Trials & Litigation

Daughter sues agency after DNA test IDs likely suspect in institutionalized mother's rape

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A woman who used AncestryDNA to find the man who likely raped her developmentally disabled mother in an institution has sued the New York agency that employed him as a caretaker.

Magdalena “Maggie” Cruz filed the March 6 lawsuit under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law that gives adult survivors of sexual assault a one-year window to sue. She filed the suit on behalf of her mother, who is identified as I.C. in the complaint.

The Washington Post and New York Magazine have coverage.

The rape happened in 1985 at the Monroe Development Center in Rochester, New York, according to the suit. Cruz was born the next year and was raised by her grandparents.

I.C. was 30 at the time, but she had “the mental acuity of a 2-year-old, in diapers and unable to talk, feed or bathe herself,” the suit says.

The Monroe Development Center had told Cruz’s grandparents that it thought that another resident had raped I.C., and it would file a police report.

“These were lies,” the suit says. “In fact, MDC had covered up the rape, just as it had covered up the escalating pattern of cuts and bruises on I.C.’s body during her pregnancy, including a bruise in the shape of a cross, and a bite mark on her breast.”

The suit defendant is the New York Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, which managed the Monroe Development Center until its closure in 2013.

Cruz had reported the likely suspect to police, but officers dropped the investigation because the statute of limitations barred prosecution.

Cruz began investigating the circumstances of her birth in 2019 at age 33. She filed Freedom of Information Law requests that revealed no effort to identify the physical attacks on her mother, the suit says. Instead, the Monroe Development Center suggested that her mother go on birth control or undergo a tubal ligation to prevent future pregnancies.

When Cruz took the AncestryDNA test, she found biological relatives on her father’s side living in Virginia. She found a photo of a girl who had the same eyes that she had and discovered that the girl’s father had lived in Rochester, New York, only miles from the Monroe Development Center. The man had the initials J.B., which were the same initials of the man in the institution’s records who reported that I.C. was yelling, jumping and “grabbing staff.”

Police confirmed that Cruz’s likely father had worked at the Monroe Development Center in 1985.

The suit seeks damages for gender discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law, sexual assault, battery, negligence, and negligent hiring and supervision.

Cruz is represented by the Survivors Law Project, which was co-founded by lawyers Susan Crumiller and Carrie Goldberg, according to a March 6 press release.

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