IOWA CITY — The Iowa Department of Human Services received a report that 20-month-old Marcus Balderas had been left alone in his Iowa City home for up to 20 minutes on April 25 — six days before the toddler died and seven days before his caregiver was arrested.
The department told The Gazette that a mandatory reporter called its intake unit on the same day Jorge J. Perez, 20, is accused of leaving his stepson home alone — April 25. Police initially reported that Perez was accused of leaving the boy alone on April 26.
Perez was booked into the Johnson County Jail at 2:36 a.m. Tuesday on suspicion of child endangerment without injury in connection with the incident seven days earlier, according to jail records.
Hours before he was booked, about noon Monday, Iowa City police reported that they’d been called to Perez’s home at 2018 Waterfront Dr., No. 120, for a report of a baby having difficulty breathing. Marcus, who also lived at the Waterfront Drive home with Perez and his biological mother, was rushed to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he later was pronounced dead.
The time of Marcus’ death has not been released.
Police are calling Marcus’ death suspicious, but they haven’t ruled on a cause or manner of death, and they haven’t filed charges against anyone in the case.
It’s unclear when the Iowa City Police Department learned about the April 25 report of neglect to the state. Local police are investigating the case with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Department of Human Services and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.
According to the criminal complaint alleging Perez left Marcus home alone on April 25, a human services worker met with Perez, who admitted to having left the toddler home alone for 20 minutes because he “felt rushed to get to school.”
“The defendant did not seem to be concerned about the lack of supervision for such a young child,” according to the complaint.
Marcus lived with his 18-year-old biological mother, Mireya Bianca Balderas, and Perez, police reported. Police haven’t released details about whether there were other children in the home, but according to Perez’s application for a public defender, he lived with a total of three children.
Perez is being held at the Johnson County Jail on the child endangerment charge in lieu of a $50,000 cash-only bond. Jail officials Thursday said no other charges have been added to his case.