Report: Autistic teen’s malnutrition death was preventable

Katiria Vanessa Tirado (Photo: Hartford Police)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — An investigation by the Office of the Child Advocate into the starvation death of a Hartford teen with autism finds that the death could have been prevented.

Investigators say 17-year-old Matthew Tirado’s death was preventable and that there were flaws with the state child welfare agency.

Matthew Tirado died in February, 2017. His mother, Katiria, was arrested earlier in the year on manslaughter charges.

Related Content: Hartford mother charged with manslaughter after son dies of malnutrition

The report finds the Department of Children and Families was unable to make contact with Tirado over a nine month period because she refused to let workers see him.

According to the report, Matthew was forced to seek food, “from the garbage and he would drink cooking oil, ketchup and syrup if these items were accessible.”

“There were padlocks on cabinets and the refrigerator, and Matthew was not able to get food for himself,” explained Sarah Eagan from the Office of the Child Advocate.

Related Content: Death of autistic Connecticut teen ruled homicide

Matthew hadn’t been to school in eight months and DCF closed the case file just weeks before his death.

DCF released a statement on Tuesday, saying, in part:

Nothing diminishes the heartbreaking nature of what happened to Matthew; The level of abuse inflicted by the mother and intentional denial of food are egregious and incomprehensible.

Despite the limitations on what actions the department can take in light of parent resistance, the department has taken steps to improve the work of our agency.”

People in the neighborhood on Park Street say they are not surprised DCF didn’t follow through on the investigation.

“Sometimes they don’t investigate as much,” said David Remigio of Hartford. “I have heard of things that should not of been handled the way they did.”

The report makes suggestions on how DCF can better handle cases in the future.

Click here to read the full report on Tirado’s death from the Office of the Child Advocate