Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Our Opinion: Key adults to blame when child abuses unreported

Child Protective Services is the state agency many Arizonans love to hate.

But CPS can’t be held solely responsible for all atrocities committed against Arizona’s children – including two inconceivable cases of cruelty uncovered in Tucson in the past couple of weeks.

A baby girl died of starvation in her parents’ home Aug. 30 at just 6 weeks of age.

The same day, a 9-year-old boy weighing only 48 pounds was rescued from confinement in a smelly closet in his grandparents’ home.

Family members have been arrested in both cases, but surely other adults knew something was amiss.

During her six weeks of life, wasn’t this baby known to anyone besides her parents and young siblings?

And the closeted boy has an 8-year-old brother who reportedly is in normal condition and attends a local public school.

Did none of the adults in contact with him ever hear anything about a brother?

Fortunately, the confined boy’s grandmother took him to a behavioral health clinic in late August.

Clinic personnel who alerted authorities very well may have saved his life.

By contrast, an Aug. 20 report on the baby girl’s family was fairly innocuous, compared with many received by CPS.

It indicated that one of the family’s children “was seen wandering and that their home was filthy.”

CPS contact was delayed because the family had been evicted and moved. When no one answered at the new apartment, the investigator left a business card on the door.

The infant’s situation was discovered when the mother called 911 to report that her daughter was “unresponsive.” By then it was too late.

Terri Lynn Sullivan, 26, and Scott David Sullivan, 27, are charged with felony child abuse in her death. Their three other children, ages 2, 4 and 6, are in state custody.

Becky Tortellet, 50, and Larry Alan Tortellet, 52, are charged with child abuse in the case of their grandson; both brothers are in custody now.

The grandmother told authorities her daughter dropped the boys off years ago and didn’t return.

Why one brother was kept in a closet and the other sent to school has not been disclosed.

Both cases, however, underscore why it is imperative that neighbors, teachers, church members and other adults alert authorities when they suspect that children may be in danger.

Call Arizona’s 888-SOS-CHILD (888-767-2445). Call the national 800-4-A-CHILD. Or just call 911. But call. Be CPS’s extra eyes and ears.

The African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes an observant villager to save a child, too.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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