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New York woman accused of starving child to death is charged with murder

An autopsy concluded that Peter Cuacuas, 7, died of malnutrition. Authorities allege he was locked and confined to a bedroom by his father's girlfriend.
Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler provides updates on the investigation of 7-year-old Peter Cuacua's death in Newburgh, N.Y., on Oct. 8, 2021.
Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler provides updates Friday in Newburgh, N.Y., on the investigation of the death of Peter Cuacuas, 7.John Meore / The Journal News via USA TODAY Network

A New York woman was charged with murder Friday after authorities alleged that she starved her boyfriend’s 7-year-old son to death this year.

The woman, Leticia Bravo, 39, became the primary caretaker for the boy, Peter Cuacuas, in September 2020 after the school year began, and he stayed at her home every day until Saturdays, when he want to his father’s apartment, Newburgh Police Commissioner Jose A. Gomerez said. In January, Peter stopped logging into virtual school, and on Feb. 10 he was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“An autopsy conducted by the Orange County medical examiner concluded that Peter — who weighed just 37 pounds — had died of malnutrition,” Gomerez said Friday. “It is alleged that Bravo left Peter locked and secluded in a bedroom behind doors, locked from the outside since January 2021.”

Bravo is believed to be Peter’s mother, but authorities were unable to say with certainty at a news conference Friday.

She was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter. Bail was set at $250,000 cash, but it would be reduced with secured bond, authorities said.

Bravo faces 25 years to life in prison on the top charge of second-degree murder.

Peter’s father, Arturo Cuacuas, was charged with criminally negligent homicide. He was not in custody Friday, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said. A phone number listed for him was not in service Sunday.

Cuacuas was charged because, although he had the child only one day a week, he “should have known” the conditions his son was in, Hoovler said.

Court records were not immediately available for Bravo or Cuacuas, and it is unclear whether they have retained attorneys.