Died August 3,2007
She always had a smile
School, DCFS stonewall on blind girl's death
School and child welfare officials refused to explain today why a malnourished 13-year-old girl beaten to death on Friday was allowed to remain in the care of her mother and stepfather.
The girl, Shavon Miles, was whipped with an extension cord and bludgeoned with a 2-by-4 at her South Side home. Lynessia Hiles-Sloan, her mother, and Gabriel Sloan, her stepfather, were charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the case.
Shavon weighed just 73 pounds when she was killed -- about 50 pounds less than average for her age. She had liver damage, small, circular burn marks on her skin, and her body showed evidence of old head injuries.
Chicago Public Schools officials would not discuss whether anyone at Shavon's school noticed that she was severely underweight or reported their concerns to the state Department of Child and Family Services.
Educators are legally required to report suspected abuse.
Mike Vaughn, a spokesman for the Chicago Public Schools, said confidentiality issues prevented him from speaking about the case.
Neighbors said Shavon attended McKay Elementary.
Dawn Prather-Hawk, the principal there, said information regarding Shavon was unavailable to her. She then demanded that a Daily News reporter leave the building.
Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the agency had received three complaints regarding Shavon.
In 1994, the Department of Children and Family Services removed Shavon and her twin brother from the custody of their mother and biological father.
Last year, DCFS received a complaint alleging an unknown perpetrator had abused Shavon.
And earlier this year, a complaint against Sloan and Hiles-Sloan had been filed alleging medical neglect.
Marlowe refused to provide additional information on those complaints, including the type of abuse alleged, whether the department found evidence of abuse, and why Shavon remained in the custody of her mother and stepfather afterward.
"I want this agency to be as transparent as it can be," said Marlowe. "Sometimes that's going to show that we were in situations where we should have intervened."
Marlowe said he was legally barred from discussing the cases involving Shavon by the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.
In fact the law allows DCFS to disclose information about abuse cases when a child has died, as long as releasing details would not be contrary to the interests of the victim's siblings.
Richard Gelles, a child-welfare expert at the University of Pennsylvania, said he's been advocating greater transparency at agencies like DCFS.
In Philadelphia, giving the public greater access to child welfare case documents improved accountability.
"That might end the practice of burying mistakes," he said.
- Daily News staff writer Kate Gardiner contributed to this report
She always had a smile
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is investigating the death. Jimmy Whitlow, a DCFS spokesman, said the agency has had prior contact with the family.
SUFFERING IN SILENCE | Mourners remember 13-year-old girl who endured years of abuse before succumbing to final beating
August 10, 2007
They sat in a packed, sticky funeral home parlor Thursday morning, facing the little girl in the pink dress and pigtails lying in an open white casket.
Those who came to the podium said Shavon Miles had gone to a better place, that the secret suffering had now, finally, ended.
But the pain seemed to be fresh for the 13-year-old's father, Marcus Miles. Before the coffin lid was closed, he stood by his daughter's body and clutched the edge of the casket. And as he was led away, he reached out a hand and kept looking back, not wanting to say goodbye. Family quickly swarmed around him as he began to collapse. It was the final, piercing note in a South Side funeral filled with booming voices calling for an end to black-on-black violence and for forgiveness for even the worst sins.
Earlier this week, Cook County prosecutors charged Shavon's mother and stepfather with first-degree murder in the child's Aug. 3 death. Prosecutors said Shavon, legally blind and a special education student, was beaten with an electric cord and a wood plank. Investigators also say Shavon's malnourished body was scarred with new and old cigarette burns.
Three times in the last 13 years, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had been notified about possible abuse and neglect involving Shavon. Officials with DCFS say they plan to review the family's case file. Earlier this week, Marcus Miles told the Sun-Times he'd been fighting for two years to have visitation with Shavon and her twin brother.
On Thursday, family and friends -- as well as former and current teachers -- filled the funeral home.
One neighbor, Janet V. Blackman, lived two houses down from Shavon's home. She said she had no idea the girl was being abused and underfed. But she remembered a block party last summer during which both Shavon and her twin brother ate ravenously.
"Shavon would come by my house, and no matter what pain she was suffering in silence, she always had a smile," Blackman told the gathering.
Shavon's sixth-grade teacher recalled a girl who adored reading. In fact, Shavon was given a "bookworm" award, said the teacher, Jonale Harper.
"A teacher isn't supposed to have a favorite, but all the kids knew she was my baby," Harper said.
Angeline Plummer 3-year-old
Here we go again Again, it has happened.
Even as one father was getting 23 years in prison this week for killing his infant son, it has happened.
Even as one mother was on trial this week, sobbing about the toddler son she's accused of murdering, it has happened.
Even as we began to feel that maybe, finally, Child Protective Services was beginning to do a better job, that maybe, finally, some of Arizona's most defenseless children had someone to help them, it has happened.
Three-year-old Angelene Plummer. Beaten, burned, bitten. Stabbed, sexually assaulted, murdered.
This, despite at least five calls to CPS about abuse in Angelene's home.
It's a case that has nauseated the Valley and even sheriff's detectives, who have seen it all and yet never this. "There was nobody standing up for her," said Sgt. Travis Anglin, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Oh, there was someone. The nurse at Mesa's Taft Elementary School called CPS at least five times about bruises and cuts to Angelene's older brother and sister.
And yet here we are, with another dead kid. Meanwhile, in Tucson a 14-year-old girl broke out of her room last week where she'd been held prisoner for more than a year. She told police of eight years of abuse. Her father is now in jail, and we are left to ponder how CPS investigated five times and found no problem.
Just as caseworkers evidently found none in Angelene's east Mesa home.
According to records, CPS was called in September 2001 when Angelene's sister, then 5, came to school with a cut on her lip and a bruise under her left eye. A month later, CPS was called again, about a bruise to the girl's right cheek and scratches on her shoulder. "Student says 'Mommy came into my room and smacked me,' " according to the nurse's account.
From January to March 2004, the nurse called CPS three times. The first, when Angelene's 4-year-old brother came to school with a bruised cheek, telling the nurse, "My daddy threw me into the dresser."
The CPS caseworker told sheriff's investigators that she found no evidence of abuse, but she was working with the family on "cleanliness and parenting issues."
No information was available on the second 2004 call to CPS. The third came in March when the boy showed up with a cut on his head. He told the nurse he got it when his father was dragging him to the bus stop because he wasn't moving fast enough.
Which brings us to this week, tragically too late to help little Angelene.
According to police, Michael Plummer sent his daughter out to the trailer in the back yard to stay with his best friend, Christopher Langin. When he checked on the girl a day later, she was near death.
All Langin claims to remember is that the girl got tangled in his Nintendo cords so, of course, he pushed her down. Then he put her to bed. And went with her.
"I hit her. I know I did," he told investigators. "I slept with her a long time."
So here we are, with another dead kid and no answers.
CPS is doing its usual confidentiality dance, noting that state law prevents it from disclosing what its caseworkers did or didn't do. (Other than working on "cleanliness and parenting skills," that is.)
"If there is any information regarding the case in Mesa that we feel we can release, that will be released," CPS spokeswoman Liz Barker told me. "But at this point we really don't feel that it is appropriate."
I'll just bet they don't.
Feb. 12, 2005 12:00 AM
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8635.
Slain child gets funeral fit 'for a princess' --(The Arizona Republic)--The white and gold casket holding the burned and beaten body of 3-year old Angelene Plummer was closed at her memorial service on Tuesday, two weeks after deputies say her baby-sitter killed her.
Mesa father sentenced in child death case
The father of a Mesa toddler who was beaten to death in 2005 was sentenced to 18 years in prison Friday.
Prosecutors said Michael Edward Plummer, 31, left his 3-year-old daughter, Angeline, in the care of a long-time friend, Christopher Langin, even though he knew Langin had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Plummer was found guilty of child abuse in May.
An autopsy revealed the girl died from head injuries, and she had head-to-toe bruises, bite marks and stab wounds, said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. She may also have been sexually assaulted and burned, Arpaio said. Langin goes to trial in January on first-degree murder charges.
Plummer lived with his parents on a county island in east Mesa. Langin lived behind the home in a trailer prosecutors described as "filthy" with no running water or electricity. It was filled with trash, containers of human waste and pornography.
"The circumstances surrounding this child's death are too horrific and too tragic to imagine," said Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in a prepared statement.
Angeline, who was developmentally disabled, had been in Langin's care for more than 24 hours when Plummer returned to check on her and found her covered in bruises. She was rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
As of Angeline's death in 2005, deputies had been called to the Plummer home 28 times, including four times regarding possible child abuse.
Devon Chad Epps 7-year-old
Died August 12, 2007
Have You Heard about the Bizarre Murder of Devon Epps, Most People Haven't . It's About Time People Have
What makes this case even more bizarre is maybe the fire that occurred at the home of Devon Epps three months earlier that nearly killed him!
Has anyone heard of 7 year old Devon Chad Epps from Greenville County, SC and the bizarre manner in how he was murdered? Most have not as the main stream media for some reason has managed to keep it off the TV screen in lieu of "pop tart" reports. Sometimes when one read a story it just does not seem right, nor pass the smell test, nor even seem believable. The murder of Devon Epps is just one of those stories. 7 year old Devon Epps was supposedly murdered according to his mother by a knife wielding car jacker. The car jacker then allegedly smothered Devon Epps in the back seat of her car. Devon Epps was murdered and the child did die from asphyxia due to neck compression ? strangulation.
The Greenville County Sheriff's Office got a call at about 11 p.m. Sunday from a woman who said she had been stopped at the intersection of Jacobs Road and the Interstate 85 Frontage Road.The woman told investigators that the man approached her car at stop sign around 10:30 p.m.
She told investigators that the man had a knife or knife-like weapon when he got into the passenger door of her two-door car. Investigators said the woman told them the man forced the woman's son into the back seat of the car and ordered the woman to drive around. (WYFF4)
Some on the internet, Rapid Eye Reality, have been following this case for quite some time from the outset. His skepticism of the story that was told in many ways parallels that vast majority of people that have read and followed the case of the murder of Devon Epps as well. Crimeblogs has also done tremendous work on the analysis of this murder.
The case of the murder of Devon Epps has been discussed at great lengths on the Greenville on-line forums. The local accounts and inside information are very well apparent by those close to where this crime took place.
The events of Devon Epps, if one is to believe them as described by Devon's mother Amanda Reagan Smith as to what she told investigators:
- Amanda and Devon Epps were stopped at Jacobs Road and Interstate 85 that Sunday night when a scruffy-looking white man carrying a knife ordered the mother from her car.
- Investigators said the woman told them the man forced the woman's son into the back seat of the car and ordered the woman to drive around.
- Amanda was able to get out of the car but when she did, the suspect locked the doors and that's when he got into the back of the car
- The man locked himself in the car with Devon. Then he smothered the boy, holding a pillow over the child's face.
- Devon Epps was taken to a hospital, where he was declared deceased. Amanda Reagan Smith was injured as well. She was treated and released from the hospital that night.
- The woman had non-life threatening injuries, deputies said.
Does this sound believable or like the many similar cases where a family members entire family is murdered yet they survive virtually unscathed? The story certainly sounds suspect.
UPDATE I: What makes this case even more bizarre is maybe the fire that occurred at the home of Devon Epps three months earlier that nearly killed him. According to investigators, they never determined whether it was accidental or arson.
Family members tell us back in May the fire started in Devon's room, destroying everything. "He lost all of his clothes, all of his toys," says Diane. Diane says the little boy told her an amazing story of how he survived. "He was trying to grab the door and it was so hot," she says. "He grabbed at something to open the door and he finally got out and he went in there to wake his momma up." She says it was a miracle he lived to tell the story, only to have his little life extinguished three months later.
UPDATE II: Investigators confident boy's slaying will be solved. But authorities not saying how close they may be to an arrest.
Investigators looking into the murder of 7 year old Devon Epps have stated that they are confident that the case will be solved. With all the information that has been provided to police, there are so many tests that can be done and putting the pieces together to see whether a story actually holds water.
Nearly a month has passed since 7-year-old Devon Epps was killed and numerous leads have been followed, but authorities can't say whether they are any closer to making an arrest than they were when the investigation began.
Still, Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis said Friday he's confident that the case will be solved.
"I don't want to speculate on how close we are," Loftis said. "It's difficult to put an exact time frame on it, because we just have to follow the leads, follow the tips and see where the investigation goes." But, Loftis said, "I feel confident we'll make an arrest."
UPDATE III: Mother Of Murdered 7-year-old Involved In Car Accident
Cars certainly seem to be an issue with Amanda Reagan Smith. First her son according to her accounts was murdered by a car-jacker in the back seat of her vehicle at Jacobs Road and Interstate 85. Now Amanda Smith has a car accident, rear ending another vehicle. Is the pressure starting to set in?
Authorities tell us Amanda Reagan Smith ran her 2007 Kia into the back of a van on Highway 176 in Spartanburg. Highway patrol officials say Smith rear-ended the van as it slowed down for a traffic light.
Died September 6, 2007
Questions posed by Tahla's death
A number of questions are posed about the handling of the case of 17-month-old Tahla Ikram, who died after abuse by his father Abid Ikram and his stepmother Sumairia Parveen.
The death prompted an independent inquiry by the Ealing Safeguarding Children Board.
WHEN DID SOCIAL SERVICES BECOME INVOLVED?
Tahla and his family had been known to various agencies since 1997 and was under the care of social services shortly after his birth because there were concerns about the mental health of the biological mother.
However, social services said there was no concern regarding Ikram's ability to care for the child even though he lied about his on-going relationship with the mother and the access he allowed her to have to Tahla while she was given treatment for her personality disorder.
WHY WAS TAHLA RETURNED TO HIS FATHER?
The final decision on returning Tahla to his father was made by a judge. He took into account a psychologist's report on Ikram and Parveen which said they were both safe parents.
A report into the handling of Tahla's case does say the psychologist never spoke to Parveen on her own and she was always in the company of Ikram which may and have inhibited her from speaking freely about her true feelings for the child.
Tahla was placed with foster parents when he was taken away from Ikram and social services noted he progressed well under their care. But the foster parents agreed the preferred way forward was placing the boy permanently with Ikram.
Tahla was then placed with Ikram under a supervision order.
WHY DIDN'T DOCTORS NOTICE ANYTHING WRONG?
