Do you let your underage kids drink with you? Of course not. It is no secret, though, that not everyone is fit to be a parent, but one New Mexico couple brings new meaning to the term “unfit.” Not only did they get drunk with their underage child, but they did so knowing that he was suicidal and already drug addict.
An unfortunate Fourth of July.
For one fifteen-year-old, Fourth of July, 2011 was not a time for celebration. Joe Torres Jr. spent the evening of July 3rd with his father and step-mother drinking. Joe’s father, Joe Torres Sr. gave him beer and Joe’s step-mother, Heather Soto, provided him with a wine and brandy mixture. Around 6:30 a.m. the next morning, paramedics were called after his family found him unconscious and could not resuscitate him.
The child was rushed to the hospital and remained unconscious for 10 hours until he died after being taken off of life support. It was discovered at the hospital that Joe Jr. had a blood alcohol level of 0.115, which was much higher than the legal limit in New Mexico of 0.08. It was also found that the child had opiates in his system. However, because hospital staff did not know exactly what type of drug(s) the boy had taken, they were hindered from properly treating him.
For the first five hours the teen was in the hospital, the couple denied that Joe Jr. had drank any alcohol. It was not until investigators found text messages on the boy’s phone, where he had bragged to friends that he was getting drunk with his parents, did the couple admit he had been drinking the night before.
A clear case of intentional child abuse.
Both Torres Sr. and Soto were well aware that Joe Jr. had a history of engaging in self-destructive behavior. He had already spent time in therapy for suicidal tendencies and both alcohol and drug abuse, after overdosing on over-the-counter and prescription medication. Joe Jr. had moved from Colorado, where he had been living with his mother, to stay with his father. Since this child had suicidal tendencies and drug and alcohol abuse problems already, the fact that his father and stepmother not only allowed, but encouraged, him to drink is deplorable. One police spokesman described it as “like feeding gas to a fire.”
Joe Torres Sr., 39, and Heather Soto, 31, have both been arrested and charged with intentional and negligent child abuse resulting in death. Since the couple was admittedly aware that the teen was drinking while underage, and they had full knowledge of his history for drug and alcohol abuse, they were charged with an intentional act, as well as negligence.
Underage drinking is not a rare occurrence.
Hopefully the number of parents that actually encourage their underage teens to drink is few and far between. However, the number of teens who obtain alcohol from home without their knowledge is much higher than it should be. Take, for example, the death of 14-year-old Takeimi Rao, who drank herself to death at a slumber party in her own home.
Rao was found dead by her parents on July 9, 2011 after a slumber party with three friends. The teen’s mother, Aleae Pennette, had taken the girls out for dinner and returned home. Pennette did not know that the girls spent the evening drinking soda mixed with vodka they had found in the kitchen. Around 2 a.m., Pennette found the three friends throwing up, but assumed it was just something they had eaten. The next morning, Rao was found unconscious on the bedroom floor and the paramedics pronounced her dead on scene. It is believed that she died from alcohol poisoning. The family had been renting the home and the vodka belonged to the owners.
Susan Foster, vice president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, had this to say:
This is a tragic lesson that we all need to learn from. We as a society think about alcohol and other drug use just as behavioral issues—kids acting out or taking risks—and we don’t think of it as a health problem. But from a science point of view, it is.
The truth is, these underage kids are literally too young to drink – meaning their livers cannot process the alcohol and their systems are being poisoned, often resulting in death.
According to Foster’s research, 9 out of 10 addicts in the United States begin smoking, drinking or using drugs before the age of 18. According to one source, Massachusetts is among 28 other states that allow teens under age 21 to drink alcohol with parental consent. Considering the statistics and the current laws in many states, whether to provide alcohol to our children is yet another decision responsible parents will have to make.