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Woman unravels decades-old mystery of disabled mom’s rape

Magdalena Cruz grew up knowing that she owed her life to a terrible crime.

He was born in 1986 to a mother who could not take care of him or herself. For a decade, Cruz’s mother was a resident of a state facility for the severely disabled in Rochester, New York. He was non-verbal. He was 30 years old, but had the mental acuity of a 2-year-old, wore diapers and needed constant care. She couldn’t consent to sex, so when it was discovered that she was pregnant, it was obvious that she must have been raped.

Administrators at the facility told the woman’s family another resident was likely responsible and said they would file a police report and conduct an internal investigation.

Nearly four decades later, Cruise says he has solved the mystery of his father’s identity, in part by using a mail-order DNA test and popular genealogy databases.

He was an employee of the facility, not a resident, according to the lawsuit he filed this week.

Furthermore, Cruz also learned through his own theft that no police report was ever filed, no employee was questioned and no action was taken by administrators, the lawsuit alleges.

“The facts surrounding his birth were far more shocking and grotesque than his family could have imagined,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed against the Office of Developmental Disabilities, which oversees state institutions.

Criminal charges are no longer possible due to statutes of limitations that have long passed. The lawsuit was only possible because New York passed a law last year that temporarily set aside the statute of limitations on long-standing sexual harassment lawsuits.

Cruise’s birth story began about four years ago. His attorneys said he began by asking municipalities and the state for documentation of his mother’s care. She received progress notes from her mother’s time at the Monroe Developmental Center that revealed a number of injuries before and during her pregnancy: a bite mark on her breast, a cross bruise on her shoulder blade, a 9-inch (23-centimeter) laceration to her back, the lawsuit said.

“Loves colored men, scratches, sometimes screams, jumps, eats very fast,” wrote one caregiver who now considers Cruz to be her father.

Angered by what the records showed, Cruz took genetic testing through and was matched with biological relatives on his father’s side in Virginia. He was browsing family photos online. One of them showed a girl whose eyes were similar to his. She tracked down the girl’s father and, searching the Internet, found that he lived in Rochester, not far from the Monroe Developmental Center, at the time of her birth.

In 2019, she brought her findings to police, who confirmed the man had worked at the facility but said too much time had passed to press charges.

In the 1980s, the family had no idea that the Monroe Developmental Center, which was closed by the state in 2013, had many incidents of resident abuse.

At least 10 staff members were identified as child molesters and rapists between 1976 and 1985, including supervisors, security guards and volunteers. A number of residents died under unusual circumstances, including a 21-year-old quadriplegic who developed a high body temperature after being left outside in the sun for four hours without fluids, the lawsuit said. Another resident died after swallowing five surgical gloves.

Cruz’s mother, identified in the lawsuit as IC, lives in a different facility today. The Associated Press does not identify people who have been sexually assaulted unless they agree to be named.

“She can’t even talk to say what happened to her, and if it wasn’t for the pregnancy, we would never, ever know,” Susan Kramiller, one of her attorneys, said Tuesday. “And even if it hadn’t been for his daughter’s investigation, we still would never have known about the institutional cover-up.”

Post-pregnancy records indicated that facility administrators offered birth control for IC.

Kreimler, who filed the case with abuse survivor attorney Kerry Goldberg, said the birth control would serve “no purpose other than to cover up the ongoing abuse, given that she did not have and will never have the mental capacity to consent.”

In a statement, the Office of Developmental Disabilities said that while it cannot comment on pending litigation, “the safety and well-being of the people we support is OPWDD’s highest priority.”

The man, whom Cruz identified as his father, is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He could not immediately be reached for comment. Phone listings in his name have been disabled.

“We’ll probably never know how many other patients were raped at this facility, how many times our client was raped, how many other rapists there were,” Crumiller said, “and that’s because the facility covered up the abuse.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Until 2006, criminal charges in rape cases were barred in New York unless they were filed within five years of the crime. New York lawmakers then repealed the statute of limitations for first-degree rape, but those changes did not apply retroactively to older crimes.

New York lawmakers also extended the statute of limitations for second- and third-degree rape in 2019, with terms now ranging from 10 to 20 years, depending on the specifics of the crime.


Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York

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