Ealing Hospital, where Tahla was taken to A&E, has said its doctors did consider recording Tahla's injuries as non-accidental.
But a spokesman for the west London hospital said it did not have access to his records as Tahla was not on the child protection register as he was only under a supervision order.
A spokesman for the hospital did say they should have questioned the father more about his social services history and the doctors could also have spoken to a social worker at the A&E. The spokesman added the hospital "regretted" that it did not do so.
The inquiry report also said recording on medical notes why an injury was deemed non-accidental would have meant the diagnosis of deliberate harm would have been more likely to be considered.
The report added the problems may have been compounded by the recent rotation of doctors which take place at the hospital twice a year. It said the when Tahla was first taken in he would have been seen by doctors new to their posts and would have had very little clinical experience.
WHAT LESSONS CAN BE LEARNED?
The report into Tahla's death says: "At no time could it have been predicted that Tahla would be seriously physically harmed by his carers."
But it does make some recommendations.
It highlights the need to review the link between supervision orders and the child protection register (CPR). If Tahla had been placed on the CPR at the time he was placed under the supervision order, doctors at Ealing Hospital, and other agencies, would have been able to access his social services history.
The report also called for better communication between agencies especially between the two social services departments involved at Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing.
Doctors at A&E should ensure when treating children who may be at risk, they should also take a full social history as well as a medical one.
The spokesman for Ealing Hospital has said many of these recommendations have already been implemented.
Baby murder accused 'not upset'
A woman accused of murdering her lover's baby son showed "no sadness" after he died, a court has heard.
Sumairia Parveen, 24, and Abid Ikram, 30, from Ealing, west London, deny murder and causing 17-month-old Tahla Ikram's death on 6 September 2006.
Tahla suffered fractures, bruises and a cut on his leg which revealed tendons and blood vessels, the court heard.
Witness Mohammed Khan saw Ms Parveen soon after the tragedy and said she "seemed perfectly normal, no remorse."
Foster carer Mr Khan, who looked after the child for three months, said Mr Ikram was, in contrast, clearly "very shocked".
Tahla's alleged abuse, including receiving a string of fractures and bruises, was described to jurors at Southwark Crown Court.
Many of his injuries were allegedly ignored for days on end, allowing broken bones to grind together.
A post-mortem found Tahla died from marrow fat deposits in his lungs, caused by broken ribs, which starved his brain of oxygen.
Concern about the child's welfare began six months earlier when police discovered the child "home alone".
Tahla was placed in the care of Mr Khan and his wife shortly afterwards.
Mr Khan said the child had been a "very joyful lad" and "both my children really adored him".
By the time Tahla was returned to Mr Ikram's custody, Ms Parveen had given birth to her own son.
During a visit, Mr Khan noticed Tahla looked unwell and suggested he might have a broken leg.
Jeremy Donne QC, prosecuting, asked him: "Did Sumairia appear to be particularly concerned about the incident?"
Mr Khan said: "No, she just said one of her toe-nails was broken that was all...she was more loving towards her own child."
He alleged Ms Parveen consoled Mr Ikram by placing her baby in his lap and saying: "It doesn't matter Tahla's gone, I am here now."
"She said it as if it was the baby talking," claimed Mr Khan.
The trial continues.
Dalvin Castillo 15-year-old
Died Septembar 9,2007
"They never contact us!" -In fact, the family had to call the group home.
Autistic Son Dead; 'Devastated' Mom Wants Answers
Group Home Didn't Tell Family Teen Escaped
SOUTH L.A., Sept. 12, 2007 (KABC-TV) - A mother mourns the loss of her mentally disabled teenager who was run over as he walked on the Harbor Freeway -- but that sadness is tinged with anger. She's furious the group home from which he escaped didn't even tell her he was missing.It happened on the northbound 110 Freeway at the Manchester exit. The family says the teen was living in a home for people with disabilities, and they simply want to know how he got out. So far they say they are getting very few answers.
Noema Castillo is in tears next to a picture of her son. He died early Sunday morning, and the family still isn't sure what happened.
"I am so devastated," said Noema. "I hope I can get some answers."
Fifteen-year-old Dalvin Castillo was autistic. For the last three years he lived at the Sharlom Group Home for Children with Disabilities. The family says he and a friend apparently escaped together early Sunday morning, but they didn't find out until a neighbor called because they had seen his picture on TV. Eyewitness News carried the story of the two missing boys on Sunday afternoon.
"We trusted the home and the owner that if anything [happened], they would contact us -- at least contact the mother -- right away," said Joannes Cocom, the victim's aunt. "They never did."
In fact, the family had to call the group home.
"Right, to finally confirm that he was missing," said Cocom.
"The police they came, and they went house to house searching the yards," said Simeon Turner, Jr., an eyewitness. "They even searched my garage."
Turner lives next to the home. He says police brought in search dogs to canvas the area.
The other boy, Jose Rodriguez, was found at The Forum doing fine. But Castillo apparently wandered for about two miles to the 110 Freeway at Manchester. That is where he was hit by a car.
"And they really let us down. They really let us down," said Marion Brooks, the victim's cousin. "And no, it's not just letting us down. We know we have a great loss."
Eyewitness News went by the group home several times on Wednesday and there was no one there. We called and the voice mail was not accepting any new messages.
The mother says she simply wants to know what happened
"It hurts. It really hurts," said Noema.
Eyewitness News contacted several county agencies, including the Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Family Services. But in situations like this, getting information is tricky because of privacy laws. Neither agency will talk about it or confirm there is any kind of investigation taking place.
By Carlos Granda
Died September 10,2007
Police asked state caseworkers to not say whether Hannah's family had been investigated by child welfare officers, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. WHY ???
Cops: Texas Girl, 6, Found Hanged in Garage Was Sexually Abused
CORSICANA, Texas - A 6-year-old Texas girl was found hanged in her garage Monday and police were investigating the case as a homicide, MyFOXDFW.com reports.
Hannah Mack was discovered Monday by her mother, Dana, hanging in the garage with a rope around her neck in Navarro Mills Lake, about 65 miles south of Dallas, and there were signs that she had been sexually abused, the station reported.
"I just touched her arm and I wanted to get her down so bad," Dana Mack told MyFOXDFW.com.
Police confirmed Wednesday the child was found hanged and sexually assaulted before she died.
Authorities have made no arrests or named any suspects since Hannah Mack's body was discovered. They are saying little about their investigation.
"I will confirm that the hanging and sexual assault were part of this scenario," Navarro County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Cox said.
Cox said several people have been interviewed and no one has been ruled out as a suspect.
"We don't want to do anything that would compromise a successful prosecution of this case," Cox said Wednesday before abruptly ending a brief news conference.
Neighbors in the rural lakeside community in east Texas are frustrated by the silence so far and worry that a predator remains on the loose.
In a letter to the sheriff's department, Navarro County Judge Vicki Gray said an autopsy of the body showed "a multitude of events that together caused the death of this child." No other details were released.
The first-grader's body was found in a garage behind her home early Monday.
"I'm just concerned about the kids out there," said Harold Hocutt, 75, a neighbor who knows the girl's family. "Little girls. Little boys. It's just something you don't forget. Every time I drive by [Hannah's house], I cry."
Police asked state caseworkers to not say whether Hannah's family had been investigated by child welfare officers, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"I wish I could punish this person myself," Dana Mack told MyFOXDFW.com.
Police: Mother's Boyfriend is Primary Suspect in Hanging, Sex Assault of Child
NAVARRO COUNTY, Texas - The Navarro County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday morning that a man who had been living with the family of the 6-year-old girl found hanged Monday is now the primary suspect in her sexual assault and murder.
Late Wednesday afternoon, investigators arrested Kevin Wayne Anders for possession of child pornography, a third degree felony.
Anders is the live-in boyfriend of Hanna Mack's mother, Dana Mack.
Chief Deputy Mike Cox of the Navarro County Sheriff's Office said during Thursday's press conference that Anders was being investigated for the sexual assault and murder of the little girl but he has not been charged in the child's death.
"I can't go into the details, but we're eagerly awaiting lab results," Cox said.
Dana Mack discovered her daughter hanged to death Monday afternoon in the garage of her home in Navarro Hills Lake near Corsicana.
She had been sexually assaulted before she was murdered. Navarro County Judge Vicki Gray said an autopsy showed a multitude of events together caused Hanna's death.
Anders, 32, is a clerk at an E-Z Mart gas station and convenience store, according to his arrest report. He is married, but not to Hanna's mother.
Anders was convicted in 2005 on a misdemeanor charge of driving with an invalid license. He was sentenced to one month plus 15 days in jail and fined $500, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.
He is being held on $100,000 bond in the Navarro County jail.
Cox said Anders was located at a residence in western Navarro County and taken into custody without incident.
2007 Fox Dallas (KDFW).
Christian Thomas Jin Young Lee 6-year-old
Died September 4,2007
Child services warned about killer
Victoria police alerted social workers of risks to Peter Hyun Lee's family weeks before he slaughtered them
Charles "Charlie" Bolger 10-month-old
Died August 23,2006
Police said it appeared the child slid down in the seat and choked.
10-month-old Charles "Charlie" Bolger suffocated in the straps of a car seat, where his
caregiver had placed him for a nap. The state Office of Children and Adult Licensing, a division of the
Department of Human Services, later closed the day care.
Logan Lynn Tucker 6-year-old
Died June 23, 2002
All Logan needed was some tender love and care, just someone to pay a little attention to him.
It is believed that it was on June 23, 2002, when 6-year-old Logan Tucker was last seen. That day, his 27-year-old mother, Katherine Rutan, told her roommate that the Department of Human Services (DHS) had taken him away. Since DHS had taken the child once before, it was assumed that Katherine's story was true.
On July 7th, Logan's grandparents tried to contact him from where they lived in nearby Bixby. They became suspicious of Katherine's answers to questions on the child's whereabouts and notified the Woodward, Oklahoma authorities. The police went to check on Logan Tucker and Justin Daggett, his 4-year-old half brother. Katherine said that Logan was visiting an uncle in West Virginia. It did not take long for the police to discover that the uncle did not live in West Virginia. Once they located him, he said that it had been more than a year since he had seen Logan.
The police questioned Katherine again. She told them conflicting stories about where Logan was, none of which proved true. When asked to take a polygraph test, Katherine refused and hired an attorney. She appeared on a local television station and pleaded for the safe return of her son. In the meantime, an ongoing search for Logan was being conducted by authorities and volunteers. Known pedophiles, sex offenders and any acquaintances were questioned, without success.
Investigators soon discovered Katherine was wanted in Kansas City for passing bad checks. The Clay County, Missouri Sheriff's Department had issued the warrant. Katherine Rutan was also known by the names, Catherine Daggett and Katherine Gougler. She was arrested and eventually extradited to Missouri, where she pleaded guilty to all charges and was placed on probation.
Justin Daggett was placed in protective custody by the court and his biological father has filed for full custody because he fears for his son's safety. He believes Justin may have been a witness to what happened to Logan.
Arrest made in Tucker case
Mother charged with first-degree murder of six-year-old son
Johnny McMahan & A.J. Butler
A little over 44 months since he went missing, an arrest has been made in the Logan Tucker disappearance case.
Logan Tucker's mother, Katherine Rutan a/k/a Katherine Pollard, was arrested Thursday by Woodward County Sheriff Les Morton and Undersheriff Monty Clem at her home in Dewey, near Bartlesville.
Rutan, who is now married and uses the last name Pollard, was brought back to the Woodward County Jail Thursday night on a charge of first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege in the charge that Pollard used "unreasonable force" and inflicted "certain mortal wounds" on Logan Tucker on or about June 23, 2002. Tucker disappeared around that time and has not been found.
Pollard was arraigned Friday afternoon in Woodward County District Court and bail was set at $250,000 by District Judge Joseph P. Marak, Jr. Friday evening, Pollard was still in the Woodward County Jail. A preliminary hearing is set May 23.
Assistant District Attorney Don Work asked for no bail or for $500,000 bail because of the seriousness of the crime.
Pollard's attorney, David Christian, argued his client had been the target of the investigation for the past four years but was not a flight risk. Christian also said Pollard had been married now for three years and is the secretary at a church in Bartlesville and is attending school.
"My client feels the same as most anyone else would in this situation," said Christian. "I believe that allowing her to remain in jail would affect her right to council, but I will review what the state says they have and look over the witnesses they have provided so far."
Christian also said, "I believe this trial could take a year or more but I haven't had an opportunity to review the affidavit yet because I haven't been provided with one. They will get one to me whether they want to or not."
Work said later Friday he was not at liberty to discuss the evidence, "but the information we have gathered does allege several things."
As for the length of time since the disappearance to the mother's arrest, "A crime like this does take a lot of time to process, but as for new evidence, I cannot comment on the investigation itself. I think the judge considered both arguments for bond and made a decision that I cannot contest with."
Morton, who along with Clem, has spearheaded search operations, indicated new evidence has not come up.
"Just stuff that Monty and the OSBI have been working on for three and a half years," Morton said. "We initially thought the body might turn up, but that hasn't happened and we decided it was time to go ahead and proceed and file some charges.
"My understanding is a special prosecutor will be handling the case who has dealt with these kinds of cases."
Morton said the district attorney's office got together to decide what charges to file.
In a court document filed with the charges, District Attorney Ray Don Jackson indicated that Chris Ross, assistant district attorney for Ponotoc County in Ada will assist in the prosecution. Ross could not be reached for comment.
Pollard, then known as Rutan, was living with Melody Lennington at the time of Logan Tucker's disappearance.
"I wasn't happy with the amount the bond was set for and I thought it should be more," said Lennington. "Where she is now - they do not know her like we do here."
Lennington reports that the last time she was in contact with the woman was two days after Tucker was believed to be missing.
"She came back to the house and said to me that ?I guess you want me to leave now.' She grabbed a few things and that was the last time I had any contact with her. All Logan needed was some tender love and care, just someone to pay a little attention to him.
"He was a pain in her side. It made her mad because having a child didn't let her do the things she wanted to do, so she got rid of the problem."
The Logan Tucker case started in June 2002. The boy was six when he disappeared.
The last time law enforcement agents can pinpoint Logan Tucker's whereabouts alive was on June 23, 2002. He wasn't actually reported missing to law enforcement until early July when a family member in eastern Oklahoma requested a welfare check because grandparents had been unable to talk to the boy by phone.
