Man gets 20-year term for starving, beating foster children

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A third former operator of a San Antonio day care center was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for forcing his three adopted children to sleep in a shower, bite each other and pour bleach on wounds.

Tim Archuleta agreed to the 20-year sentence in a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to injury to a child with serious bodily injury by omission. His sentencing comes a week after his wife, Iliana Archuleta, was sentenced to 30 years in prison and his brother, Rogelio Archuleta, received a 35-year sentence. Both pleaded no contest to injury to a child and other charges.

Prosecutor Stephanie Boyd told state District Judge Ron Rangel that the three adopted the children, who had been born drug-addicted, to collect the state support of more than $90,000. "They got $90,000 tax-free and blew it all on themselves," Boyd said.

Nevertheless, defense attorney James Tocci appealed for probation for his client.

"Should he have done more? Yeah, OK, I'll give you that. But did he intend to starve those kids out? No," Tocci said.

Rangel told Archuleta that he "buried his head in the sand" while the children were abused and starved.

The children, 8 to 10 years old at the time, had been taken from an abusive home before being placed with the couple, who operated a day care. They slept in a shower, forced to sit with their knees pulled tight against their chests, Bexar County sheriff's investigator Tony Kobryn said. The shower drain and a bucket served as toilets, and boxes were stacked against the glass door to prevent the children from opening it.

They ate mostly bread and butter, with some broth and the occasional half sandwich, he said, and weren't allowed to eat with the Archuletas or their two biological children.

The mistreatment was discovered when one child was taken to a hospital for seizures and staff found him malnourished and bruised.

The case had highlighted long-standing questions about the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which a federal judge last year ruled was unconstitutionally broken. The judge said many kids often leave state custody in worse shape than before.

The system has nearly 30,000 children and is one of the largest child protection agencies in the U.S. Caseworkers face massive workloads and struggle to provide necessary oversight, with only about 100 residential Child Care Licensing investigators to ensure that the state's roughly 10,000 foster homes are providing adequate care, according to Dimple Patel, senior policy analyst with The Texas Association for the Protection of Children.