Hartford woman sentenced in special needs death case

Katiria Tirado. (Dept. of Corrections)

A woman who pleaded guilty to starving and abusing a Hartford teen has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, suspended after 11 years.

Katiria Tirado, 34, learned her fate on Tuesday at Hartford Superior Court.

She pleaded guilty back in March under the Alford doctrine, which meant she didn't agree with the case but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a conviction.

Tirado called 911 in Feb. 2017 because her son Matthew, who was autistic and non-verbal, was vomiting and experienced abdominal pain. He was hospitalized and died a few hours later.

A report by the Office of the Child Advocate said Matthew's death was preventable.

Investigators described him as being 5'8" tall and weighing only 84 pounds. They said he suffered from extreme malnourishment and dehydration.

He also had several injuries.

The case sparked an intense look at how the Department of Children and Families handles protocol after DCF closed their own case with the family one month before the teen died.

"This is probably one of the most horrific cases that I've seen in my 23-year career as a prosecutor," said Gaily Hardy, Hartford State's Attorney.

Doctors found prolonged abuse of Matthew and police found locks on the cabinets and refrigerator. Tirado said Matthew had a compulsive eating disorder.

Matthew's 61-year-old father read a letter to the courtroom, claiming Tirado wouldn't let him see his son over the last seven years. Tirado's attorney said there is more to that story as he lives on the same street.

"At the age of 15, she became pregnant by a man in his 40s and at that time, who was already a convicted sex offender," said William O'Connor, Tirado's attorney.

Tirado, a high school dropout, removed both children from school one year leading up to Matthew's death, not allowing DCF and other state agencies to check in.

"Ms. Tirado's intellectual limitations and becoming a single parent at a very young age, coupled with her own son's significant cognitive impairments, created a perfect storm for Matthew's untimely death," said O'Connor.

Members of the homeschooling community say they are now being unfairly scrutinized in the wake of what happened. They will be at the state capitol at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to voice their message.

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