The father of a 2-year-old Lake Havasu City girl who died last year after suspected abuse has filed a lawsuit from jail, arguing that the state violated his parental rights by taking his daughter off life support without notifying him.
Andrew Lamorie, 23, filed the handwritten lawsuit on October 28 from Mohave County Jail in Kingman, Arizona. He and the child’s mother, Brittany Rodriquez, 26, are both there, awaiting separate trials next spring on charges alleging they killed their daughter through abuse and neglect. Their case has drawn local and national attention for the severity of the girl's injuries and malnourishment when authorities found her.
Lamorie claims an Arizona Child Protective Services employee assigned to investigate the case in January 2018 took his child off life support and had her body cremated without informing him or Rodriquez.
Although the parents were already being questioned by police and Arizona’s Department of Child Safety at the time the child died, Lamorie demands financial damages in the lawsuit, claiming his “parental rights were never severed through any form of due process,” and therefore CPS’s actions were illegal.
This is the latest development in a case that has been ongoing since last January, when 2-year-old Gabriella Lamorie died from blunt-force head and neck trauma while also suffering severe malnutrition, according to a coroner’s report.
The child was 17 pounds when she died, less than half the standard body weight for a healthy 2-year-old, according to police reports.
The case made headlines last year after police found egregious evidence of abuse and neglect at the child’s home, including trash, drug paraphernalia, and an injured dog with an untreated broken leg. Both parents have denied allegations that they did anything to hurt the child.
The tragic ordeal began on the night of January 11, 2018, when Lake Havasu City emergency responders arrived at a house on Appletree Drive to find a 2-year-old girl struggling to breathe and clinging to consciousness.
Gabriella Lamorie was “unresponsive and heaving,” the police report said, and she had an abrasion on her chin. Her parents told police she’d been in time-out in the closet after throwing a tantrum, and she must have injured herself in there. But when officers assessed her, she also appeared severely malnourished, her ribs visible and her arms frail. When she was sent to the hospital, the state Department of Child Services was called to investigate.
The girl’s condition was so severe that she was airlifted to a hospital in Las Vegas for further treatment, while the parents remained in Arizona for police and DCS questioning.
Three days later, on the morning of January 14, doctors reported that Gabriella Lamorie had multiple bruises on her face, and fluid in her abdomen from trauma. Medical staff told police she was unlikely to survive, and if she did, “she would not lead a normal life.” They deemed her brain-dead, according to police records, and she was removed from life support.
In the days that followed, Andrew Lamorie and Brittany Rodriquez were arrested for first-degree murder and child abuse, and taken into custody. At first, the two parents were assigned to be tried together, but when their reports conflicted and Rodriquez told police she’d also been a victim of physical abuse at the hands of Lamorie, a decision was made to try them separately.
Now, the parents await trials that were originally scheduled for November, but recently moved to April after their lawyers said they received key information about the case too late.
Lamorie's new lawsuit raises questions about what should happen to a child when suspected abuse by parents creates an emergency, life-threatening situation.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety has a policy that says its employees should consult with parents about health-care decisions when possible, and if a child dies in department custody, officials should “respect the parent’s/legal guardian’s wishes” on how to care for the remains.
But Darren DaRonco, a spokesperson for DCS, says Lamorie was never in DCS custody. “DCS policy would not apply in this case since we did not have custody,” he said. “DCS mourns the tragic loss of this innocent child.”
It’s unclear who did have custody of the child when she died.
The Lake Havasu Regional Medical Center, where the child was allegedly brought first, did not respond to a request for comment.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Nor did Child Protective Services Supervisor Tracy Davis, who Lamorie claims was the decision-maker in this case.
Other children who were living in the house have been placed in licensed foster care, a DCS report said.
Along with his lawsuit filing on October 28, Lamorie filed a motion requesting counsel, indicating he does not yet have an attorney for this civil lawsuit.
Lamorie’s lawyer in the murder trial, Robin Puchek, did not respond to a request for comment.