Law enforcement officials started searching for Logan and held a massive search on July 16, 2002 with over 300 people from across the state - in and out of law enforcement - converging on Woodward to comb Northwest Woodward County on horseback, foot, in all-terrain vehicles and any other mode of transportation in hopes of finding any sign of the boy.
Searches have continued throughout the years.
In a lengthy affidavit filed with the charge Clem details a timeline starting April 27, 2002 when Rutan, as she is referred to throughout the affidavit, allegedly asked the Department of Human Services to take her two children, to Sept. 7, 2002 when she moved to Bartlesville.
In the affidavit, Clem said, ". . . at no time either while she (Rutan) was living in Woodward or since she moved has she ever called to inquire about the investigation regarding Logan L. Tucker's whereabouts."
According to the affidavit, Rutan called DHS on April 27, 2002 and told them she was afraid she was going to hurt her two sons. The boys were taken into protective custody, but returned to Rutan two days later by a district court in Tulsa County.
Rutan, according to the affidavit, moved to Fort Supply in May, 2002 to live with her boyfriend Michael Pettey. She then moved in with Melody Lennington in Woodward on June 10.
On June 16 or 17, according to the affidavit, Pettey said his cigarette lighter was missing. He and Rutan looked for the lighter and she brought it to Pettey, later saying Logan had it.
According to the affidavit, on June 19, Lennington found Logan Tucker playing with matches.
Also that day, a Wednesday, Clem alleges Rutan called her adoptive parents Ron and Carolyn Cathcart and told them what Logan had done. She also made calls that day to child welfare, mental health and the domestic crisis center.
In the affidavit, Clem alleges that on June 20, Rutan called child welfare and wanted to relinquish her parental rights to the boys. Rutan/Pollard and Logan met with a counselor that day and the counselor arranged for the boy to be taken into placement, but the earliest date available was June 24. Rutan, according to the affidavit, allegedly became angry and called her son a house burner and child murderer.
One June 21, a Friday, Rutan allegedly told Pettey that DHS would come and get Logan on June 24.
On Saturday, June 22, Lennington indicated, according to Clem, that Rutan had sent her boys to bed around 9 or 10 p.m. Lennington said she was awakened between three a.m. and four a.m. on June 23 by a noise and that she heard Logan Tucker scream or yell once and then he was crying.
According to the affidavit, Lennington asked Rutan about the boy and Rutan told her she was sick and she had put him in the back room. A couple of hours later, Rutan said the boy was in the basement.
Lennington left around 7 a.m. without having seen the boy.
Later that day, around noon, Lennington's daughter asked Rutan where Logan was and she said DHS had come and taken him and that she had just missed them.
Rutan also told four other people that day that Logan Tucker had been taken by DHS. She also allegedly said the boy was with his father, and also a mental hospital. She told yet another person that Logan was with his birth father and she tried to give away some of his clothes. She allegedly told one person she was treating Logan's being gone as though he were dead, like his twin sister whom she lost at birth, according to the affidavit.
Rutan told Melody Lennington on June 23 that she had received a bruise on her arm from fighting to keep DHS from taking Tucker, but she allegedly told someone else she got the bruise from Logan when DHS took her, according to the affidavit.
On Monday, June 24, Dinky Smith, a nurse at the facility where the counselor had arranged to place Logan Tucker, called Rutan and was allegedly told she had already placed Tucker elsewhere, according to the affidavit.
Also on June 24, the affidavit alleges, Rutan called her estranged husband Brady Gougler and told him Logan was in a mental hospital. She told the Cathcarts that Logan was taken by DHS. She allegedly told the Cathcarts DHS would not let her hug the boy or say goodbye and they wouldn't let him take any clothes or toys with him.
Later on Monday, Rutan, the affidavit alleges, told Lennington she was going to dig some wild flowers. But, Rutan didn't have a shovel when she left and didn't bring any wild flowers back to the house, Lennington said.
Around 4 p.m. on June 24, the affidavit alleges, Rutan called Pettey and wanted to borrow a shovel and some plastic. She got those items at approximately 7:30 p.m. and told Petty's mother she was going to go dig some wild flowers she had seen on Sunday. Rutan returned the shovel after dark.
On June 28, DHS called Rutan, who said Logan Tucker was with her brother, Brian Marquardt, camping in Vermont. She also allegedly told DHS she was going to place the boy at the Brown School in Tulsa upon his return.
Ron Cathcart also began inquiring about Logan and a DHS worker confirmed on June 28 DHS did not have the boy.
Clem says in the affidavit that Cathcart talked with Rutan on July 1 to tell her they had decided to take Logan. Rutan allegedly told Cathcart a hearing was set on July 4, then said July 3 when she was informed July 4 was a holiday.
On July 5, the Cathcarts called Rutan asking to take physical custody of Logan, but Rutan said the boys' present treatment would take six months to two years, but she would not tell them the name of the facility Logan was in.
On July 6, Rutan allegedly told at least two people she had just one son. She was also allegedly looking for someone to call her parents and tell them Logan was safe.
Sunday, July 7, Mickey Cathcart called the sheriff's office asking for a welfare check on Logan.
Sheriff's deputies were allegedly told by Rutan the boy was either camping with her brother in Vermont or Pennsylvania, then said she didn't want her parents to know her brother had Logan.
Rutan allegedly asked at least two people that day to call her parents and tell them Logan was fine. The told one of the people, Fancie Hamilton, that Logan was in North Carolina with his father, according to the affidavit.
On July 8, deputies received permission to search Rutan car and found a large plastic sheeting, some cotton rope and a bottle of drain cleaner, according to the affidavit. Officials also spoke with Brian Marquardt, who said he had not seen Rutan in over a year.
DHS reported on July 8 that it did not have Logan Tucker and he was not in the Brown School in Tulsa.
Later on July 8, Rutan allegedly asked someone to leave a message on her sister's answering machine that he was Brian and Logan was fine.
Rutan then contacted Clem, saying she had gotten a message from her brother Brian saying Logan was fine and they would be back in a few weeks. Clem said he asked for Brian's phone number but Rutan said she did not know the number, according to the affidavit.
In the affidavit, Clem said he called, in Rutan presence, and spoke with Brian Marquardt on July 8 and Marquardt said he had not been to Tulsa in almost two years and had receipts to prove he was nowhere near Oklahoma on June 23, 2002. Clem said Brian told him he did not have Logan Tucker.
Clem said Rutan again told him that Brian called her and said he had come to Woodward to pick up Logan.
Clem said in the affidavit he told Rutan since she was insisting her brother had the boy and wouldn't return him, she needed to file a kidnapping report. Clem alleges Rutan never made the effort to do so.
Also on July 8, deputies searched the Lennington residence and found masking tape with hairs stuck to it and what appeared to be blood on it in the basement. A DNA analysis found the blood to be consistent with hair belong to an offspring of Robert Tucker (Logan's father) and Katherine Rutan.
Rutan later told investigators the boys had been playing in the basement when thunderstorms had been in the area and that's how blood got on the tape. Deputies later determined that was not true, according to the affidavit.
The FBI also talked to Brian Marquardt and basically determined he did not have the child. The FBI also talked to Robert Tucker, who said he had not seen Logan since he was an infant.
On July 9, the affidavit alleges, Rutan spoke with Ron and Carolyn Cathcart and told them that Brian had Logan and she believed he had given the boy to them or to Connie Henson.
On July 10, deputies searched Rutan's and had it processed by OSBI technicians and a cadaver dog. The affidavit said the dog will alert on any area where a dead human body had been, and the dog did so on the passenger side of Rutan's car in the area around the rear tire or area that Tucker had last been seen setting in.
According to the affidavit, on July 16, Rutan's younger son was interviewed in Oklahoma City and allegedly told DHS workers that he knew of a good place to hunt "rolly-pollys" and about his mother having a shovel and looking for wild flowers.
On Aug. 2, the younger boy allegedly told FBI agent Ron Parrish and a DHS employee that his mother took his brother Logan out to an area in the country.
According to the affidavit, the boy said his mother had a shovel and some plastic and that she crossed a fence and went out into the field. The boy said his brother was in the backseat of the car sitting up, but not crying or talking and his mother carried Logan with her, and he was not with her when she returned to the car. The boy also said, the affidavit alleges, that his mother told him to stay in the car because there were snakes out there. In the affidavit, Clem said the boy was asked why his mother needed the plastic and the boy responded, "to bury Logan." The boy was not able to take officers to the specific area where this occurred.
In the affidavit, Clem said searches have continued but the whereabouts of Logan Tucker remain unknown.
"We're real glad that an arrest has been made," Morton said. "Like Monty and I have talked back and forth, it's been a long time coming.
"We both understand we've still got a long ways to go. It's a start."
Mother of missing Woodward boy charged with murder
By The Associated Press
WOODWARD ? The mother of a boy who has been missing for nearly four years made an initial court appearance Friday, a day after she was charged with first-degree murder in the child's death.
Katherine Rutan, who was arrested by sheriff's deputies in Dewey on Thursday, used "unreasonable force" on Logan L. Tucker, inflicting "certain mortal wounds" on the then 6-year-old boy, Woodward County prosecutors alleged in the charge.
Assistant District Attorney Don Work declined to discuss specifics in the case on Friday, but said the child's body hasn't been found.
Rutan was being held in Woodward County Jail Friday night on $250,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is set for May 23.
"A crime like this does take a lot of time to process, but as for new evidence I cannot comment on the investigation itself," said Woodward County Sheriff Les Morton, who spearheaded the investigation.
"We initially thought the body might turn up, but that hasn't happened and we decided it was time to go ahead and proceed and file some charges."
According to an affidavit by Sheriff's Deputy Monty Clem, Rutan provided conflicting accounts to several people about Logan, whom authorities believe died on or about June 23, 2002. Her younger son also said his mother drove him and his brother out to a field "in the country," got out with Logan but returned alone.
Rutan told Department of Human Services workers, her adoptive parents and others Logan had been playing with matches and had set fire to the bed in her Tulsa apartment while his younger brother was in the bedroom, the affidavit stated.
On June 19, 2002, Rutan asked DHS for help with Logan and told a worker at another agency she feared her oldest son would hurt J.D., then 4.
The next day, Rutan told child welfare workers she wanted to relinquish her parental rights to both boys, the affidavit stated. She told a counselor her former husband left after Logan burned down their home in Tulsa, and said she feared her relationship with her present boyfriend would end because he was upset about Logan playing with matches.
The affidavit said a counselor arranged for Logan to be placed in a facility but not until four days later, which apparently angered Rutan.
By then, Rutan had moved to Fort Supply and was living with Melody Lennington, who told investigators she recalled waking up early June 23 and hearing Logan screaming and crying. When she asked Rutan about Logan, Rutan told her she put him in a back room.
"All Logan needed was some tender love and care, just someone to pay a little attention to him," Lennington told the Woodward News on Friday. "He was a pain in her side. It made her mad because having a child didn't let her do the things she wanted to do so she got rid of the problem."
When asked by several people where Logan was that day, Rutan said DHS had picked him up. She also showed one of her boyfriend's sisters a bruise on her arm, which she claimed was from fighting to keep DHS from taking her son, the affidavit states.
Later that day, Rutan asked her boyfriend if she could borrow a shovel and plastic to dig up wildflowers she had noticed, the affidavit states.
In interviews with law enforcement officers and DHS employees, Logan's brother, J.D., recalled his mother taking the two boys to a rural area with a shovel and some plastic.
The boy said his brother was sitting in the back seat of the car and "looked sick but wasn't crying or talking," according to the affidavit. His mother told him to stay in the car and she carried Logan out to the field but returned alone.
When the agent and worker asked him why his mother needed the plastic, the child said "to bury Logan," the affidavit states.
The child wasn't able to show officers the specific area.
Died February 22,2001
Foster mother charged with murdering boy
West Side woman whose foster child died Thursday after being submerged in a tub of freezing water was charged Saturday with first- degree murder.
Police say 29-year-old Flora Stewart punished 6-year-old Allen Kalfus for misbehaving by holding him under a shower of cold water, echoing a similar charge leveled against the mother last year.
Stewart, of the 4300 block of West 19th Street, told police she sent Allen to take a bath and heard him fall after about 45 minutes. Stewart said she found him unconscious in a T-shirt and underwear in the tub with a bump on the back of his head. Police said he also had a first-degree burn under his eye.
A 2-year-old foster child living with Stewart was removed by the Department of Children and Family Services. Two teenage nieces also were living with her.
Last May, Stewart was accused of forcing Allen to take cold showers, said Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy. DCFS investigated the charge, which the boy confirmed but then recanted, and DCFS said it was unfounded, Murphy said.
Two months later, South Central Community Services, the agency that placed the boy, decided Stewart wasn't cooperating and said the boy should be removed. Stewart filed an appeal, and during mediation, she apologized and promised to try harder. Ultimately, the mediator, Stewart and South Central agreed to leave the child in the home, Murphy said.
Both Murphy and DCFS Director Jess McDonald say the system needs to change.
Foster child's death ruled homicide
A West Side woman whose foster child died Thursday in a freezing bathtub had been allowed to keep the boy last year after she was cleared of an anonymous accusation that she forced him to take cold showers, officials said Friday.
The freezing death of 6-year-old Allen Kalfus was a homicide, the Cook County medical examiner ruled Friday. Chicago police were still investigating, and no charges had been filed Friday night, said officer Matthew Jackson.
A child welfare official said that last year the foster mother was accused in an anonymous tip of neglecting the boy. The call to the hotline of the Department of Children and Family Services said the foster mother, 30, was forcing Allen to take cold showers after he wet his pants, officials said.
The accusation was investigated and determined to be unfounded. But the agency that had placed the boy in the home recommended that he be removed because the foster mother wasn't cooperating. After state-required mediation, the private and government agencies agreed to leave him in the home.
Allen Kalfus died of hypothermia Thursday at 4336 W. 19th St. The foster mother had called police, saying she found him unconscious and clothed in the tub.
Another foster child in the home, a boy of 2 or 3 years old, was removed by DCFS on Thursday and placed with another foster parent, said Andy Martinez, a spokesman for DCFS. Two teenagers have been placed with relatives.
Died April 21 2001
Foster Mother Headed To Prison For Boy's Death
A 63-year-old grandmother who was found guilty of endangering a little boy in her care was sentenced Tuesday for her role in the toddler's death.
NewsChannel5 reported that Jacqueline Clark will spend three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the death of 2-year-old Devin Wilder.
