Police raised child neglect concerns prior to fire that killed 5-year-old, grandmother

Joanne Cyr's blood alcohol limit at time of death was .327

ALAMO HEIGHTS, Texas – A months-long investigation by the KSAT 12 Defenders revealed that police in Alamo Heights reported a grandmother for ongoing negligent supervision of her grandson, only to have Child Protective Services close the case months before a fire killed both of them.

Joanne and Luke Cyr died in November after a fire inside their home at 202 Inslee Avenue, two days before Luke's 6th birthday.

An autopsy and toxicology report released to the Defenders last month confirms that Joanne Cyr, 67, had a blood alcohol level of .327 at the time of her death.

5 visits to 202 Inslee Avenue

Records show between March 2016 and April 2018, officers with the Alamo Heights Police Department responded to the Inslee Avenue home at least five times for calls related to Luke's care.

The first 911 call was made by Cyr on March 16, 2016, after Luke, then three years old, disappeared from the home. 

As Cyr provided information on scene to officers, Luke was escorted back to the home by a neighbor who found him.

On February 6, 2017, just before 8 p.m., officers were again dispatched to the home after Luke was found unattended in the front yard.

Cyr was later found asleep inside.

Two days later, this time just before 9 p.m. on February 8, 2017, officers again responded to the home after Luke wandered through the back door of a neighbor's home.

Officers later walked into Cyr's home, found her asleep in her bed and had to physically shake her to get her to wake up, according to an AHPD incident report.

Cyr was warned by officers that any other calls to 911 regarding Luke's whereabouts could result in a report being made to Child Protective Services.

Two months later, on April 12, 2017, police responded to the home after Luke was found outside by a passerby.

Officers entered the home and repeatedly yelled out "POLICE" before finding Cyr asleep in a bed.

Officers moved the bed, but Cyr did not wake up, forcing an officer to again physically wake her up.

Records show that this case was investigated as endangering a child by criminal negligence.

Citing Cyr's ongoing negligent supervision of Luke, officers contacted CPS and filed a formal complaint.

Inside the Investigation: Dillon Collier uncovers what happened before a deadly house fire 

Records show CPS closed its investigation in June 2018, and no charges were filed in the case, due to no further incidents involving Cyr.

However, records show Alamo Heights police again responded to 202 Inslee Avenue on April 13, 2018 just before 8:30 p.m., after Cyr again said she could not find Luke.

Luke was later found hiding inside the home.

It remains unclear whether CPS officials were aware of the fifth incident before deciding to close the case without taking action.

A CPS spokeswoman earlier this month said an internal review is now underway to evaluate how the case was handled.

"They didn't exercise any urgency."

Dawn Boyle, Luke's maternal grandmother, says her side of the family began reporting concerns about Cyr's alcohol use beginning in October 2016, after Cyr appeared to be heavily intoxicated while Luke was being dropped off at her home.

"She could barely open the door," said Boyle, who added that the incident was a turning point in the care of Luke and caused hostility between the two sides of the boy's family.

The incident was documented by Alamo Heights police as a welfare check, according to records.

"You have five reports, you have my grandson picken up in the middle of the night, wandering around," said Boyle, who was sharply critical of CPS during a sit down interview with the Defenders.

"They didn't exercise any urgency."

Records handed over to Boyle's family earlier this month stated that there was "reason to believe" Cyr had provided negligent supervision to Luke prior to his death.

The complaint was filed by Luke's mother Nov. 17, one day before the fatal fire.

The Defenders reached out to several members of Cyr's family, all of whom did not respond to requests to be part of this story.

Officials at the church Cyr attended, along with officials at U.S. Army Medical Command, where Cyr worked in a supervisory position, declined to be interviewed for this story.

"This death, while tragic, is not really surprising."

Dr. Richard Krugman, Chairman of the Board for the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect, provided insight on what constitutes child neglect.

"It's the failure to provide what children need to grow and thrive and developmentally turn into terrific adolescents and adults," said Krugman.

"This death, while tragic, is not really surprising."

He said that an average of five children die every day in the United States of child abuse or neglect.

"Unless we continue to follow and learn from every case and be very transparent and tell people when we've made mistakes, we're not going to change any systems. We're going to keep going and from my perspective, keep being stuck in reviewing one horrible child death case after another," said Krugman.

An infant in state custody

Lubbock County court records obtained by the Defenders show that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was named temporary sole managing conservator of Luke in June 2013, when he was six months old, after a child safety investigation was conducted inside his parents' home.

A child custody evaluation of Luke shows that CPS investigators were tipped off that drugs were being used around Luke.

Although Luke's mother and father subsequently took part in drug classes and therapy sessions, Luke was placed with his paternal grandmother, Joanne Cyr, in December 2013.

Luke's custody case was later transferred to Bexar County, according to court records.

Boyle said she contested Cyr's custody of Luke, on behalf of her daughter, but now wishes her attorney had pushed for Boyle herself to be an option for custody.

"It's Luke, it's hundreds of children out there that this happened to. And I'm sure there's more, and there will be more as long as this is allowed to happen," said Boyle.

Does Ms. Cyr drink? Probably.

In January 2017, licensed counselor Carol Waters was assigned to conduct a child custody evaluation to examine each person requesting custody of Luke.

The 56-page report included significant background information on Luke's mother and Cyr, both of whom were seeking custody, as well as Luke's father.

Waters concluded her report by recommending that Cyr be named sole managing conservator of Luke.

By the time the report was submitted in August 2017, Alamo Heights police had already responded to Cyr's home four times for calls related to Luke disappearing.

While the report mentions the calls and the subsequent CPS investigation, Boyle said it glosses over Cyr's alcohol use.

"Does Ms. Cyr drink? Probably," Waters wrote.

She then wrote that Cyr had been able to maintain her home and career and social activities without incident.

Reached by telephone in February, Waters said she was unaware that Cyr and Luke had passed away.

She said she needed time to contemplate the news of their deaths.

Waters days later declined a request to be interviewed for this story, saying via email that it would not be appropriate.

Court records show in October 2017, following mediation, it was agreed that Cyr and Luke's parents would remain joint managing conservators.

Luke's mother, however, was ordered to complete a 12-week parenting class and seek a referral to a psychiatrist.

Boyle said the court-imposed demands on her daughter made it difficult for her to continue seeing Luke, prior to his death.

Empty pack of cigarettes burned on the bed

An Alamo Heights Fire Department report indicates that the fire started on Cyr's bed and spread to other parts of the home.

While the ignition source of the fire could not be determined, the report notes that an empty pack of cigarettes was found burned on the bed.

Two cigarette butts were also found inside the bedroom, according to the report.

Blood alcohol level of .327

The Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office released Cyr's autopsy and toxicology report in March.

Post-mortem tests conducted on the fluid surrounding Cyr's eye shows that her blood alcohol level at the time of her death was .327 grams per deciliter, the standard units used by the state to represent alcohol concentration.

By comparison, the legal limit to drive a vehicle in Texas is .08.

Greg Jellick, a forensic toxicologist with Quality Forensic Toxicology, said a blood alcohol level of .327 would greatly impact a person's balance, decision making and even their ability to stay conscious.

When asked how that person would react to a fire in their room, Jellick said, "This would not be something they would immediately react to, and even once reacting to it, their decision-making abilities would be impaired."

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.