the hard floor at her home.

Jose was brought to the Uintah Basin Medical Center on Aug. 30 when he did not wake up after being thrown to the floor.

Emilio, who had purplish-black "raccoon" eyes — a telltale sign of serious physical abuse — was also rushed to Primary Children's Medical Center. Like his brother, Emilio was suffering from a skull fracture, but his injuries were not life-threatening, and he was released a few days later.

Sireech became angry at the boys because they spoke Spanish and wouldn't obey her, the half-sister told investigators. Sireech's boyfriend, Michael DeHerrera, who is facing state charges for child abuse, told investigators he would leave the house when Sireech took the boys into the bedroom because he didn't want to hear their screams.

The children's parents had signed papers giving custody to their paternal grandparents. The children lived with their grandparents in Palmdale for a year before their mother, a member of the Ute Tribe, reportedly became upset and contacted relatives to come to California and get the children.

Their mother has denied this, Yesenia said.

Before the children were sent to Utah, their paternal grandmother, Leoncis Rodri- guez, took the matter to a California court, without luck. A judge apparently did not understand the Indian Child Welfare Act and ordered her to relinquish custody of the children, who are part Hispanic and part Ute Indian.

Emilio left for California with relatives last Friday, his aunt said.

The children's parents have moved to Milwaukee, Wis., and Leoncis Rodriguez and her husband have legal custody of the children again.


E-mail: lezleewhiting@hotmail.com