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State lawmaker says murder of 4-year-old Ariel Garcia could have been prevented

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(The Center Square) – A state lawmaker is speaking out about the murder of a little boy in Everett last week, a tragedy he calls preventable.

Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn, says legislation he introduced this past session would put measures in place to protect vulnerable children from drug addicted parents.

Ariel Garcia’s mother is now behind bars, accused of stabbing him more than a dozen times.

His grandmother had been trying to get custody of the 4-year-old, telling court officials her daughter was an alcoholic who used drugs.

“I feel really deeply for the little life that was shattered because he didn’t have a chance,” said Couture. “There are a lot of things in the Legislature that make me mad, but this really hits home for me. I still have young kids at home – my youngest is 6 – and I think of how sweet and innocent my 6-year-old is and how anyone could be so evil as to do something like what was done to little Ariel Garcia, it’s horrific.”

Couture said the boy was wrapped in a Christmas blanket and tossed near Interstate 5 “like a piece of garbage and the system [Department of Children, Youth & Families] was a day late in granting the emergency placement with the grandmother.”

The Center Square reached out to DCYF but did not receive a response.

“The system will never be perfect, but we can do a hell of a lot better than what we’re doing right now.”

Couture introduced House Bill 2233 this session, but it didn’t pass the Legislature. It would have would have classified the presence of illegal drugs as an “imminent harm” to children and required the immediate removal of children from caretakers who use the substances.

“It says if the parents are abusing drugs or there are drugs in the home, then that is an imminent harm to the child and the child can be removed from the home,” he explained.

Couture says in order to help the parent suffering from substance abuse, this is necessary.

“In order to combat heavy abuse disorder, you have to have the space to be able to work on yourself and if you’re having to take care of your child,” he said. “It’s really counterproductive to getting better, in my opinion.”

Couture added, “The majority party is so dogmatic about this, saying drug abuse is just a personal health issue, and there’s an equity issue when it comes to removing kids from homes. So then your solution is to ensure minority children are locked into bad homes with abusive families where there are hard drugs?”

“That just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”

There was so much focus on fentanyl during the legislative session, Couture said, noting his bill sought to protect children in homes where hard drugs general, including meth and cocaine, are present.

While HB 2233 did not pass the Legislature, another bill did — one that instructs courts to give “great weight” to considering removing a child from a home where a caretaker is abusing drugs.

“You can’t stop every murder from happening, but there was more of a chance with my proposal to remove a child like Ariel from the home, and place him in kinship care like with his grandma, before something so awful happens,” Couture lamented.

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