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Camden, N.J., Pays $2.25 Million to Family of Missing Children Found Dead After Search

April 28, 2010  | 

Three families whose children suffocated to death after they accidentally locked themselves in the trunk of an old car have received a settlement of $2.25 million from the city of Camden, N.J. after they sued the city claiming the police failed to find the children in time.

The families are also receiving a barrage of online criticism allegedly from people who believe the lawsuit is the latest outrage in a lawsuit-happy society. Typical of the comments was one from the Philadelphia Enquirer's online site that railed, "How pathetic. Blaming the police for your own lack of parenting skills. Why didn't they watch their own kids? and why didn't they search the car themselves?"

But lawyers for the families argue that the case is the result of improperly trained police, and experts say the settlement may have serious implications for other municipalities, especially with Amber Alerts and reports of missing children almost a daily occurrence.

Brandes argued the Camden police failed to follow protocols and procedures for searching for missing children as they tried to locate Daniel Agosto, 6, Anibal Cruz, 11, and Jesstin Pagan, 5.

The children were reported missing after playing in Cruz's front yard in 2005, three hours after parents who were watching the boys lost track of them. It was later determined that they climbed into the trunk of a Toyota Camry parked in the Cruz's yard.

Despite an extensive search by police that included helicopters and bloodhounds, Brandes said the police were disorganized and improperly trained.

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