Las Cruces Father And Stepmother Charged After Death Of Suicidal Son

Las Cruces – A father and stepmother are charged with intentional child abuse for providing alcohol to their suicidal and drug-addicted 15-year-old son who lost consciousness and died 10 days after a night of drinking with his parents.

Joe A. Torres Sr., 39, and Heather C. Soto, 31, are charged with one count each of intentional child abuse resulting in death and negligent child abuse resulting in death. Joe Torres Jr., 15, was pronounced dead shortly after 10 a.m. on July 14 after being removed from life-support at University Medical Center of El Paso.

Las Cruces Police detectives learned that in late May 2011 Joe Torres Jr. moved from Colorado to Las Cruces to live with his father and Soto who he considered his stepmother. Torres Sr. and Soto knew that Joe Jr. had a self-destructive behavior and received therapy in Colorado for suicidal tendencies, alcohol abuse and overdosing on medication.

At around 6:30 a.m. on July 4, 2011, police were called to Torres Sr. and Soto's home where Joe Jr. was unconscious. He was rushed to a local hospital and then to El Paso.

Speaking with medical professionals and detectives at the hospital, Torres Sr. and Soto repeatedly denied knowledge of Joe Jr. consuming any alcohol or drugs. After around five hours of denials, and after being confronted with evidence, Torres Sr. and Soto finally admitted that Joe Jr. consumed alcohol with them during the previous evening.

Hospital examinations determined that Joe Jr. had a blood alcohol content of .115 and opiates in his system. Opiate is a derivative of opium and is found in various over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Medical professionals told detectives that their inability to determine exactly what Joe Jr. ingested hampered their ability to treat him. Joe Jr. never regained consciousness and remained in critical condition at University Medical Center until his death on July 14.

Detectives learned that while at a relative's home on the evening of July 3, and into the early-morning hours of July 4, Torres Sr. allowed his son to drink beer and Soto provided a concoction of wine and brandy. At around 2 a.m. on July 4 the three returned to their home on the 1100 block of Gardner Avenue.

Sometime after 6 a.m. another adult staying at the home alerted Torres Sr. and Soto that Joe Jr. was unconscious and was having difficulty breathing. The family spent quite a few minutes, possibly up to half an hour, attempting to resuscitate Joe Jr. before calling 911.

Torres Sr. and Soto were both arrested on warrants Wednesday, July 27. Torres was located in El Paso by the U.S. Marshals Office and is in the custody of the El Paso County Detention Center. He is awaiting extradition to New Mexico. Soto was arrested in Las Cruces. Both are being held on $ 50,000 bonds.