State issues gag order as investigation continues into death of Hawaii island toddler

Photo provided by the Garcia family

The state has issued a gag order in a case involving the death of a 3-year-old Hawaii island boy in foster care.

We first to told you last week that the Hawaii Police Department is investigating the death of Fabian Garett-Garcia.

His father, Juben Garcia, told us that Child Welfare Services took custody of the 3-year-old last year. He was told last week that his son died on Tuesday, July 25, while at his foster home.

Child Welfare Services does not release any information on its cases. With the gag order, that means the parents, and even their attorney, are not allowed to say anything to the media.

Juben Garcia says officials told him that his son was wearing some type of virtual reality glasses and had fallen about four feet.

Hawaii island police told us that it happened while the child was in foster care. Officers are investigating and it’s not been determined if any criminal charges will be filed, or if the death was accidental.

We’re told that the autopsy report has not been released.

The father reached out to us last week to try and get more information, but the Department of Human Services told us Tuesday that a gag order has been granted by Family Court.

State Sen. Will Espero calls it disturbing and distressing.

“Nobody wants to interfere with investigation, but the public has a right to know what happened, what’s going on, because we’re talking about the death of a child and especially a child who was in the custody of the state,” he said.

KHON2 asked DHS why the gag order was requested and how long is it in effect, but a spokeswoman says she can’t give any of that information because it could violate confidentiality laws.

So we asked defense attorney Michael Green, who is not involved in the case. He says it’s not that unusual for the state to ask the court for a gag order.

“What good reason would the state have for doing that?” KHON2 asked.

“Well they don’t want some stories getting out there that can have an effect on the investigation or eventually, if the case winds up in litigation, then prospective jurors are affected,” Green replied.

He adds that a gag order can also help the state protect itself if the family files a lawsuit.

“It’s good for the public if they get the right information,” said Green. “They’re entitled to know, but if they’re getting misinformation, then it doesn’t help anything. I’m not a big champion for gag orders. As long as the information that gets out there is reasonable, the public has the right to know.”

As for how long a gag order lasts, Green says usually not very long. it should be lifted after the investigation is completed.

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