A mother whose baby was kidnapped said she was devastated when child welfare officials took him into state custody shortly after he was recovered, describing the pain of that separation as worse than the knife wounds that the kidnapper inflicted on her.
Maria Gurrola, still recovering from stab wounds and a collapsed lung, started crying and shaking when she learned week-old Yahir Anthony Carrillo and his three siblings would be put into foster homes, said Norma Rodriguez, the cousin of Jose Carrillo, the baby's father.
"She said them taking the kids away was a worse stab in her heart than the stab from the lady who took the baby," Rodriguez said.
The children, ages 3, 9 and 11, were split up and put with strangers in two separate foster homes Saturday after investigators told the state Department of Children's Services the couple was under investigation because of allegations they had tried to sell the baby, Gurrola's court-appointed attorney Dennis Nordhoff said.
On Tuesday, Metro Nashville Police announced the parents had been cleared of wrongdoing and the children were reunited with them.
DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said he could not comment on the case but said the department sometimes has to make tough decisions with only partial information.
"Our responsibility is to look after the safety and well being of the children who come to our attention," he said.
Rodriguez said the children's separation from Gurrola and Carrillo was devastating for all of them. The couple's 3-year-old daughter, who witnessed the Sept. 29 attack on her mother, had never been apart from Gurrola before she was placed with foster parents.
The child got sick on Wednesday and had to be taken to the hospital, Rodriguez said, and relatives blame her illness on the stress of being removed from her family.
Nordhoff questioned the need to put the already-suffering family through the trauma of separation. He said DCS is supposed to try to keep families together and there were plenty of relatives willing to take in the children, but DCS would not allow it because they were illegal immigrants, although some of them had been in the country for many years without ever getting in any trouble. Gurrola is originally from Durango, Mexico.
Staying with relatives would have been much less traumatic for the children, if they did have to be taken from their parents, he said.
Johnson, speaking generally, said, "DCS always looks for relatives who already know a child as an alternative to state custody, but DCS must be able to perform background checks and DCS must be able to verify people's relationships to a family in question."
The family is happy to be back together now, Rodriguez said, but that joy has been tempered by an ongoing baby trafficking investigation into family members.
Rodriguez said her sister, Jessenia Sigala, has endured harsh questioning from law enforcement.
"They were saying, 'I know you did this. I know you did that. Tell me where the money is,'" Rodriguez said. "It's making my side of the family a little more devastated."