The parents who allegedly used their four children as props to panhandle for money in Hobbs and were charged with child abuse, have gone missing with the children.
Andrei Cristian Ducila, 25, and Luiza Badea, 22, were both charged with four counts of abuse of a child, all third-degree felonies; after police found the family of six outside a retail parking lot, on June 3, 2019. The four children were dirty, red in the face from the summer heat and wearing no shoes.
The parents’ court cases for the alleged child abuse are still open after the charges were bound over by Judge Mark Sanchez in Fifth Judicial District Court on Sept. 11, 2019, according to New Mexico Secure Court Access.
A Hobbs Police Department incident report states, the four children were in the custody of Children Youth and Families Department when they were given back to Ducila and Badea for a “trial” run, to transition the children’s custody back to the parents.
Melody Wells, Public Information Officer at CYFD, explained that CYFD is required to have “a plan for transitioning the child home within a reasonable period depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.” This may include a trial home visit.
The report states, Ducila and Badea were given back three of the four children on March 30, 2020, and the youngest child joined her siblings about a week before the family disappeared.
According to the incident report, a CYFD worker who was conducting home visits on the family, mentioned a visit on April 20 saying she spent 20 minutes with the family and told officers their behavior was not “out of the ordinary.”
The incident report states, the worker then attempted to contact the family on May 1. She told officers she went to their residence on the 800 block N. Dal Paso several times and called the Ducila’s phone number 14 times, all without response.
According to the incident report, it wasn’t until the next day that the CYFD worker called police, after trying once again to contact the family. The CYFD worker spoke to someone at the apartment complex who “stated that they overheard Andrei and Luiza mention traveling to San Francisco.”
The incident report states, “(The worker) stated that they did not believe the children were in danger but did believe they left Hobbs with the children.” However, other agency workers expressed concern for the children’s safety.
An advocate worker contacted HPD regarding the children on May 2. The advocate said she and CYFD officials were unable to get ahold of the family for four days. On the day she reported to police, the advocate went to Ducila and Badea’s residence with no response and spoke to a neighbor who told the advocate they had not seen the family or their vehicles for several days.
“(The advocate) advised she was concerned for the safety and well-being of the children based on statements the children made during therapy sessions,” the incident report states.
The incident report states, the advocate worker requested an Amber Alert on the children. This went unmet due to the information provided by CYFD not meeting the criteria to issue an alert.
“I (HPD officer) was informed that CYFD did not believe that the children were in any danger,” the report states.
According to the officer, on May 5, a Case Status Conference with the court was to be held to see how CYFD should proceed. The worker told the officer, it was decided by, in the conference, that she continue to search for the family and make a report with the Missing and Exploited Children‘s Hotline. The report states, the CYFD worker was instructed by the hotline to file a missing persons report.
In the criminal complaint, the officer stated as of May 5 no report was issued with HPD.
“If the legal guardian (CYFD) reported their legal custodial rights were being infringed upon (by the family keeping the kids away) then HPD could proceed with Custodial Interference investigation at that point,” an HPD officer stated within the criminal complaint. Until a report was filed charges could not be filed.
An HPD officer contacted another CYFD worker to see if charges for custodial interference would be sought against Ducila and Badea.
“(A second CYFD worker) informed me that CYFD’s official position was their legal custodial rights were not being infringed upon,” the incident report states.
On May 12, a teleconference was conducted regarding the family’s case. This involved the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, CYFD, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lea County and other children advocates involved in the case.
“It was made clear that several members felt the welfare of the children’s well being was in question,” the incident report states.
However, according to the incident report, HPD has to have a “willing and cooperating victim” if criminal charges were to be made on Ducila and Badea.
“Representatives for CYFD stated that CYFD was not ready to make that determination at this time (May 12),” the incident report states.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce proceeded with charges against Ducila and Badea on May 14, the incident report states. According to Luce, the charges were filed once the DA’s Office had undisclosed information from CYFD.
