NewsRegion C Palm Beach CountyWest Palm Beach

Actions

Judge rules 4-year-old Jupiter Amber Alert boy a dependent of state

Posted at 8:20 PM, Dec 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-09 08:34:59-05

A Judge ruled Friday that a four-year-old boy who was reported missing in August by his mother is a dependent of the state.

The Amber Alert issued by Jupiter Police resulted in charges against the nanny who was accused of taking the boy. Those charges were later dropped by the state and no charges were ever brought against the grandparents who Jupiter police detectives learned did have the child. 

During the trial, it was revealed that Jupiter Police believed the mother of the child was not entirely truthful to them during the Amber Alert investigation. The Detective testified in court Friday that she later learned of a note left in the home by the child's step-grandmother that indicated she had the boy.

The judge decided that due to Danielle Caprio's current state of recovery from her drug addiction she is not fit to care for the child and therefore declared him a dependent of the state. At times during testimony, the judge provided some relief to Danielle who was being interrogated on the stand about her almost 15 year battle with heroin addiction.

"Counsel, sometimes we are, just keep grinding at the same thing," said Judge Joseph Murphy. "You okay?" he asked Danielle.

Attorney Elizabeth Parker who represents the boy's grandparents Louis and Elizabeth Caprio struck an emotional cord when asking Danielle  about her heroin abuse. 

"I don't know what else you want me to say, you understand this is my family, you get that right? This is a circus," said Caprio on the stand. 

Parker made the point that except for the time Danielle was pregnant with her son and the first 2 and a half years of his life, she struggled with her recovery; bringing up the state of withdrawal Louis Caprio said he witnessed in 2016 that led him to take the boy into his and his wife's care full time at their home in Miami until this July. 

"I said I need help, I messed up," said Danielle, recalling the day her father testified about. 

The boy and his mother were reunited this summer for a short period of time. Louis and his wife said they suspected Danielle had relapsed and took the boy from her prompting an Amber Alert in August. The grandparents worked with Jupiter Police to return the child to her. Shortly after Danielle left to Boston with the child. 

Danielle's brother, Keith Caprio, testified against her saying her personally witnessed her drug abuse the day she arrived in Boston. 

"She was very specific. She asked me to go get her drugs or have them ready for her when she gets in town because she was in withdrawal," said Keith Caprio.

Despite Danielle's testimony that she has never done drugs in front of her son, attorneys for her grandparents continued to try to disprove that with testimony from her brother who lived in the Boston home with Danielle and their mother for a few days.

Before the Judge announced his ruling he noted the tragic circumstances of the case.

"I wish there was a simple answer and that everything can be solved and satisfied, but the fact is the child is dependent," said Judge Murphy. 

The point is one the Caprios tried to make after they were investigated for removing the child from his Jupiter home in August. A short time after Danielle returned to Boston, she checked herself into treatment and signed over temporary guardianship of the child to her mother, which was then overturned by a Boston Judge to the Caprios. 

"Over the past approximately three months, how often have you seen [the boy]?" Danielle's attorney Sandor Genet asked her during testimony. 

"8 times," she said barely able to get the words out in court while she sobbed.

The trial was emotionally overwhelming for the entire family. A licensed mental health counselor who was court-appointed to observe supervised visits between Danielle and her son prior to the trial said she noted the toll it took on the boy every time he was separated from his mom. 

"He is very attached, there is a secure attachment to her but I think there's a part of him that's very fearful that he will not see his mother again," she said. 

The child will continue living with his grandparents in Miami. There will be another hearing scheduled to include the Department of Children and Families now that the child has been declared a dependent of the state.