A Mesa woman is suing a care-giving company after a former employee allegedly murdered her special-needs son.
Rachel Perez’s suit accuses Community Provider Enrichment Services of turning a blind eye to the abuse her son, Joseph Trevizo, experienced at the hands of its employees – eventually leading to his death.
Trevizo was working weekly at the organization’s Tempe thrift store to develop life skills. The 30-year-old was “high-functioning,” but had the mind of a 15-year-old boy, his mother said.
In May 2018, he was stabbed 27 times by his program supervisor Jesse Dakins for “flirting” with his fiancée, court records stated. Dakins faces trial on first-degree murder and other charges in 10 days.
“He saw Jesse as his friend and somebody who accepted him as a normal person,” said Perez.
“You put your trust in and believe your child is being taken care of and protected,” she continued. “How could this happen?”
The 32-page lawsuit claims Dakins and his fiancée Tiffany Warren consistently persuaded Trevizo to buy them illegal drugs, use the drugs with them and give up his own money to put toward their rent.
Dakins was also allegedly “high” on a daily basis while operating the store.
Despite upper management knowing of Dakins’ shady behavior, they did nothing to stop him, the suit continues.
Perez now wants justice for not only her son, but for all “vulnerable populations.”
“I just want to make sure change occurs to protect everybody,” she said. “And ensure nothing like this happens to anybody else.”
A life cut short
Trevizo’s charisma, playfulness and trusting nature followed him throughout his life, his mother said.
“He had a very loving spirit and just wanted to belong,” she said. “He had a big, big heart and a great sense of humor.”
But with this came the risk of being used by others, court documents state.
Trevizo lived with mild mental retardation, cognitive disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
He bore limited “stranger-danger skills” and had difficulty understanding the consequences of his actions.
“He was legally considered a ‘vulnerable adult,” said John Breslo, Perez’s attorney. “It means you’re unable to protect yourself from neglect, abuse or exploitation due to a physical or mental impairment.”
CPES, which operates in Arizona and California, said on its website it is dedicated to caring for adults like Trevizo.
The organization has locations throughout Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe, offering behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment, foster care and intellectual and developmental disability supports.
Trevizo enrolled in CPES’ Loving Hearts Thrift Store program in Oct. 2017, where he helped with the day-to-day keepings of the store.
Dakins, who was running Loving Hearts at the time, was assigned as Trevizo’s work experience program support supervisor.
He was responsible for not only managing and caring for Trevizo, but also for transporting him to and from his mother’s house.
The supervisor eventually introduced Trevizo to Warren, also a CPES employee.
Although Warren was later fired in Feb. 2018, for failing to work 40 hours in one month, according to court records, Dakins still allowed her to hang around the store.
She frequently operated the cash register and drove Trevizo around in her personal car – both violations of company policy, the suit says.
Warren and Dakins’ “befriended” Trevizo and convinced him to buy and use methamphetamine for and with them.
The couple also told Trevizo to give Warren his own money so she could afford rent in between jobs.
“Joseph would give you the last penny in his pocket,” said Perez. “He just had a great heart.”
Perez soon noticed her son was returning home later and later each night, she told the East Valley Tribune, even though his contract required him to be dropped off after his shift.
When she confronted Dakins, he gave her a laundry list of excuses, she said.
Court records show the supervisor told Perez her son was either working late at the store, discussing work with him at his apartment or watching a movie as a reward.
But Perez remained unconvinced.
On April 28, 2018, she sent a text to CPES service coordinator Jon Krueger, stating “it is 11 p.m. and Joseph is just being driven home by [Warren] to be dropped off at his dad’s house…Please call me tomorrow or Monday regarding this matter.”
She never heard from him.
In May, the mother reached out yet again to Krueger, this time saying her son had dinner at Dakins’ house without her permission and possibly “drank beers.”
Krueger, according to CPES documents, placed Dakins on paid leave and contacted Trevizo’s former state support coordinator, Stephanie Brooks – even though she hadn’t been his coordinator for over a year.
“[That] was never explained,” said Breslo.
According to the lawsuit, Krueger failed to mention in his incident report two other employees previously complained about Dakins’ behavior.
Both Krueger and CPES Associate Director Kathy Erspamer were told Dakins often appeared high while running the store and Warren, who also seemed high, was seen operating the cash register even though she no longer worked there.
Dakins was suspended without pay on May 12 after missing a scheduled meeting.
That same day, Warren picked up Trevizo to “discuss” their relationship – the two had allegedly developed a flirtatious relationship behind Dakins’ back, court records show.
When they returned to Warren’s and Dakins’ apartment to get high, things took a turn for the worst.
Warren told Mesa police her fiancé became aggressively suspicious of her relationship with Trevizo, accusing her of an affair.
Between 1 and 3 a.m. the next morning, Dakins gave her a sinister ultimatum.
He told Warren, according to police records, he was moving to Wisconsin and the only way for them to be together was to kill Trevizo.
Dakins said they “needed to do something” because Trevizo “had seen too much junk, too much crap,” the lawsuit states.
Warrens asked Trevizo to leave and then disappeared into her bedroom, she told police.
As Trevizo turned to leave, police records state, Dakins pulled out a knife and stabbed him more than 20 times. Warren then helped her fiancé hide Trevizo’s body in the woods near Star Valley.
The couple was arrested three days later in Winslow while attempting to flee the state in a stolen CPES van.
Both Warren and Dakins’ confessed, and Dakins helped police locate Trevizo’s body.
Last August, Warren was sentenced to just under 9 years in prison for her role in covering up the crime and stealing the van.
“We’re very devastated she didn’t get charged with murder,” said Perez. “We’ve been very disappointed with that.”
Dakins trial is set for Jan. 27.
Taking a stand
Perez is now suing the company for what she believes considers negligent oversight of its employees and a complete disregard for her son’s safety.
“I think management just dropped the ball on this because they did nothing to protect Joseph,” said Perez.
“Where was management throughout all of this,” she continued. “Take me out of the equation, employees had reported them already, how come nothing was done?”
CPES has also refused to provide “complete documentation of misconduct” by both Dakins and Warren while they were employees, the lawsuit claims.
Although CPES President and CEO Mark Monson declined to speak with the East Valley Tribune, the company filed a response to the lawsuit on Jan. 8.
In seeking a dismissal, CPES attorney Marshall Humphrey argued workers’ compensation laws free CPES of responsibility.
“By statute, Plaintiffs’ claims arise out of the employment relationship, and their remedy against the employer, Community Provider of Enrichment Services, Inc., if one exists at all, is governed exclusively by Arizona’s worker’s compensation system,” he wrote
The attorney went on to claim the Court lacks “subject matter jurisdiction” over the suit.
But Breslo doubled down on his stance, noting Trevizo was never an employee, but rather someone who received therapeutic services.
“There was no minimum wage and no sick time,” he told the East Valley Tribune. “They didn’t do all the normal things you do if you’re going to consider someone an employee.”
From Jan. 2017 to May 2018, according to court records, CPES paid Trevizo less than both the state and federal minimum wages and offered no accrued sick time.
“They’re avoiding taking responsibility for Jim Joseph’s death by trying to claim he’s an employee,” Breslo continued. “And we’re going to fight it.”
While Breslo is seeking financial compensation for his client, he said the greater goal is to inspire change within the industry.
Perez echoed his sentiments, saying she hopes their efforts will inspire systematic changes to how and who CPES hires.
“It took me a long time to really get the strength to fight,” she said. “But sometimes that fight isn’t just for your kids, it’s for other people and I need to fight for them because they can’t.”