An arrest warrant was issued May 14, charging both parents with custodial interference, each a fourth-degree felony; according to secure court access.
As of Monday, no official missing person’s report has been filed to HPD on the children. What was filed is a report from CYFD officials telling HPD about the missing family, after the CYFD worker was unable to contact them.
A local foster parent who wished to remain unidentified, told The News-Sun Saturday, “CYFD has failed these children but hopefully it will put pressure on CYFD to do the right thing. Put the child’s safety first and if that means going against your personal wants or beliefs about a case, do the right thing.”
According to the foster parent, CYFD refused to report the children missing and the children are in danger of many things including possibly being sex trafficked.
According to the incident report, “(The eldest child) claimed her parents were telling her to kiss her brother on the mouth and it made her feel uncomfortable.”
The incident report states the family was also put on an expedited transition plan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An advocate worker associated with the case, “believed this was not enough time to determine if the environment was safe or if the parents were in a position to fully care for the children.”
According to the original HPD arrest report, the family was arrested on June 3, 2019, when police said the couple and their four young children had set up on the rocks, near the parking lot entrance of the retail store. Police said an officer responded to the couple about five hours earlier, advising them to step back from the busy side street, at which time the couple reportedly said they would leave the area.
Ducila, who police said was later found with hundreds of dollars in his wallet, was reportedly holding a sign that stated, “need formula, food, and gas money.”
In the arrest report, HPD investigators said Ducila, born in Romania, told them in broken English he needed to get back to Houston, and that he had no money, food or baby formula.
The arrest reports states the then-3-week-old baby was wrapped in a blanket while sitting in a car seat while the temperature was 91 degrees. Police said when they informed Ducila that CYFD would be contacted for the safety and welfare of the children, Ducila walked police to a 2005 light blue van, which he said he owned. Police officers said baby formula, food, drinks, and snacks were found in the van, which officers said was not out of gasoline.
The arrest report states a CYFD caseworker responded and interviewed the family. Officers said the family was unable to show proof of residence, proof of housing for the children, or proof of clothing, food, and safety for the children.
“Cristian became upset and pulled out his wallet from his back pocket,” states in the arrest report. “Inside the wallet, he showed officers and (the caseworker) he had more than $300 after stating he had no money and had to beg for money and food. Due to Cristian having the ability to provide adequate shelter and care for his children but did not, the children were released to CYFD.”
Police said when they placed the children in car seats to be taken by CYFD, their medical conditions became more apparent.
“Officers observed the infant to have diaper rash and rashes in the creases of her arms and legs,” states the criminal complaint. “(Another child) showed to have neglected dental hygiene and all the children had no shoes and dirty clothes.”
The arrest report states the caseworker provided Badea information on CYFD, but she threw the paper out of the van’s window. Officers said Ducila and Badea were told to report to a local CYFD office the following day.
The arrest report states a further examination of the children at a local medical clinic on June 11, 2019, found serious medical issues with the children.
The then 3-week girl, now nearly one, was diagnosed with thrush in the mouth, severe diaper rash and dehydration. The then 1-year-old girl, now two-years-old, was diagnosed with decay of the teeth, a urinary tract infection and a first-degree sunburn. The then 3-year-old boy, now four-years-old, was also diagnosed with severe tooth decay. The then 4-year-old girl, now five-years-old, was also diagnosed with tooth decay and superficial abrasions on her cheek.
“The children were given antibiotics, released back to CYFD, and were instructed to have limited time in the sun,” states the arrest report.
The arrest report states the caseworker informed Ducila and Badea about the medical care the children received. The couple said they had not provided any type of medical care for their children and that they had no concerns for their health.
“Due to the information Cristian provided (to the caseworker) in regards to finances, it was determined Cristian and Luiza negligently disregarded the health, well-being, and safety of the children by not providing housing or medical treatment for their children when they had the means to do so,” states the arrest report.
According to the HPD incident report, both Ducila and Badea are being searched for with help from the United States Marshals Service.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ducila and Badea are asked to contact HPD at 575-397-9265.