Girl died of blunt force injuries

LAKE STEVENS – Four-year-old Sirita Sotelo died of multiple blunt force injuries to her body, investigators reported Thursday.

The girl was found dead inside her father’s Lake Stevens home a week ago. As of Thursday, no one had been arrested in connection with the homicide.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives have done several interviews, sheriff’s spokesman deputy Rich Niebusch said, but he declined to say if any suspects have been identified.

Deputies found the girl after someone called 911 to report that she was unconscious and not breathing, Niebusch said. She was dead when police and paramedics arrived.

State child welfare workers had been involved with Sirita most of her life. She was taken away at birth after she was found to have cocaine in her body, said her mother, Patricia Sotelo. She was in the Snohomish County Jail on a drug conviction when her daughter died.

Sotelo, 40, has battled cocaine addiction since she was a teenager, she said.

Sirita was returned to her mother, but was removed four times, said Sotelo, who last saw her daughter in July. “She was such a smart little girl, and there’s not one picture of her not smiling,” she said.

Sirita went to live with her father, 30, and stepmother, 25, in 2003.

The couple, who married in 1997, have four children of their own. Deputies removed the children and a cousin from the home after Sirita’s body was found.

No allegations of abuse or neglect were investigated while Sirita lived with her father, said Kathy Spears, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Police also say they had not been called to the house in recent years.

State child welfare workers investigated allegations of abuse and neglect involving Sirita in the past, Spears said. She declined to say how many allegations.

“We have a large file on the girl. That doesn’t mean they all pertain to allegations of abuse or neglect,” Spears said.

DSHS investigators are reviewing the case, and the department will conduct a fatality review to determine if caseworkers followed all policies and procedures.

“If they weren’t, we’ll find out why not and if there is anything we should be doing differently to prevent another child fatality,” Spears said.

DSHS doesn’t expect to finish its investigation for at least 45 days, Spears said.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

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