South LA mom in drowning case under psychiatric evaluation

Shocked reaction from residents near home of Lorna Valle, mother accused of drowning her child
By Josh Woo

Neighbors have placed teddy bears, flowers, and hand-written signs in front of the Valle-Taque home, where one-year old Lindsey was drowned.

Lorna Valle, 32, was booked with murder at the 77th Street Division Jail. The LA Times reports her 5-year-old daughter is in serious condition at Children’s Hospital. A court date has not yet been set.

The day after Valle allegedly drowned her 1-year-old daughter and attempted to drown her 5-year-old daughter, neighbors on the 900 block of West 50th Street are restless.

Judy McCann has been a foster parent, and is taking this hard because there were children involved. She was at home when the police arrived Wednesday morning.

“Last night I didn’t sleep very well, just thinking about this tragedy,” she said. “The oldest one was prayerful, her eyes sitting in the back of her head… I was just praying that they could save both of them. But the dad was just beating his head on the side of the fence, screaming, ‘Why’d you kill my kids? Why didn’t you kill yourself?’”

McCann’s son, Thomas Burton, knew the oldest daughter. He’s also in disbelief that something like this could happen to a little girl that always waved at him as she passed by.

Interview in Spanish with Pablo César García Sáenz, Consul General of the Consulate of Guatemala in Los Angeles:

The Consul General of the Consulate of Guatemala in Los Angeles, Pablo César García Sáenz, spoke with Lorna Valle on Wednesday night. He says she is currently undergoing a series of psychological tests at L.A. County Hospital. García Sáenz says Valle’s emotional state is “complicated.”

He has also spoken with the father, José Taque, who is very distraught and is at his older daughter’s bedside at the hospital.

The Guatemalan consulate is helping Taque, with the arrangements to send the body of his younger daughter to be buried in Guatemala. They are also providing legal assistance to both Valle and her husband.

Given that there are reports that Valle was turned down for psychiatric care, García Sáenz points out the consulate works closely with several agencies in Los Angeles and has a network of places where they refer Guatemalan nationals where to seek help.

“All the neighbors were watching her and never complained about her. She would go to the store and buy her popcorn and her hot Cheetos, and when she’d come back she’d have her little boots on. I saw her every day.”

Whatever drove Valle over the edge, Burton says, probably wasn’t the kids themselves.

“She took care of her kids. Every time I saw her, she always had her kids. They weren’t neglected. So it was something else that triggered it, and I don’t know what that is. I wished she would’ve talked to God about it and let her kids go.”

For now, teddy bears, flowers, and hand-written signs adorn the front of the toddler’s home–a painful reminder of a life gone too soon.

Did lack of access to mental health care contribute to the Valle tragedy?
By Melissa Runnels

Lorna Valle is reportedly under psychiatric evaluation today, as authorities try to determine what may have led to the drowning and attempted drowning of her two children. Guatemalan Vice-Consul Ricardo Jiron visited Valle last night after she was arrested. He said she appeared “very sleepy”, and that “We will try to prove that she was under the influence of a lot of medication.”

The consulate will pay for Valle’s legal representation, representation for her husband, and for transportation of the body of Valle’s daughter to Guatemala for burial.

It remains unclear whether Valle sought help and was refused, or whether she hesitated to get the help she needed.

If you’re undocumented in California, you have few options for medical care: you can go to an emergency room or to a neighborhood clinic, but most medical facilities are not required to serve undocumented immigrants.

Says Jorge-Mario Cabrera, Director of Communications for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), “It is inhumane, but it is legal.”

Most undocumented immigrants seek health care from local clinics, many of which do not offer mental health services. Even if the clinics do have mental health services, the wait time can be lengthy. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center provides mental health care to the undocumented at many of its clinics. But, said one of their intake counselors, first you have to get a physical examination and then you can be referred to one of their few mental health specialists. The wait-time for an appointment for the physical can be lengthy—the list is currently full until sometime in April.

Then there’s the shame factor. Cabrera said:

“Studies have shown that recent immigrants are less likely to go to medical facilities and receive services precisely because they do not want to be a burden to the society or the new country that has welcomed them…No hospital is supposed to deny services because of immigration status—but we do hear cases of clients being harassed by medical personnel because they lack documents.”

It won’t be known until after Valle’s psychiatric evaluation is completed exactly what the circumstances were that led to the tragic deaths of her children.