Wilder had been placed in foster care after it was believed that his parents were abusing his little sister, Makenna. It was later determined that Makenna suffers from brittle-bone disease, and that's what caused so many of her bones to break.
Prosecutors said that Clark's 15-year-old granddaughter beat and shook Devin to death. The teen was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is serving time in Devin's death, but the boy's parents said that Clark must share some of the responsibility.
"She left Devin with a 15-year-old and she didn't call 911 until Saturday morning," said Antoinette Artale, Devin's mother. "The doctor said that if he had been taken to the hospital Friday night, there was a 50-50 chance he would have made it."
Clark's attorney said that the grandmother had no idea Devin was injured until the next morning.
Clark apologized to Devin's parents in court Tuesday.
"I cannot replace this child, and I cannot again say to the parents how sorry I am," she said. "I have been in your shoes."
Clark will be transported to prison within the next week.
The boy's parents said that the three-year sentence isn't long enough.
Wayne E. Anderson Jr. 7-month-old
Died July 31,2007
It takes a village to burn a baby
It is with a heavy heart we investigate the death of a child. Compelled to find the truth surrounding Wayne Anderson Jr.'s horrific passing, we have jumped repeatedly into the murky waters of the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division and Missouri Juvenile Court System.
It is our hope a critical evaluation of Baby Wayne's end will prompt with vigor officials and politicians to turn the most cruel child death in our area's recent history into a catalyst for change. Only these officials, elected and appointed by Missourians to act on their behalf, are powerful enough to rip information from the tight grip of the Department of Social Services fast enough to hold the appropriate parties accountable for their actions and inactions.
In this case, the tentacles of blame, cover-up, questionable ethical practice and moral accountability stretch across a community far more vast than the tiny City of Iberia, Mo., and way beyond the vile acts of a deranged mother.
Baby Wayne was first taken into emergency custody by the Iberia Police on the evening of June 23, 18 days before the six-month-old was wrapped in a blanket and set on fire, allegedly by his mother.
Police called in the incident to the Department of Social Services Children's Division Hotline, took Wayne and one of his older sisters to Lake Regional Hospital and were met by an on-call investigator.
The following five facts about the night of June 23 have been derived from official reports, verified by Children's Division and are considered by us to be undisputed:
1. Iberia Police took emergency custody of two of Christina White's three children. One of those children was Wayne Anderson Jr.
2. The Children's Division investigator believed Christina White knowingly allowed Wayne Anderson Jr. and one of his older sisters to be left in an unsafe and unsanitary environment at her parents' home, which included drugs, rotting food, pet feces, and other unmentionables.
3. One police officer verbally opposed allowing the kids to be released to their mother's custody because he believed Christina White's residence to be unfit.
4. Christina White had recently moved from Illinois.
5. Wayne's older sister, also taken into emergency custody, had been placed into the custody of Christina White's parents by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Ultimately, the Children's Division investigator and her supervisor agreed on a recommendation to hold the children in a temporary foster home until they could further investigate the suitability of Christina White and her residence.
However, custody of a child is not the decision of the Children's Division in the State of Missouri. It's the Children's Division's job to investigate and make a recommendation to juvenile officers with the Juvenile Court.
At the exact moment police took emergency custody in Iberia, the children immediately became the responsibility and under the jurisdiction of the 26th Judicial Court.
In the gray area that precedes official reports, the chief juvenile officer of the 26th Judicial was the decision maker concerning the custody of Baby Wayne and his sister on the evening of June 23.
Despite pleas from police and a recommendation from Children's Division's investigator that Wayne and his sister be placed in temporary foster care, the chief juvenile officer gave custody of the children back to Christina White, sight unseen. In making that decision, the chief juvenile officer knowingly placed a child into Christina White's care that had been taken from her custody by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
After June 23, there was no further communication between Children's Division and the 26th Juvenile Court about the White case until Baby Wayne was viciously burned on July 11.
Children's Division's investigator continued to be connected to the White case, inspecting Christina's temporary residence, driving her around and checking in on the kids. In fact, she was in the home where Baby Wayne was set on fire the day before the burning.
For whatever reason, the investigator never picked up the telephone to contact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), knowing Christina had recently moved from Illinois and that one of her children had not been in her custody.
When we interviewed the Children's Division months after Baby Wayne's death, a spokesperson said it would not have been prudent for the investigator to contact Illinois DCFS between June 23 and July 11.
That spokesperson further stated that no one indicated on June 23 that Christina White had a child abuse history.
However, the investigator's report from the night of June 23 says, "I informed Christina and Wayne Sr. it was concerning they found it acceptable to leave Wayne Jr. at their parents' residence in the condition it was in.... I further explained they could be charged with Failure to Protect because they left Wayne Jr. in an unhealthy and unsanitary environment."
No phone call to Illinois DCFS.
The next day, June 24, the lead investigator would determine the garage in which Christina and the children had been living for months to be unacceptable.
Still, no phone call to Illinois DCFS.
On Monday, June 25, the lead investigator received a report from the Iberia Police Department that stated the following in reference to the night of June 23: "The mother of the two young children (Christina White) arrived on scene and when asked why the children were here... she advised that the state of Illinois had taken custody of the four-year-old daughter and given it to her mother."
Still, no phone call to Illinois DCFS.
If anyone from the Children's Division or juvenile court contacted Illinois DCFS at any time, they would have received a copy of a letter issued to Christina White by Illinois DCFS on Feb. 20, 2007, which states: "You were previously notified by a Child Protection Investigator that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was investigating a report of child abuse or neglect. After thorough investigation, DCFS has determined that you have abused or neglected a child. The department has indicated you for Substantial Risk of Physical/Environmental Injurious to Health and Welfare by Neglect. An indicated finding means that DCFS' investigation found credible evidence of child abuse/neglect."
This letter from Illinois DCFS could have only been written in reference to Baby Wayne and/or one older sister. Neither child had yet been taken from Christina White's custody.
When Christina White learned of this letter, she fled to Missouri.
If an investigator from Missouri had called Illinois during the week of June 25 and received this letter by fax through the Missouri-Illinois Interstate Compact, the investigator would have had ample time to bring it to the attention of the chief juvenile officer of the 26th Judicial Court before Baby Wayne was burned on July 11.
It can only be speculated that the new information, compounded by the Children's Division recommendation and emergency action by police, would have prompted the chief juvenile officer to take immediate custody of Wayne Jr. and both sisters until the case could be heard by a judge.
Based on this argument, one may be inclined to believe Baby Wayne's death could have been prevented if it had not been for the failure of the lead investigator.
That would be simple. Us "headhunters" would get a scapegoat and allow Children's Division and juvenile court to escape unscathed. It could be a tight little package if not for the fact that at least a dozen tax-paid state workers had partial or full knowledge of the events of June 23.
None of them acted, no one followed up. No one suggested the Children's Division investigator call Illinois DCFS.
If the Children's Division investigator was too inept to investigate, we contend it is the fault of the supervisors that hired, then failed to train her.
But train her to do what?
Missouri CD does not have a policy to instruct investigators as to when they should contact another state to request information, according to a CD spokesperson.
This is a major oversight on the part of the Director of the Department of Social Services. Anyone that has worked in that field for a week knows child abusers have made common practice of jumping from state-to-state to escape social workers and prosecution. The failure to address this issue in writing hangs at the top.
Without proper policy or training, investigators and juvenile officers must constantly move beyond state policy. They must have common sense and do what's right. They have to look at each defenseless child as more than just another lost cause, a body to move from the hospital to court and back again.
What concerns us the most about the Baby Wayne investigation is that the chief juvenile officer and every spokesperson at the Department of Social Services seem convinced the system did not fail. They are convinced their workers did a good job.
"Everyone did everything they could, but a bad thing still happened," the chief juvenile officer says.
"We just can't predict human behavior," says a spokesperson for CD.
It is because of this pathological denial that there can be no improvement. There is no mea culpa. There is no concession that judgment may have been poor. No decisions could have been different, they say. There are no signs managers empowered to change a system wrought with failure are moving to change anything.
It is because of this denial and apathy that heads must roll.
Was Iberia baby death preventable?
The first glimpse into the investigation of the events before the death of an infant and the mother who is now behind bars charged with his murder holds no surprises and gives no credence to allegations that have been raised questioning whether state agencies acted appropriately.
The questions surround whether or not the infant and two other children should have been turned over to their mother after Wayne Anderson Jr. and an older sibling were taken into protective custody by the Iberia Police Department on June 23.
The incident at the grandparents' home did not involve the mother, and at that time, there were no warrants for her arrest nor allegations of abuse or neglect being made against her.
The report outlines the events that began with the incident at the grandparents' home June 23 and continued until July 12. The fire that caused the fatal injuries to the infant was reported July 11.
The grandparents, Walter and Charleana White, have been arrested. They are charged with child endangerment stemming from the June 23 incident when a teenager was found smoking marijuana in their home and the living conditions were described as "unsanitary." Police reports noted the stench of rotting garbage and lack of running water.
Although the infant and his sibling were taken to Lake Regional Hospital immediately after the incident at the grandparents' home, they were examined and released. The report indicates the children did not require any medical attention.
The children were taken from the grandparents' home and later returned to the mother. That is where some critics say state agencies failed in their responsibilities.
The mother, Christina White, is being held without bond on murder, arson and child endangerment charges in connection with the fire July 11.
According to the report, less than 24 hours before the fire, a representative of the Division of Children's Services had visited the home where it occurred. Nothing in the investigative report indicated there was reason to believe that the mother could not be trusted with her own children.
In the days since Wayne Anderson Jr. died from the burns he suffered after his mother allegedly set his blanket on fire and left him to burn in his crib, the 26th Judicial Circuit Court's Juvenile Division has come under intense scrutiny by some who claim the agency did not do its job.
"I believe that in tragic situations like this, people always look for someone to blame. That's human nature, and when children die, it is incredibly emotional," said Tammy Walden, the chief juvenile officer who heads the circuit's juvenile services. "This is one of those situations. I have gone over our reports and have gone over what our agency did, and I believe that everyone did their jobs and did them right. There was no indication and no information available to us at the time that lead us to believe this woman posed a risk to her children, much less that she was capable of murdering one by the most horrific means I can imagine."
Walden said before children can be removed form the custody of their parent(s), juvenile officers have to determine the child(ren) have been neglected and/or abused or are at imminent risk of that happening.
"Yes, there were concerns about poverty issues, unsanitary living conditions, but did they rise to the level to force the removal of the children from the care of their mother? No, they didn't," Walden said. "There was nothing that indicated the children were in physical danger."
Christina White had agreed to move in with her sister as a result of a followup visit from children's services after the June 23 incident raised questions about the sanitary conditions of the home where she was living.
She had also applied for services that were available to her. From all appearances, she was trying.
Until the day of the fire.
If there is good that can come from this, Walden said, it would be the heightened awareness that this kind of tragedy can happen anywhere and in any community. It also highlights the very real need for a national database that tracks child abuse and neglect cases from state to state.
It wasn't until after the fatal fire that information on two substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect were forwarded from Illinois, where Christina White had lived before moving to Missouri.
"We don't like it, but sometimes bad things happen no matter what," Walden said. "Unfortunately, this was one of those cases."
Currently, Walden said 76 children in Miller County are being cared for in foster homes, including the two siblings of Wayne Anderson Jr.
It is interesting to note in light of the scrutiny this case has brought to bare on the juvenile division, by their own admission, Iberia Mayor Jack Hogue, Iberia Police Chief Andy Long and Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott could not recall any prior complaints or incidents involving the Whites.
Camdenton Lake Sun
Family Speaks Out After Mother is Charged in Baby's Death
Memorial planned for baby burned to death
Memorial plans are underway for a mid-Missouri baby burned to death.
Wayne Anderson Junior's mother- Christina White - is now charged with his murder after police say she wrapped him up in a blanket and set it on fire. The baby died on July 31st.
Now, a special committee is trying to bring some closure to the Iberia community that's gone through this death.
Up until last week - Christina White's sister, Danna, thought she would bury her nephew in Iberia, but instead the baby's father took the body to Illinois - where Danna says he does not even have a headstone.
So, instead, Danna will use the plot picked out under a tree in the Iberia cemetery to remember Wayne Anderson Jr. - even though his body will not be buried there.
"We will probably come out everyday and sit and have a moment of silence," Danna White says.
The memorial service will take place later this month thanks to a committee put together by another Iberia woman, Kristie Shrieves.
So far - one Jefferson City company has donated the memorial headstone, but the committee is still raising money to finish paying for more monument items that will be put up in October.
The Mayor of Iberia says he is glad this memorial service will take place.
"Just to help everybody put their emotions to rest and to memorialize baby Wayne Jr.," Mayor Jack Hogue says.
The Public Memorial Service for Baby Wayne E. Anderson, Jr. will be on Saturday, September 22 at 1:00pm at the Iberia Cemetery located on Cemetery Rd, Hwy 42, Iberia, MO.
Donations for the Memorial Garden Site that will be completed in October can be sent to the following address:
Wayne E. Anderson Memorial Fund, 810 Hwy 42, Iberia, MO 65486
The city's mayor says you may also donate to Iberia City Hall.
All donating parties will be notated in the follow-up publishment of the completed memorial site. Flowers for the service later this month can be sent to Rekus Funeral Home in Iberia. The public is invited to attend the service.
Story posted on September 9, 2007
Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu 8-year-old
Could murdered girl's death have been prevented?
THE rape and murder of eight-year-old Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu in a Perth shopping centre toilet struck fear into the heart of parents everywhere.
Now the question is being asked - could her death have been prevented?
After some high profile setbacks in major criminal cases, Western Australia's police and prosecutors are again under pressure over Sofia's murder and the case against her killer, Dante Wyndham Arthurs.
Arthurs, 22, pleaded guilty this week to the unlawful detention and murder of Sofia in June last year.
He had originally been charged with wilful murder, sexual penetration and the unlawful detention of Sofia, who was found minutes after her murder on a toilet floor in Canning Vale's Livingston shopping centre.
But Arthurs pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of murder when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) downgraded the murder charge because of concerns authorities could not prove Arthurs intended to kill Sofia.
Two counts of sexual penetration also were withdrawn because forensic evidence could not conclude whether Sofia had been sexually assaulted before or after her death.
Under WA law, sexual assault charges can only be laid if the victim was alive during the attack, so it can be asserted no consent was given.
