Woman accused of abusing, intimidating foster child
Doctor found victim had multiple instances of bruising, black eyes
FARMINGTON — A former foster mother accused of four felony charges, including child abuse, allegedly struck the 11-year-old victim with a piece of a bed frame after he got a math problem incorrect on his homework.
Hope Graciano, 53, was charged Monday with one first-degree felony count and two third-degree felony counts of child abuse and a third-degree felony count of intimidation of a witness, according to the criminal complaint.
Arlon Stoker, Graciano's attorney, said his client adamantly denies the accusations and looks forward to proving her innocence in court.
Graciano was licensed through La Familia-Namaste Foster Care. The Albuquerque-based nonprofit organization is licensed through the state of New Mexico to provide adoption and treatment foster care for children and families.
Beverly Nomberg, president and CEO of La Familia-Namaste, said Graciano was licensed to provide treatment foster care for about two years and was no longer a foster parent as of Sept. 28.
Citing state law, Nomberg declined to share information related to the foster children and the number of children in Graciano's care.
Other children previously in Graciano's care have been interviewed by employees for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, according to a Farmington Police Department press release.
Farmington Capt. Taft Tracy previously told The Daily Times the foster children had been removed from the home.
The first-degree felony count of child abuse stems from the 11-year-old victim accusing Graciano of beating him in late September with part of his bed frame at Graciano's home in Farmington, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.
The victim told a child forensic investigator in early October he was doing his homework when Graciano told him he answered a math problem incorrectly, and she repeatedly struck him with a piece of the bed frame, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
An investigation into the alleged abuse started when Graciano took the victim to San Juan Regional Medical Center for treatment following the alleged incident.
The doctor treating the victim told a Farmington police officer that he had a "great concern of physical abuse" for the victim, adding the report from Graciano about how the victim was injured did not match the boy's injuries.
Graciano told police the victim was playing with a soccer ball in the front yard the day before and that he struck his face on a railroad tie while practicing dives for soccer.
The affidavit states Graciano allegedly changed her report of how the victim was injured at least twice, including a report that the victim tripped over his shoelaces.
A crime scene investigator photographed the victim's injuries at the hospital. Those injuries include multiple instances of brown and purple bruising on his head, forearms, chest, cheeks and shoulders, according to court documents. The victim also has two black eyes that were so swollen, the victim had trouble seeing, according to court documents.
For the intimidation of the witness charge, O'Brien cited multiple instances in which Graciano is accused of telling the victim not to discuss the alleged abuse.
While at the hospital, Graciano allegedly told the victim if he told anyone about the alleged abuse that she would hunt him down and kill him, according to court documents.
Graciano is also accused of making an 8-year-old girl she was fostering perform a plank, a type of exercise move. The girl was unable to perform the exercise, and Graciano grabbed the girl by her hair and started dragging her by her hair, according to court documents.
Graciano made her first appearance in Farmington Magistrate Court Tuesday morning and was released on a $25,000 unsecured appearance bond. An unsecured appearance bond is a written agreement signed by the defendant to appear in court.
Her preliminary hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 29.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.