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Sharmaine Bastaldo, a Chaguanas mother and grandmother, is pleading for clarity regarding the circumstances surrounding her two-year-old grandson’s death.
Her grandson, Jacob Antonio Bastaldo, left his Jack Terrace, Lendore Village, home on Wednesday in good health, but died on Friday night at the Chaguanas Health Facility.
The attending physician pointed out several marks of violence on the toddler’s body. However, his grandmother said when he left home with his mother on Tuesday, his skin was unblemished.
Jacob was rushed to the Chaguanas Health Centre on Friday night and was pronounced dead at 7.25 pm.
Jacob’s death comes on the heels of Thursday’s workshop hosted by the Children’s Authority of T&T in which its director, Sharifa Ali-Abdullah, said that as the authority neared its one-year anniversary they had received more than 5,000 reports of cases of alleged abuse against children in various forms. She said what was happening to our children was “very frightening,” and lamented the manpower and funding shortage faced by the authority as it struggled to deal with the cases before it.
Jacob had spent the past three days with his mother, Precious, at the Caroni Village home of her boyfriend, Brandon “Jim” Brown.
According to police reports, it was while at the Caroni home, Precious observed that her son was not responding as he usually did.
She said that around 6.40 pm on Friday, Jacob had complained of feeling unwell and she and her boyfriend left immediately for the Chaguanas Health Centre, situated on the Chaguanas Main Road.
Precious called Bastaldo, her mother, and asked her to come to the health facility, adding that Jacob was not doing well at all.
Bastaldo recalled that her daughter sounded hysterical.
They arrived at the health facility around 7.15 pm and doctors determined that Jacob was not breathing and was unresponsive.
Doctors at the facility pronounced Jacob dead about ten minutes later.
They also contacted the Chaguanas Police Station and WPC Lalbeharry of the Chaguanas CID responded and viewed the body.
A short while later, officers from the Homicide Bureau, Region III, led by PC Harripersad, arrived and began enquiries along with their CSI team.
Bastaldo recalled being interviewed by police and being told about marks on her grandson’s stomach and back.
Following police interviews, Jacob’s body was removed by the Clark and Battoo funeral home, with a police escort to the mortuary at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
It was then taken back to Chaguanas for safekeeping at the Clark and Battoo funeral home due to refrigeration problems at the Mt Hope complex.
Homicide Region 3 is continuing investigations.
Holding back tears yesterday as she sat on a patterned couch at her home, surrounded by toy trucks and books on shelves and on top of cupboards, Bastaldo spoke about her last moments with the toddler.
“Jacob was my life. Since my daughter found out she was pregnant, I was always with her. I went to the clinic with her. I wasn’t allowed in during her birth but for the past two years and four months I was his sole provider.”
Bastaldo’s daughter, Precious, had Jacob when she was 16.
Jacob’s father was never around so Bastaldo continued to raise her child and her grandchild.
“He was such an active child, always playing and running and skipping. I couldn’t take him to Bible class or church with me because he was so loud and always moving,” Bastaldo said.
He sang the alphabet song with his aunts and threw trucks around the house.
As family members carried tins of Crix, water and other food items for a wake later that evening, Bastaldo insisted that she just wanted answers.
She said she had not spoken to her daughter since Friday night, but had been told by her eldest daughter that Precious was not doing well.
Children’s Authority facts
Between February and May, 1,342 cases of abuse were reported to the Children’s Authority.
Since the authority became operational last year, there were a total of 5,500 reports of child abuse, of which 500 were emergency cases.
According to director Sharifa Ali-Abdullah, 120 of the children have been put into foster care, children’s homes and other places of safety, but there are challenges there too.
The authority is also treating with 180 children whose parents were victims of crime, or accused of committing criminal offences, while just under 200 child offenders were referred to them—two of which were offences for robbery and possession of marijuana.
Child Affairs Minister declines comment
Minister in charge of Gender Affairs and Child Development Ayanna Webster-Roy declined to comment yesterday, but said she would do so later this week.