PHOENIX — Phoenix police detectives have submitted a charge for negligent homicide against a foster father after the death of his four-month-old foster child.
The Maricopa County Attorney has not yet made a decision.
Samora Cousin died in the back of Roger Ham's van on October 1. Detectives say Ham forgot the baby in the backseat before heading into work at the Washington Elementary School District Service Center.
"I understand he's a very good man. He's a parent. He's adopted children," said Detective Luis Samudio, the day of the tragedy.
Ham and his partner, Steven, have adopted more than a dozen children and were recognized nationally for their work fostering and adopting kids as a same-sex couple. Roger was also awarded for his work at the school district, where he is a supervisor.
A spokesperson with the Washington Elementary School District told ABC15 that Ham has been on leave during the police investigation.
"He's a foster parent; he had no intention of hurting a kid. He wanted to help kids," said one neighbor, who lived near the school district.
While the investigation is ongoing, detectives submitted their case to the county attorney in just 16 days. More than a month later, the new top prosecutor, Allister Adel, has not made a decision about whether or not to move forward with charges.
Samora's cause of death is still pending, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.
"Any time a child dies in a parent's hands, they are always very difficult cases," said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.
Romley said he deliberated over the charging of countless negligent homicide cases where children tragically died.
"We looked for some type of really, truly gross negligence. Not just a mistake, it had to be something much more severe than that," said Romley.
Prosecutors also have to believe they can win the case.
"These are very difficult to a jury," said Romley. "Juries relate that mistakes do happen with parents."
Samora's biological parents are not a jury, though, and not sympathetic when it comes to the death of their child.
"My daughter did not deserve to die the way she did," said Jennifer Haley, Samora's biological mother.
Both parents told ABC15 that the submittal by police is a step toward justice, but they hope the county attorney files charges.
"I hope something is done on the justice side of this. I think he should be charged with something. He needs to be held responsible for his actions," said Haley.
For one family, charges would bring some closure; for the other, it would mean more heartbreak and tragedy.
MCAO could not say when a final charging decision would be made, but Romley said it would likely be soon. The Department of Child Safety, meanwhile, says their investigation is ongoing, and they are unable to say what is happening with the other foster children in the Ham household.