But police bungling may also have contributed to the weakening of the case against Arthurs, and the dropping of a 2003 charge against him for indecent dealing.
Last month, the bulk of a police interview with Arthurs over Sofia's death was ruled inadmissible by a Supreme Court judge who said some of the police questioning amounted to ``undue insistence or pressure.''
WA Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock insisted the inadmissibility of the evidence had not influenced the DPP's decision to downgrade the murder charge.
However, it also emerged this week that a 2003 charge of indecently dealing with an eight-year-old girl was dropped against Arthurs because prosecutors deemed the police interview too aggressive.
WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan admitted his officers needed to improve their interviewing skills.
But the revelation the DPP dropped the 2003 charge because it considered the police interview of Arthurs too robust provoked community outrage.
The question was asked - if Arthurs had been convicted of that charge, would it have stopped him killing Sofia three years later?
Sofia's parents think so.
"Had her killer been convicted for his earlier crimes, had his name been added to a register of child sex offenders, had Livingston shopping centre found out he had a criminal record, Sofia might be alive today,'' they said in a brief statement.
Carol, the mother of the eight-year-old girl allegedly attacked in 2003, told Southern Cross Radio her daughter was lucky the attack in a Perth park wasn't worse.
"He'd grabbed her from the top of the waterfall park and pretty much strangled her, pushed her teeth through her gums and lips, she was pretty much covered in dirt and blood,'' Carol said.
"He was just so rough and violent with her, it was just a frenzied attack, it's lucky it wasn't worse.
"He had actually touched her private parts but there was no sexual penetration.''
WA opposition police and justice spokesman Rob Johnson said Sofia's death could have been avoided if Arthurs was jailed or received psychiatric help for the first offence.
Even Mr O'Callaghan was critical of the DPP for dropping the 2003 charge, and police say they will conduct a cold case review of the matter.
But the child's mother Carol was not sure a prosecution would have changed anything and said it was inevitable Arthurs would reoffend.
"I think it was in him, I don't think you can change someone like that,'' she said.
"It was inevitable, I think he would have done it again.''
Police and the DPP also agree it was unlikely Arthurs would have gone to jail if convicted of the 2003 attack.
Now, after pleading guilty to Sofia's murder, he certainly will be going to prison when sentenced on October 12.
"He will now be sentenced to life imprisonment and I doubt that he'll be released for an extremely long period of time, if ever,'' said WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty.
"Because we do not have the death penalty there are certain people who must look forward to spending the rest of their lives in jail.
"It would be hard to think of anyone in my lifetime who would contemplate the release of Dante Arthurs from prison.''
Mr McGinty said police could learn from their mistakes.
"While there have been some shortcomings in the way that this has matter has progressed we have got a sentence that will see Dante Arthurs behind bars for a very long period of time, if not for the rest of his natural life,'' Mr McGinty said.
"I think police, like everyone else, need to learn as things go on and need to make sure the evidence they gain is admissible in court.''
The WA police and the DPP have been in the spotlight in recent years, with a number of high profile murder cases successfully overturned on appeal.
The DPP's role is central to an inquiry by WA's Corruption and Crime Commission into whether there was any misconduct by public officers in the murder investigation into the death of Perth jeweller Pamela Lawrence in 1993.
Andrew Mallard spent 12 years in jail for the murder before his release from jail when the DPP decided not to retry the case after his conviction was quashed by the High Court last year.
Earlier this year the WA Court of Appeal overturned the murder convictions of three men who were found guilty by a jury of throwing Phillip Walsham to his death off a footbridge nine years ago.
Salvatore Fazzari, 27, Carlos Pereiras, 26, and Jose Felix Martinez, 28 walked free from jail where they were serving life sentences with a minimum of 10 years.
The Arthurs case also has raised questions about laws in WA, the only state where there is a distinction between wilful murder and murder.
Mr McGinty hopes a Law Reform Commission report due next month will be the catalyst for the abolition of what he has described as an unnecessary duplication of laws.
September 20, 2007 10:00am
Crystal Figueroa 3-year-old
JANE 'CORDOVA' DOE: "Our angel has a name"
On Jan. 12, 2006, the body of a young girl was found in a trash bin in The Fountains at Villa Cordova apartment complex. Police called her Jane "Cordova" Doe because of where she was found. On Feb. 23, 2006, Metro police announced that a tip from California authorities led to the arrest of the girl's mother and the mother's boyfriend. The child has been identified as Crystal Figueroa.
CRYSTAL FIGUEROA: Case details revealed in transcripts
Inconsistent testimony seen
The transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that led to a murder indictment against the mother of a child whose body was left in a trash bin revealed several details about the case. During her lengthy statement to police, for instance, Gladys Perez never said she saw her child being beaten.
The transcripts also note that Las Vegas homicide Detective James Vaccaro testified that Perez, 24, is pregnant by her boyfriend, Marc Anthony Colon. He is accused of beating 3-year-old Crystal Figueroa to death in January.
Perez's defense attorney, Curtis Brown, declined to comment on the pregnancy Thursday.
Clark County Deputy Medical Examiner Gary Telgenhoff testified that an autopsy showed Crystal was significantly malnourished at the time of her death.
"You could see it from across the room," Telgenhoff said. "She was thin, drawn, and in the early stages of what we call cachexia. It's a general term for wasting."
Telgenhoff said Crystal's weight was "below the 15 percentile" for children her age. "The body weight was very low," he said.
The autopsy also identified a torso injury that tore a portion of Crystal's intestine and caused substantial internal bleeding. Under the bruise were two broken ribs, and, the medical examiner said, it appeared Crystal was possibly abused over a period of time.
"It appeared to me that this child had been roughly handled recently and possibly in an ongoing fashion," he said.
According to police reports, detectives believe that Colon, 28, beat Crystal and Perez at a Las Vegas motel during an argument over his gambling losses. But according to the grand jury transcripts, Perez never told police she witnessed her child being beaten.
She said the bruise on the child's back was caused by her having fallen on a toy. She also said Crystal vomited repeatedly, then had a seizure.
Perez told police that 911 was not called, but that the couple decided to drive Crystal to a hospital. Once they arrived, the couple decided not to take the child inside for treatment because Perez was afraid she would get in trouble, she told police.
When Crystal died in the car, Colon drove to an alley behind a Las Vegas apartment complex, Perez told police. Crystal's body was found Jan. 12 in a trash bin at the complex.
Perez initially told detectives she didn't know what had happened in the alley because she had "blacked out."
"She goes, 'Yeah, I black out all the time,'" Vaccaro said. "And I said, 'Well, we've been sitting here for about three hours (in the police interview) and you haven't blacked out yet. Are you going to fall out of the chair or anything like that?' And she said 'No.'"
Perez then gave the detective some details of how Crystal's body was placed in a box and put into the trash bin.
"He (Colon) took the child from her lap and got out of the car, and then there was some discussion about whether she was dead or not, and she said, 'Is she dead? Make sure she's dead,'" Vaccaro quoted Perez as saying.
Also in the case Thursday, a court battle was fought over whether prosecutors could force Colon's 8- and 9-year-old daughters to testify in front of a grand jury considering formal charges against him. The girls were with Colon and Perez during the period when Crystal suffered her fatal injuries, police have said.
The children's appointed attorney, Kristina Wildeveld Coneh, sought to prevent District Judge Stewart Bell from forcing the girls to testify against their father, saying testifying would not be in the children's best interest. Bell, she said, at one point threatened to throw her in jail over the matter.
Bell conducted a separate hearing on the matter and ordered the children to testify.
Wildeveld Coneh then sought to have Chief District Judge Lee Gates issue an order stopping the testimony, but he refused. The children testified Thursday afternoon.
No indictment had been unsealed against Colon as of Thursday evening. By GLENN PUIT
Brandon Titchenor 2-year-old
Died October 19, 2005
The state report said the referrals were handled in a timely fashion and according to state criteria.
Brandon died of head trauma, and his father, Stephen, was sentenced to 32 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death.
County officials investigated three earlier reports about the home, two involving domestic violence by the father and one involving the stability of the mother.
The state report said the referrals were handled in a timely fashion and according to state criteria. However, it noted that the caseworker handling the last referral was not aware of the two prior domestic violence cases when that worker concluded the last referral was unfounded.
Toddler dies; dad arrested
A 23-year-old man is under arrest and may be charged in the death of his toddler son, Arapahoe County sheriff's deputies said Thursday. Steven Scott Titchenor could face charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death, the sheriff's department said. Deputies were called to Titchenor's apartment at 1139 S. Xenia St. at about 11:15 a.m. Monday on reports of an unresponsive 14-month- old. There they found Brandon Scott Titchenor in the master bedroom with a head wound, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. "It appears that the father was aware of these injuries and didn't take appropriate measures to notify us," Robinson said. Cunningham Fire/Rescue took Brandon to Children's Hospital, where the toddler died about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Brandon's mother was at work and Titchenor was the only one home with the toddler when the injuries occurred, deputies said. Titchenor, who was taken into custody Monday on outstanding warrants in an assault and drug case, is being held at the Arapahoe County Jail. No bail had been set.
Titchenor's criminal record includes three dozen cases, including drug and assault charges.
crecenteb@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2811
Nehemiah Prince 3-year-old
Died July 8 ,2003
FOSTER MOTHER'S TRIAL ORDERED IN BOYS' DEATHS
LANCASTER - A Lancaster foster mother accused in the deaths of two boys left for five hours in her luxury SUV in near 100-degree heat was ordered Monday to stand trial on child-abuse charges. Leslie Smoot, 48, said she forgot to take the two brothers, ages 3 and 5, out of her vehicle when she arrived the morning of July 8 at her Lancaster child-care center, A Child's Place, a detective testified. ``She said she forgot, she said she forgot they were in the car,'' Detective Michael Naccarado said at Smoot's preliminary hearing. ``When I asked her how she could forget ... she said, 'I had an out of body experience." Smoot also said, ``I know I'm to blame. I don't know how I did it,'' Naccarado said.
Smoot has pleaded not guilty to two counts of child abuse with special allegations of willful harm or injury to a child, causing death. If convicted, Smoot faces more than 15 years in prison.
Smoot is charged with leaving Nehemiah Prince, 3, and Dakota Prince, 5, in her Cadillac Escalade outside her center July 8. U.S. Weather Service records said the temperature was 99 at the time she discovered them.
The boys had been under her care for about four months, and Smoot had taken them to the center with her, Naccarado said.
Smoot said she arrived at the center between 8:30 and 9 in the morning, and when she went out to the vehicle about 2 p.m., she noticed that the boys were unconscious inside, Naccarado said.
After emergency crews were called at 2 p.m., the older boy was declared dead at the scene and the younger brother died a short time later at Antelope Valley Hospital.
An autopsy determined that the boys died from the effects of hyperthermia
malignant hyperthermia an autosomal dominant inherited condition affecting patients undergoing general anesthesia, marked by sudden, rapid rise in body temperature, associated with signs of increased muscle metabolism, and, usually, muscle rigidity.After ordering Smoot to stand trial, Lancaster Superior Court Judge Steve Ogden said he didn't know how she could have forgotten about the children, given that there were two children, ``no doubt making noise as (the vehicle) went down the street and pulled into the driveway.''
Smoot is free after posting $250,000 bail. Ogden on Monday reduced the bail to $200,000 after Smoot's attorney, Michael Eberhardt, requested that it be lowered to $100,000.
Eberhardt requested the lower amount in part because a high bail might prevent her from hiring a private attorney.
``Unless the court reduces the bail she may not be able to defend herself through a private attorney,'' Eberhardt said.
Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef said the bail was set according to a standard bail schedule, which should be followed.
Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744
Genevieve Curtis 1 1/2-year-old
Died March 26, 2004
Social services had investigated three complaints of abuse against Genevieve in the 16 months before her death.
Weld County. The mother's live-in boyfriend, Thomas Stewart, was sentenced to 48 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death.
Social services had investigated three complaints of abuse against Genevieve in the 16 months before her death, including one in which the boyfriend refused to let the worker into the house. She was rushed to the hospital the next day and died four days later.
The report noted that staffers needed more training in assessing safe home issues, that the agency delayed initiating an investigation into one of the complaints and the remedial plan put in place for another complaint was not timely nor had enough safeguards to ensure the abuse by the boyfriend would not continue.
Daviay Legrand 4-year-old
Died May 30,2007
Little boy's death creates rage that may bring change
The unbearable tragedy is compounded by grotesqueries.
Nothing can be more painful than the violent death of a little boy while walking with his mother on a seemingly safe sidewalk. In an instant, he was gone, horribly ravaged on that sidewalk, his future erased. But the circumstances of the tragedy made the intolerable all the more intolerable.
Four-year-old Daviay Legrand was killed Wednesday evening when two speeding Allentown police cars collided, sending one of them hurtling across the sidewalk.
The mother's boyfriend was badly injured as he tried to save the boy, and the lives of others who witnessed the horror or who loved the little boy will never be the same.
Understandably, rage immediately manifested itself. An angry crowd accosted city police at the scene with harsh words and a few thrown projectiles. The police are supposed to protect citizens, not the extreme opposite.
There will be further rage, demands, long investigations, proposed city ordinances and maybe even state legislation. In the end, maybe there will be new restrictions and layers of regulation that will hobble the police in cases where urgent speed is needed.
Most of all, there will be pain. Nothing can ease the pain. Nothing can make sense of what happened at the corner of N. Seventh and Chew streets in Allentown a little after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Nothing can lessen the feeling that there is no such thing as safety or security -- anywhere .
The horror of Daviay Legrand's death transcends everything else that can be said or done about the circumstances of this accident and how our society deals with it. Nevertheless, talk and action, of some sort, are unavoidable.
There will be a long and contentious investigation of what happened at N. Seventh and Chew. If state Attorney General Tom Corbett is put in charge of the probe, maybe there will be a whitewash as blatant as the one he concocted last year in Easton's police-on-police shooting case.
If that happens this time, look out. The anger of a community might be more potent when it comes to the needless death of a small child.
When I visited the accident site Thursday afternoon, anger was evident, despite the signs of love -- dozens of teddy bears and other stuffed toys, candles and a few flowers.
Desiree Spearman, 17, said she witnessed the crash and bitterly described the behavior of one police officer who was not involved but arrived later.
''He stepped over that boy's body like he was a piece of trash,'' she said. ''They figure they can do anything they want because they're the police..They can't cover this one up. There are too many witnesses.'' (Obviously, she never saw Corbett in action.)
