Yakima mom of starved children gets maximum sentence

Kai Martinez wipes her tears on May 20, 2015, in Yakima County Superior Court after pleading guilty to multiple abuse charges.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Two young girls who were nearly starved to death by their mother in 2015 are suing the state and a for-profit substance abuse treatment center.

The state Department of Children, Youth and Families and Triumph Treatment Services are accused of failing to properly supervise Kai Martinez when she was granted custody of her twin daughters in the lawsuit filed Monday in Thurston County Superior Court by Yakima-based attorneys Bryan G. Smith and Vito de la Cruz.

The suit seeks unspecified damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and any other relief the court deems proper. But de la Cruz said the suit is about more than money.

“In addition to seeking damages for the injuries they suffered, we are hoping to shine a light on how the state treats these vulnerable children,” de la Cruz said. “This is not the first case of children (under state supervision) being starved. The state is not providing adequate supervision for those who are under their control.”

The girls, now 12, were in a foster home for the first seven years of their lives, due to Martinez’s drug use, according to court documents. The girls were moved from foster care to Martinez in December 2013 by the order of the Yakama Nation Tribal Court and DCYF’s recommendation, despite Martinez saying she had no bond with the children, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit notes that Martinez nor the children qualified as Yakama Nation citizens. The tribe is not named in the suit. De la Cruz said it was DCYF’s responsibility to monitor Martinez and the children.

In the suit, DCYF and Triumph, which contracted with the state to provide supervision for high-risk women and their families, failed to supervise Martinez or check on the children.

On Feb. 6, 2015, concerned relatives took the girls from Martinez’s home, after finding that they had been starved to the point where they weighed less than half of what they should have, court documents said.

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Martinez subjected the girls to physical abuse as well as confining them to a bedroom without access to the toilet, court documents said.

De la Cruz said one of the girls, now 12, has a lost some of her eyesight due to being hit by Martinez. The girls have since been returned to their foster parents.

Police detectives and doctors described the girls’ ordeal in court papers as torture. At a court hearing, Yakima Police Detective Mike Durbin said the girls looked like Holocaust survivors when he first saw them.

Martinez pleaded guilty to two counts each of first-degree criminal mistreatment and third-degree child assault, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2015.

Martinez’s boyfriend, Roberto Valladares, pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree assault for failing to either stop the abuse or report Martinez. Valladares was not the girls’ biological father.

DCYF and Triumph have not responded to requests for comment at this time.

This story will be updated.