In any case, police officers generally reflect the extremes of the culture that employs them, and when they are good, they are very good. When they're bad.well, you know.
I have studied a lot of police officers in the 44 years I have been a journalist. I have seen them do courageous, even heroic, things. I also have seen a few do brutal, inept or corrupt things. I know enough about them to say the vast majority deserve admiration.
While the death of Daviay Legrand overshadows everything, we cannot ignore the fact that this tragedy will have a major impact on how police officers do their jobs.
Allentown and many other municipalities are in crisis. Crime and strife preoccupy urban thoughts, and there is no way to deal with the problems other than through the skill and efficacy of the police.
If a little boy's death serves to make the police perform better, that is the best we can hope for. If it serves to undermine whatever beneficial functions the police perform, that will be just another tragedy.
Paul Carpenter ,June 1, 2007
Alicia Burgess 19-month-old
Died May 1, 2007
State Admits Mistakes in Deadly Abuse Case
MILWAUKEE - The death of 19-month-old Alicia Burgess is causing the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services to launch a full review of the Milwaukee Bureau of Child Welfare.
The Bureau received five complaints of abuse about Burgess' family and made "errors in judgment" by not removing the girl from her home, according to a statement released Friday by the Department.
Milwaukee County medical examiner records show Alicia was killed by child abuse. Her mother's boyfriend, Raul Arteaga, 33, is charged with suffocating the little girl. Arteaga told police he was on a crack-cocaine binge at the time and wanted Alicia to stop crying.
The big question now: What will be done to the social workers and supervisors that screwed up? They are all still on the job, but the state said it's serious about punishing them.
Department of Health and Family Services Secretary Kevin R. Hayden admitted his social workers made bad decisions when they investigated the abuse of Alicia. Their paperwork was not kept up to date. Critical medical information was ignored.
Hayden released the following statement Friday:
"I'm saddened, frustrated and extremely disappointed with how this case was handled. Although the Bureau has many sound policies in place, my review found that some policies were simply not followed. Staff made errors in judgment, failed to document issues in a timely manner, and did not communicate effectively with each other and key medical professionals who were in contact with Alicia. There are no excuses for these mistakes. I have directed that corrective measures be put in place immediately, and I will take further action as necessary."
Hayden conducted an internal review of the agency related to Burgess' case. His spokeswoman said a full review is now being done on workers at all levels of the bureau. Hayden ordered that all open cases involving allegations of abuse against children younger than 6 years old be reviewed to ensure the correct steps were taken. He also ordered that reviews be conducted on all cases involving multiple abuse complaints against a family.
When asked whether employees will be punished for the mistakes, spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said, "I think that Secretary Hayden is dedicated to making sure that any actions that need to be taken will be done." Marquis described the investigation into the Milwaukee Bureau of Child Welfare by saying, "I think what you're seeing is really an unprecedented review of a lot of cases to really make sure that any underlying issues that need to be addressed are done."
The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare is a state agency that took over all child protective services in Milwaukee County nine years ago. It is part of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.
Milwaukee is the only county in Wisconsin to have a child welfare system operated directly by the state.
by Mick Trevey
Death of toddler points up higher risk
State lacks initiatives to prevent child abuse, experts say
Posted: May 11, 2007
The small apartment on W. Fardale Ave. was strewn with trash. The refrigerator and freezer were nearly empty. Clothes and junk surrounded the one twin-sized bed in the room where 19-month-old Alicia Burgess slept with her 3-year-old brother, their mom and their mom's crack-addicted boyfriend.
An oversize couch with a small Barbie pillow that would later be spotted with blood sat in the living room.
This is where Alicia was killed.
Her mom went to work at Wendy's in Oak Creek the afternoon of May 1 and left Alicia with her boyfriend of nine months, Raul Arteaga, at their south side apartment.
Milwaukee police and prosecutors say Arteaga, 33, placed his right hand over the little girl's mouth and nose and squeezed so hard and for so long that the pressure distorted her face and cheeks, and she suffocated.
Arteaga told police he had been on a crack binge, hadn't slept in five days and wanted Alicia to stop crying, according to the criminal complaint. Arteaga has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide.
Child-protection experts say a mom's new boyfriend has long been known anecdotally to pose a serious safety risk to children. But emerging data show that the risk is far greater than originally thought and that Wisconsin lags behind the rest of the country in coordinated prevention efforts.
A child who lives in the house with an unrelated adult is nearly 50 times more likely to be killed than a child living with both biological parents, according a study published in the November 2005 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers believe the study is the first of its kind.
Boyfriends who have no biological connection to the child are often ill-equipped to deal with crying children, experts say. They might have no investment in the family and in many cases have drug or alcohol problems.
The moms often feel trapped, said Patricia Schnitzer, the study's co-author.
"These are often young women living in poverty with very few options," she said. "They have young children, often more than one, and a lot of times they'll be working and they don't have child care or they'll be doing something for the household - going grocery shopping - and they don't have any other choice, or see any obvious choice" than to leave the children with their boyfriend.
In 2006, unrelated boyfriends were charged in three of 16 cases in which Wisconsin children died from neglect or abuse. In 2005, two of 12 children statewide died in such cases, which are reported in both urban and more rural parts of the state.
"Statistically, (outside of parents themselves) the most dangerous person for a child is mom's new boyfriend," said Lori Kornblum, an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County and former president of the Wisconsin Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. "That is just a fact."
Mark Williams knows the cases all too well. A 17-year veteran of the Milwaukee County district attorney's office and head of the homicide unit, he's intimately involved.
"In 70 percent of the cases, the mother is always siding with the boyfriend," Williams said. "They get the inclination something is going on, and they don't do anything. They're in love with these guys. They believe these guys are disciplining the child. They have no concept of these guys going too far, even when they see bruising and bleeding."
Experts say moms too readily accept boyfriends' excuses for bruises and burns, and if they are suspicious that their children are being abused, they are often too scared to call police or don't know where to turn for help.
Lynn Sheets, medical director of the Child Protection Center at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, said the state needs to do a better job with prevention. Wisconsin is one of only eight states that do not have legislation or administrative rules for a statewide child-fatality review team, according to the National Center for Child Death Review. Most states mandate a team and dedicate personnel and funding, which ranges from less than $50,000 to over $500,000.
Such teams review all child deaths so they can spot trends and target prevention efforts and public policy.
"Wisconsin is definitely behind in development of child death reviews," Sheets said.
Wisconsin has had a team in place since the late 1990s but does not dedicate resources to it, and the reporting efforts from the state's 72 counties haven't been coordinated, said Karen Ordinans, executive director of the Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin and a member of the team.
"The data is telling us that we need to put our attention to this issue," Ordinans said. "If you look at all the child fatalities in Wisconsin, many experts will tell you over 50 percent were preventable."
Avenues for prevention
In the cases of children killed by their mother's boyfriend, there are a number of fronts on which the problem can be addressed, experts say.
One is educating mothers on where to turn for help and how to distinguish normal bruises and markings from signs of abuse. Sheets promotes a slogan to the moms she encounters.
"Children who are not cruising should not be bruising," she said.
Also, active children who fall or bump themselves usually will bruise over bony areas rather than soft tissue, she said. Any markings in unusual places or that have a pattern such as a handprint should raise a red flag, as should any tearing where the lips meet the gums, an indication that something has been shoved in a child's mouth, Sheets said.
Finally, any excuse for broken bones should be carefully considered.
"The injury itself may be trivial," Sheets said. "But it's important because it's a sentinel event."
In the case of Alicia Burgess, workers from the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare had been alerted to potential abuse three times before the girl's death.
Crystal Burgess, Alicia's mom, told police she never suspected Arteaga was harming her children, even when Alicia's leg was broken in October and when doctors questioned her about bruises on her son in February.
State Secretary of Health and Family Services Kevin R. Hayden said his department is investigating whether the cases were handled properly.
Crystal Burgess could not be reached for comment. Nobody answered the door at her apartment. Her neighbor said she hadn't seen Burgess in a few days, and her cell phone was out of service.
A private funeral was held Thursday for Alicia Burgess.
Protect the children
State officials are taking the right steps to rescue abused children in a more timely manner. Still, the state's reforms deserve review by an outside agency.From the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Sept. 26, 2007
State officials may have averted yet another needless death of a child in Milwaukee. They conducted a review of open cases of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and found nine children in imminent danger. Social workers removed some of the children from their homes and stepped up oversight of and services to the families of the other children.
The review came in the wake of a Journal Sentinel article about the suffocation death of 19-month-old Alicia Burgess in May. Social workers left her in her home despite warnings from doctors and others that she and her brother were being abused. Earlier, in November, a 7-month-old starved to death despite loud alarms social workers failed to heed.
The review was precisely the right step. As an extra precaution, however, we recommend that an outside agency, perhaps the Legislature's Audit Bureau, examine the department's efforts at reform to ensure they are on target.
Two avoidable deaths in half a year suggest systemic problems in the bureau's handling of neglected or abused children - problems that may be leaving other children in harm's way despite the sounding of alarms. Indeed, the state identified nine such cases. What's more, the review - headed by Reggie Bicha, children and family services administrator for the state Department of Health and Human Services - identified the systemic problems and their fixes.
For instance, too often, social workers focused narrowly on the problem that led them to investigate a family rather than broadly on the well-being of children in the family. The remedy is to train social workers to take the broad view.
Also, too many cases were closed prematurely because social workers could no longer locate the family. The workers weren't resourceful enough in finding where a family moved. Part of the solution is training on how to be resourceful.
The department merits praise for its corrective actions. Because children's lives are at stake, however, an outside agency should be looking over the department's shoulders to make doubly sure it's doing the right thing.
The report on the review and related documents can be found at
Serena Campione 3-year-old
Died October 4, 2006
Children's Aid Society workers had been to the apartment twice.
Barrie Mother Accused Of Murdering Her Daughters Makes Court Appearance
She silently mouthed "I understand".
That was Frances Elaine Campione's response when a judge asked her if she comprehended the first degree murder charges against her in a Barrie courtroom on Thursday.
But few others can understand what may have prompted the mother of one-year-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena to allegedly kill her kids in a fourth floor apartment building 24 hours earlier.
While the answers to how the girls died are expected to come when autopsy reports performed in Toronto are released, the factors that could lead any mother to such a terrible crime may never be completely clear.
As the province continues to reel from the terrible tragedy, some are expressing deep sympathy for the accused.
She was involved in a bitter custody break-up with her husband, accusing him of assaulting her and her eldest daughter
There were reports she had become depressed following the birth of Serena, and sometimes dropped the girls off at their grandparents' house because she couldn't deal with them.
The little girls had been living with their father Leo and his parents in Woodbridge before moving in with their mother in Barrie a month ago. Children's Aid Society workers had been to the apartment twice.
The C.A.S. has since filed an incident report with the Child and Family Services Ministry at Queen's Park, but spokesperson Mary Ballentyne warns her organization can't talk about a specific case that's before the courts.
"Obviously something happened to these children," is all she'll confirm. "So something wasn't right."
There are questions about whether the C.A.S. knew of ongoing problems and didn't act.
One friend, who has stuck with Campione despite the accusations against her, insists the woman she knew was a tortured soul who had nowhere to turn.
"They were beautiful children," the friend, who requested anonymity, agrees. "And they're with God now, and hopefully Elaine can find some peace."
Neighbours recall seeing Campione pushing the little girls in a double stroller at a nearby garden. The scene has since become a shrine to the lost children, with a growing pile of flowers dedicated to their memory.
Police have been having trouble getting the warrants they need to get into the apartment to begin the hunt for what actually happened inside.
"There's legalities that have to take place in that most importantly we have to get search warrants," explains Barrie Police Sgt. Dave Goodbrand. "The accused has an expectation of privacy in that apartment."
The irony of Campione's court appearance isn't lost on her friend. It came on the same day she was scheduled to go before a judge over her custody hearing. Instead, she faced a different magistrate for a much more serious reason.
"She was in court today. It wasn't family court," her friend responds, getting emotional. "How sad Elaine. I'm so sorry."
Campione's next court date is Wednesday, but she won't be there in person. She's asked not to be brought back to the building but will appear from prison by a video hook-up.
Thursday October 5, 2006
Venecia Shanelle Audy 3-year-old
Died August 14,2006
Family had received services from the province's Child and Family Services Department in the past.
Slain girl, 3, was sexually assaulted: RCMP
More charges laid against common-law husband of girl's mother
Jayden Davidson 8-month-old
Died June 26 ,2007
Lorain County Children Services spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett said the agency has been made aware of the situation !?
Suspect in custody for murder of 8-month-old
LORAIN -- People came to the home of murdered baby Jayden Davidson yesterday, bringing flowers, stuffed animals and balloons in a spontaneous memorial at the Lorain Drive apartment.
Among those who visited the home of the child's mother, Julie St. Clair, was 22-year-old Ashley Goble, who was once a girlfriend of the suspect in the murder. As she bent down to put an angel and a ''Thinking of You'' balloon, she collapsed on the porch in tears. She placed her hand on the front door and sobbed.
As she got up, Goble made a quick dash to her car, screaming, ''They better get him!'' Neighbors quickly reassured her that the suspect in the murder of 8-month-old Jayden was in custody.
Lorain police arrested Kevin Demetrilus Kimbrough, 24, a suspect in the death, at a home on the west side of Cleveland. Kimbrough was arrested on a warrant out of Franklin County and was in police custody at 6:30 a.m. Charges related to this case against Kimbrough are pending, according to Lorain police Sgt. Mark Carpentiere.
Goble, especially, was relieved. As she cried hysterically from the news of his arrest, she recounted the time Kimbrough held a gun to her head, threatening to kill her and their daughter. Goble was 14 when she got pregnant with Kimbrough's child. After three years of abuse from Kimbrough, she drew the line when he threatened violence to their child.
''He came to my home with a gun and said to me, ÔI brought her into the world, I can take her out,''' Goble said, adding it was the last straw.
Goble filed domestic violence charges against Kimbrough in 2001 and moved herself and her child out of state before recently moving back. He was convicted of aggravated menacing, spent eight days in jail and was ordered in November 2002 to stay away from her, according to documents from Lorain Municipal Court.
In the last several years, Kimbrough had been in and out of jail, she said, but she did not talk bad about him to their daughter. Yesterday was a different story.
''My daughter just kept asking me if the baby was in heaven,'' Goble said of her 7-year-old daughter, who recently visited the baby at St. Clair's Lorain Drive home. ''I had to tell her that she needed to be afraid of her daddy and that he did this.''
Goble said during her last visit to St. Clair's home several weeks ago, she could feel the tension. She wanted to tell St. Clair that she didn't have to put up with his abuse, but it was not her business, she said. During the visit, Goble noticed baby Jayden had a black eye, but the couple had an excuse.
''How can you do that to a child?'' Goble asked sobbing. ''That wasn't just one blow. Didn't he hear the baby crying? That baby was hurting before he died.''
Kimbrough and St. Clair were not a couple for very long, according to neighbors. On a 911 tape, Cassandra Fonseca, 25, of 1216 W. Fifth St., refers to Kimbrough as her boyfriend. Kimbrough took the baby, who had stopped breathing, to Fonseca's house Tuesday morning. Jayden was pronounced dead at Community Regional Medical Center after 8 a.m.
St. Clair also has a 2-year-old son, Jordan, who was being evaluated at Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital. Police have said the child also showed signs of abuse.
Neither Jayden nor Jordan are Kimbrough's biological children. Neighbors said Kimbrough frequently baby-sat the children.Kimbrough told police he picked up the children from St. Clair's home after she left for work around 6 a.m. On the way to Fonseca's house, he said the baby had been throwing up what appeared to be milk then stopped breathing.
Fonseca called 911 and dispatchers tried to help her coach Kimbrough through performing CPR, however, Kimbrough yelled, ''It's too late'' repeatedly in the background. In the call, Kimbrough claimed the child had an asthma attack, but 911 dispatchers notified Lorain police when neither Fonseca nor Kimbrough could say exactly when the child had stopped breathing.
Lorain County Coroner Dr. Paul Matus said Jayden died of head and brain injuries, and showed signs of other injuries that were suffered prior to yesterday's incident.
When police determined a medical condition had not caused the child's death, Kimbrough went on the run, police said. Acting on a tip, he was located and arrested. He was sleeping at the time and did not put up a fight, police said.
Police continued to investigate the case yesterday. They would not comment on whether St. Clair or Fonseca will be charged in connection with the case. St. Clair has denied knowledge of the abuse to police. St. Clair's mother Gale St. Clair declined comment yesterday.
Lorain County Children Services spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett said the agency has been made aware of the situation and is working with police. She would not comment on who has custody of Jordan.
JENNIFER BRACKEN, Morning Journal Writer
Josue Contreras-Velasco 9-year-old
Died July 22,2007
Four months before child welfare caseworkers received a tip that his mother left him chained while she was at work.
Four months before a 9-year-old boy was allegedly murdered by being put in a trash can filled with ice water at a Salt Lake City restaurant, child welfare caseworkers received a tip that his mother left him chained while she was at work.
They investigated and found scrapes on Josue Contreras-Velasco's ankles that doctors thought "might be consistent with some type of restraint," according to juvenile court records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through an public records request.
Evidence of prior abuse also surfaced. In December, 2005, doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center observed "marks" on Josue's body "consistent with inflicted trauma," court records show. Doctors also noted a facial bruise "likely the result of a slap."
Absent evidence of who had perpetrated the abuse, 3rd District Juvenile Judge James Michie allowed Josue to stay with his mother.
But the judge ordered counseling and parenting classes for the mother. And as part of the "family preservation plan," she was supposed to find appropriate child care. She chose the wife of 36-year-old Pedro Gaucin-Canales, one of Josue's alleged killers.
Prosecutors allege that on July 22, Gaucin-Canales ordered Josue into a garbage can in the kitchen of the Melting Pot, 340 S. Main, and had the boy's sister, Rebecca Hernandez-Velasco,retrieve several buckets of ice and cold water, which Gaucin-Canales put into the can.
Josue died of hypothermia after remaining in the ice water for 45 minutes as "a disciplinary measure," according to charging documents.
Gaucin-Canales, 36, and the victim's 19-year-old sister are charged with first-degree felony murder and one second-degree felony count each of child-abuse and obstructing justice.
On Monday, a preliminary hearing was postponed because Gaucin-Canales, who is currently represented by court-appointed attorneys, is trying to hire a private attorney.
Third District Judge Sheila McCleve rescheduled the hearing for Nov. 21 and gave Gaucin-Canales an Oct. 22 deadline for finding his own lawyer.
Following Josue's death, a state attorney urged Judge Michie to order Josue's siblings, an infant boy and 5-year-old girl, into protective custody.
The court-ordered counseling sessions "arguably haven't worked," argued Guardian ad Litem attorney Candace Coy-Dymek on Aug. 6. "I wonder what [Josue] would say today if he was asked whether we should have removed him?"
Lawyers for the mother and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, however, argued in favor of keeping the family intact.
The mother has complied with the court-ordered services "100 percent" and is in no way culpable for her son's death, said her lawyer Brent Salazar-Hall. Removing Josue's siblings would "destroy" the grieving family, said Salazar-Hall.
The children remain at home under DCFS' supervision.
As for the mother's decision to entrust her son to Gaucin-Canales, Hall said, "She's very guarded and doesn't let many people interact with her children...She trusted these people."
DCFS approved the child care arrangement.
Prosecutors have said that the child-abuse count is the predicate for the murder charge. The obstructing charge alleges the defendants initially gave police a false version of events.
The defendants initially told officers they had been working in separate areas of the Melting Pot restaurant before finding the boy unresponsive and not breathing on the floor of the dishwashing area, according to the charges.
In subsequent statements, the defendants said Gaucin-Canales had the boy get into a large garbage can, naked, and had Hernandez-Velasco bring several buckets of ice and cold water, which Gaucin-Canales put into the garbage can, according to charges.
After 45 minutes, Gaucin-Canales took the boy from the can and laid him on the floor, and both defendants tried to revive him, according to the charges.
When the boy did not respond, the defendants agreed on the version of events that they initially told to police, prosecutors allege.
When paramedics arrived at the restaurant, 340 S. Main St., the boy's body temperature was 76 degrees. An autopsy later determined the boy died of hypothermia.
The defendants are Mexican nationals but had provided Melting Pot with the documentation to work in this country.
They are being held at the Salt Lake County jail Monday in lieu of $1 million bail each.
- Reporter Stephen Hunt contributed to this story.
By Kirsten Stewart
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 10/01/2007 05:17:10 PM MDT
Funeral held for boy murdered at Melting Pot restaurant
For just a moment, Gloria Velasco stared in disbelief at the shiny baby-blue coffin that held her nine year-old son. Her gentle weeping was suddenly rendered inaudible as she raised her head and declared she wanted to speak.
Her son, Josue Contreras-Velasco, died too soon.
"He had the right to live," she said Tuesday. "He was a happy kid, always joyful."
The boy's life ended July 22 when his sister and a close family friend caring for Josue took him to the Melting Pot, a downtown Salt Lake City restaurant where the pair worked. It was there that prosecutors allege they put the boy in a garbage can filled with ice water for 45 minutes, causing hypothermia which led to his death.
"I urge parents to not trust everyone with their children," the mother said. "It might seem that people are good, but from the inside they are different."
Pedro Gaucin-Canales, a kitchen manager and Rebecca Hernandez-Velasco, daughter of Velasco and a prep-chef in the restaurant, were the only two at the Melting Pot that morning besides the boy, police say. Gaucin-Canales had Josue remove his clothing before putting him in a garbage can which his sister Hernandez-Velasco filled with ice water as part of a "disciplinary measure,"according to the criminal charges.
The pair, who are charged with first-degree felony murder, made their first appearance in court Tuesday.
Paramedics and police arrived on the scene to find the boy on the floor where Gaucin-Canaler had placed him when he became unresponsive. His body temperature taken by paramedics, was 76 degrees. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The horrors of Josue's untimely death haunted those in attendance. When a group of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sang the hymn, "God Be With You 'til We Meet Again," it brought tears and confused faces full of grief to those gathered around the crowded plot that would hold the body of their son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend and student. Many were moved to softly sing along.
"I would never have imagined that he would have died this way," said Miguel Leon, a cousin of the boy. "I don't believe it."
Many described the would be fifth-grader as a loving boy who was almost too trusting.
"Josue was a child that everyone at the school knew," said Pam Sorensen, a counselor at Lincoln Elementary where he had been a student. "Everybody knew him because he was so cute and happy."
In spite of her son's untimely death and the pain of not understanding what police claim her daughter did, Gloria Velasco stood resilient in the hot sun, surrounded by family, her white handkerchief soaked with tears.
"I know that one day we will be together again," she said. "I can't accept that he left, but I have to - because he is not coming back."
Died June 12, 2003
January 2002 Jandre was placed in foster care.
In January 2003 the high court ordered that 4-year-old Jandre Botha be placed in the care of his mother.
Five months later he was dead - allegedly at the hands of his mother and her lesbian lover. The state believes that Jandre was a victim of serial abuse perpetrated by the people who were charged with caring for him.
On Thursday, the boy's mother, 30-year-old Hanelie Botha, and her partner, 32-year-old Engeline de Nysschen, stood in the dock at the Vereeniging regional court charged with murder, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, child molestation and negligence.
On June 12, 2003 Jandre was declared dead. The coroner's report said the cause of his death had been a fatal blow to his head. Both women pleaded not guilty in October last year to all counts.
During the trial, the court heard chilling evidence of abuse: Jandre had had a broken pelvis which had never been treated; his right hand and left collar bone had also been broken but he had never received medical care.
Botha refused to testify under oath to rebuke substantial medical evidence that Jandre had been a victim of serial abuse. Instead, she submitted a statement to the court pointing the finger of blame at her lover.
She said that on June 2, 2003, her partner had arrived at their home in Drie Rivier, Vereeniging, with food for them but had become angry when she realised they had already eaten.
"She had earlier phoned me and said I should not cook dinner because she would bring food for us. I had ignored her order because we were very hungry earlier that day.
Upon realising we had eaten already, she became furious and insisted that Jandre eat the food she had brought," the statement read. She said Jandre had tried to eat but had vomited, prompting De Nysschen to assault him repeatedly with a slipper.
"I grabbed my child and removed him from her. Later on the two of us watched TV while Jandre was in the bath. Then we heard Jandre shrieking."
Botha said they had taken him to hospital and De Nysschen had ordered her to tell the hospital authorities that he had fallen in the bath.
The hospital's medical staff discovered that he had a blue mark on his sternum which could have been sustained more than a month previously. Earlier the court heard that in 2002 Jandre's father, Jan Botha, had suspected that Jandre was being abused and had contacted authorities. A doctor confirmed his fears and Jandre was placed in foster care. However, in January 2003, Botha successfully applied to the high court to have Jandre returned to her custody.
State prosecutor Deon Barnard used the extensive medical evidence to grill De Nysschen in an attempt to prove that both women had abused Jandre. De Nysschen said Botha had assaulted Jandre on numerous occasions. She said Botha had always said she was doing this "to instil discipline in him".
De Nysschen testified that she, too, had occasionally slapped Jandre when he was naughty, but denied she had used brute force. She said the only time she had assaulted Jandre was on June 2 when she had punched him hard in his face. The case was postponed until November 30. - Mercury Correspondent
Nikolas Chavez 3-year-old
Died November 30, 2005
Father said he feels neglected by the judicial process, that he has not been acknowledged as being involved in the baby's life and claims he has not been notified of all court proceedings.
Soon after little Nikolas Chavez slipped in the bathroom and fell on his back, his worried mother took the 3-year-old to a pediatrician who assured her the boy was fine. But a day later, Nikolas was dead, the victim of internal bleeding and a broken back.
Sides debate cause of 3-year-old's death
Trial begins of N.B. man accused of beating his godson to death
The aggravated manslaughter trial has begun against Robert Knutsen, the former North Brunswick resident who is accused of beating his godson to death.
On Nov. 30, 2005, 3-year-old Nikolas Chavez was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick because he was not breathing, according to testimony by his mother, 27-year-old Nicole Rosol. At 3:09 p.m. that afternoon, he was pronounced dead, with the medical examiner's office attributing his death to blunt force trauma. Reports showed that the toddler had been punched twice, causing his back to break, his head to fall back to his hamstrings and half of his blood to leak into his stomach, according to Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Seana Pappas.
"He was an angel. He was very sweet, very lovable, not really temperamental. He was really the best kind of child you could ask for. He was my world," Rosol said.
On Tuesday, the trial began at state Superior Court in New Brunswick in the courtroom of Judge Dennis Nieves. Pappas began her opening statement saying, "This case is about death and disappointment. Disappointment because Robert Knutsen let down the one person in the world he promised to protect: his godson, his soon-to-be stepson."
Although the prosecution said that Knutsen, then 30, claimed the boy suffered from a violent seizure, Pappas said the medical reports show that the child died a slow, painful death, and she alleged that Knutsen abused the boy, then let his cries fall down to whimpers until he could not verbally express what had happened, at which time Knutsen decided to call for an ambulance.
"The truth is that the evidence will prove to you that Robert Knutsen is guilty of aggravated manslaughter," she said.
Jealousy, frustration named as possible motives
Rosol and Knutsen began a romantic relationship in 2004, after she and her boyfriend, Nicholas Chavez, who is the biological father of Nikolas, broke up because of his alleged drinking problem, Rosol testified. She said Chavez chose Knutsen, who was a close friend of both of them, to be the baby's godfather during his Christening in September 2003. Knutsen later became very supportive of Rosol, and the two became engaged, with a wedding set for May 2006.
The couple had previously lived with Rosol's grandmother, but after living in Pennsylvania for a while to accommodate Rosol's job in Princeton, they moved into their own apartment in North Brunswick in April 2005. Around October of that same year, Chavez began visiting with his son more frequently, which Rosol believes could have intimidated Knutsen.
"It seemed like he really wanted to play a role in his son's life," Rosol said about Chavez, who became more involved with his son around September. "It seemed like he was starting to get his act together."
Rosol also testified that Nikolas did not seem comfortable when he transitioned back to Knutsen after spending the weekend with his father; although she said the child suffered from a developmental disability that affected his speech, and he did not convey those emotions verbally, she said that he would sometimes say, "No Rob."
However, on the morning of Nov. 30, Nikolas was asleep when Rosol had to leave in the morning for family court, so she asked Knutsen to watch him, according to Pappas.
"She makes a decision that she'll regret. She decides to let [Knutsen] take him to his grandmother's . and later on that morning, she'll get the phone call every mother dreads, that her son was in the hospital. Little did she know he was almost dead," the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said that Knutsen's recent resignation from his job at Abercrombie & Fitch and his inability to obtain answers about unemployment may have led to the beating of the child out of frustration, although Pappas said she does not have a clear-cut motive and does not think Knutsen woke up intending to kill the boy that day. She reasoned that his actions were reckless, necessitating a charge of aggravated manslaughter instead of firstdegree murder.
Defense: Medical problems, injury may have caused death
Yet in the defense of Knutsen, attorney Robert Honecker alluded to the fact that an expert witness for the defense will say that the injuries Nikolas sustained could have happened up to 36 hours prior to his death. He began by noting that the child was with his grandmother, aunt and uncle a few days prior to his death, and that the boy had slipped in the bathroom under Rosol's care two days before, and that perhaps he was afflicted with a neurological disorder that would cause seizures or a blood disorder that would cause easy bruising.
A doctor had noticed some staring spells and blinking problems, which could be associated with seizures, Rosol said.
Since day one of the trial only allowed time for the testimony of Rosol, more extensive medical information will be brought forth in the upcoming days. Yet Rosol testified that when the baby returned home after Thanksgiving 2005, he was not complaining of any aches or pains and was not moving around erratically, as would be experienced by someone suffering injuries 36 hours before his death. The mother also said he had no problems being transported in his car seat frequently or lying on his back during a diaper change.
To add to the medical questions involved in the trial, Honecker said that beginning in April 2005, Rosol had taken the child to the doctor several times for sinus and ear infections, with extra visits in October and November because of back pain, groin pain, fever and bruising. Expert testimony from the boy's pediatrician and pediatric neurologist checking for other disorders will be admitted into court over the course of the proceedings.
However, Pappas said, "You can't walk around with a broken back. . You don't need an expert to know that the little boy couldn't run around with a broken back."
The defense lawyer also attacked the investigation by police, saying that they did not interview every possible suspect but instead went to the "cookie cutter" solution and assumed Knutsen was the killer. The investigation began the night of the boy's death, but after several conversations with Rosol and Knutsen over the next week, formal charges were not brought until Dec. 8. Honecker said there was limited evaluation of any other potential suspects. He again said that more information will come forth in the next few days.
Arrest called "rush to judgment"
In addition, the defense attorney said the medical examiner was provided information about the last contact between Knutsen and the boy, which could possibly have led to assumptions being made. Furthermore, Honecker said, and Rosol confirmed, that investigators conducted a pre-interview and then tape-recorded her afterward. He said investigators told her that Knutsen was the killer and may have persuaded her to file a restraining order against him.
"This case was a rush to judgment. Within 24 hours . police had already decided who they were going to charge," Honecker said. "And now a week after this child has died, they conclude this is their man. A week. They haven't talked to the father, they haven't talked to the family members."
Rosol also acknowledged that Knutsen "seemed very, very upset," although at one point she alluded to her having to console him more than he consoled her. She said he kept apologizing for days about what happened, saying he hoped they would make it through this, all while insisting the baby had had a seizure, even after police charged him with the beating.
"I took it that he wasn't his father and he was feeling guilty that something happened to him in his care," she said.
The trial is expected to continue at least through the end of the week.
BY JENNIFER AMATO Staff Writer
Died September 29,2007
Loved Ones: Levares Should Not Have Been With His Mother
Orange County, FL deputies this morning arrested the mother of the 8-year-old boy who was beaten and choked to death last week allegedly by his older brother.
Tangela Key, 34, is facing charges of aggravated child neglect in the Saturday night beating of her son, Levares Key.
"She knowingly left Levares in a circumstance that could result in his death," Sgt. John Allen of the Orange County Sheriff's Office at a news conference this morning. "She knew that Demetrius (Key) had a propensity to harm Levares."
Investigators learned that she and other children participated in discipline sessions with Levares.
"Demetrius would hold Levares' legs while other children held his arms and they would hold him off the ground while she beat him," Allen said.
Demetrius Key, 13, is accused of killing his brother at their apartment after Levares ate a dessert he wasn't supposed to and picked at a scab until it started to bleed.
The older brother told investigators that he feared Levares would tattle to his mother and blame him.
The State Attorney's Office has 21 days to decide whether to charge him as an adult with first-degree murder.
Demetrius choked and punched the younger boy until he lost consciousness. He struck the 8-year-old so hard with a metal broom handle that it bent, investigators said. He faces a first-degree murder charge.
A voice in his head told him to hit his brother, Demetrius said when questioned.
A neighbor who called 911 told the Orlando Sentinel that she heard a loud banging inside the second-floor apartment Saturday afternoon and then saw someone bring the young boy out onto the balcony. He was making a gurgling noise and his eyes were rolling back in his head, she said.
Levares died several hours later at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando.
An autopsy showed that in addition to his recent wounds, Levares had other injuries in various stages of healing.
"The child had suffered multiple injuries, and at this point we are looking into how these other injuries occurred," Allen said. "It appears this child has been beaten over a long period of time."
About five years ago, the mother appeared in Orange County Court in connection with Demetrius and his older sister. They had too many unexcused school absences in 2001, according to court records.
Demetrius' older sister had missed 400 days -- equivalent of two years of school -- between kindergarten and fourth grade, records show.
In November 2002, Tangela pleaded no contest to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was put on probation for nearly a year and was supposed to attend a parenting class, court records show.
The next year, she violated probation when she failed to complete the class. When the case was resolved in 2004, she was living with her seven children at the Vacation Lodge motel on South Orange Blossom Trail, according to court records.
The apartment was empty Wednesday afternoon. Clothes and garbage littered the balcony, and a child's red Huffy with training wheels remained parked at the door.
Brother Charged In Boy's Death; Mother's Custody Questioned
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A 13-year-old boy was charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday in connection with the death of his 8-year-old brother, and investigators are questioning the boy's biological mother's custody.
A neighbor called 911 on Saturday after discovering the younger boy was beaten.
Deputies arrested Demetrius Key, 13, Tuesday night at his great grandmother's home in St. Cloud.Demetrius Key was booked into the Osceola County Jail early Wednesday morning and accused of beating his brother, Levares Key, to death at the mother's home at the Beach Club Apartments on South Texas Avenue in Orange County.
Authorities said when they arrived at the Beach Club Apartments they found Levares unresponsive. He was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center and died.
According to the arrest affidavit, Demetrius told detectives that "he started choking him then stopped and punched him in his stomach three or four times, punched him in the mouth and started choking him again banging his head on the floor, repeatedly."
It looks like this was not the first time Levares endured such abuse.
"When it involves an 8-year-old child, someone who is basically helpless and looks to other folks, older folks, adults for their safety and well-being, and certainly it makes it a tough case for the folks out there trying to work these things," Orange County Sheriff's Office representative Jim Solomons said.
The neighbor who called 911 said she heard banging noises coming from the apartment. She said when she went inside and saw what was happening, Levares was on the floor of the residence.
The neighbor said Key's mother did not want to call 911, but the neighbor made the call anyway.
"I panicked. That's why I didn't do CPR because I panicked. Even though they were telling me how to do it, I still was scared," neighbor J'herica Gadsden said.
Loved Ones: Levares Should Not Have Been With His Mother
Concerned loved ones said Levares Key, an 8-year-old boy whose brother is charged with his death, should not have been with his biological mother.
Detectives confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the child's biological mother did not raise him, but he was in her custody at the time of his death.
Grief-stricken relatives of Levares said they want to know how he ended up in his biological mother's apartment, with no adult supervision, in the care of a 13-year-old sibling now accused of killing him.
The boy's mother, Tangela Key, told investigators she'd left her apartment to go visit a cousin when the incident happened. Up until June, investigators said she wasn't the one raising Levares.
"She gave him to a woman she described as his godmother, and that lady had raised him for the eight years prior to the mother going back and picking the child up," Sgt. John Allen of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Over the phone a woman serving as the boy's guardian said that, since June, Key's mother had kept him.
Detectives are still investigating the nature of the arrangement between the two women to see whether any laws may have been broken.
A Department of Children and Families source said they had to visit four different residences to take all the remaining siblings into protective custody.
Investigators said more arrests are possible.
Police: Mother Delayed Getting Dead Son Medical Attention?
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orange County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of an 8-year-old boy.
Police said he appeared to be beaten to death.
Police are also investigating whether or not the boy's mother had custody of him, and if she delayed getting him medical attention.On Sept. 29, police responded to a call because Lavarious Key was not breathing on the floor of his home in the Beach Club Apartments on South Texas Avenue.
Key was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center and died that night.
While investigators have declined to release any details surrounding the case, they said that the medical examiner has ruled the death of Lavarious a homicide and affirmed that their investigation into his death is ongoing.
"We don't want the community to be alarmed that there's some sort of a nutcase running around their neighborhood randomly targeting children. I think hopefully we have this case pretty much under control. We're moving in the right direction and hopefully very quickly we'll be able to bring it to a successful resolution," Jim Solomons of the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.
The sheriff's department is not commenting on possible suspects.
Died October 5, 2007
Mother just started taking the required parenting classes which would have allowed Alazia to spend the night with her in prison.
Mother of Murdered Child Deals With Grief and Guilt From Prison
York, NE- Behind bars and in pain, a mother is in prison when someone gunned down her only daughter last Friday. Lekenvish Alford wears glasses and a brown prison jumpsuit.
She showed Action 3 News reporter, Michelle Bandur the journal she started after her daughter's murder. She wrote Alazia a letter. "I'm talking to her, telling her I'm sorry. I should have been there. I miss her. I love her. I want to read this at her funeral."
At age 27, Lekenvish, who goes by Kiki, is trying to deal with her grief and her guilt behind the thick walls and razor wire at the York Prison for women.
"I feel hate towards myself. I should have been there, been with my daughter and protected her, " she says. Now she cherishes simple cards from a child who knew her mommy was in prison.
"She wrote Happy Mother's Day. I love you, Mom. I miss you, Mom, from Alazia. It just tears me up to read her card. She was always looking out for me and making sure I'm okay."
Little Lay Lay, or Doodabug as she called Alazia, really wanted her mommy at home with her. Kiki recalls their last phone call when she was still at the Douglas County Jail.
"She kept asking me, 'Mom when do you get to come home' soon, I'll be home soon. 'How many months you got?' I don't know. I'll be home soon. She said, 'do you have a bond? I want to come get you,' I said you can't, you can't, 'I have two dollars and fifty cents, I could just come get you,' I told her you can't."
She says it was difficult to tell this determined little girl no. She says Alazia was born premature and spent her first weeks in an incubator.
"She was basically like a miracle baby. When I had her she wasn't alive, they brought her back to life."
Only to be taken away six years later by the violence KiKi is fed up with in her neighborhood.
"If it had to take my daughter's death in order for it to find a solution; maybe that's what needed to happen."
From prison, this mother tries to comfort her other children, two boys, ages 9 and 11. "I love you guys, it's going to be okay. Alazia would not want to see us cry."
Kiki was convicted of insurance fraud and is serving a two to three year sentence.
She reported her car stolen to collect insurance money.
She says she needed the money to buy Christmas presents for her kids.
Kiki just started taking the required parenting classes which would have allowed Alazia to spend the night with her in prison.
She will get to attend her daughter's funeral, sometime this week.
Reported by Michelle Bandur; email@example.com
Oct 8, 2007 07:23 PM PDT
6-Year-Old Alazia Alford's Mom Talks From Prison
9:27 p.m. CDT October 8, 2007
OMAHA, Neb - On Monday, KETV Newswatch 7 talked with 6-year-old Alazia Alford's mom. She is currently serving time in a state prison in York, Neb.
Lekenvish Alford is understandably still in shock. She said she's trying to come to terms with her little girl's murder and she feels even worse that she was behind bars when it happened.
Alford said, "My little cousin called up here, and broke the news."
That was three days ago and Alford said her life changed forever, when she learned her youngest child and only daughter had been shot and killed.
It happened Friday afternoon at 14th and Spencer, in Omaha.
I'm upset and I just have a lot of hate inside of me right now. I just want my baby back, Alford said.
Alford said the loss is even more difficult because she's dealing with it in prison behind the walls of the Nebraska Women's Penitentiary. She was sent there on Aug 31, for insurance fraud. That was the last time Alford saw her daughter.
When I talked to my daughter on the phone before I came here, she kept asking mom when are you coming home and I kept telling here soon, soon and she kept asking how many months and I kept telling her soon, Pooh, I'll be there, said Alford.
I just wish I could have been there, she'd never had been where she was if I just could have been there, said Alford.
Alford said she's made it through the last few days by looking at pictures and cards from Alazia.
Crying, Alford said, "She hated to see me cry. She was always comforting. That's my world. That's my heart."
Alford also has two sons 9 and 11 years old.
She said she hasn't been able to speak to them since Alazia's death.
Alford said she plans to go to Alazia's funeral but she's not sure what day it will be held.
George Flores 17-year-old
Died April 5, 2007
"He had his troubles because his parents weren't around, but he was a good kid."
Unusual shooting leads to teen death, more questions
CORPUS CHRISTI - Police were investigating a shooting Thursday afternoon on 1000 block of 18th Street and Hancock near the Crosstown Expressway. A woman called 911 at about 4:15 p.m. after she said she found her foster son, 17-year-old George Flores, dead.
Police arrived at the scene, and confirmed that the teen, who was a 10th grader at Miller, was dead. He suffered one single gun shot wound, but police would not say where he was shot. Police said they were looking at evidence throughout the afternoon, as well as transporting witnesses to the police department for questioning.
According to police, there is one individual, for which they were searching; however, that person is currently being considered a witness and not a suspect.
Police said everything is still uncertain.
"It could turn out to be a homicide or suicide, just the way the position of the body was," CCPD Commander David Torres said. "We were looking that it could be a suicide, but there was no gun."
Aside from the single gunshot wound, Flores suffered injuries to his face. Family members said there is no way it was a suicide. They said Flores was a good kid.
The teen was on school suspension for riding with gangmembers, according to family; however, authorities said they did not see any indication of gang violence at the scene.
Jennifer Moreno was teary eyed as she spoke of the last time she saw her cousin on Wednesday. She said he was someone who always looked out for her.
"He was one of a kind; he was my cousin," she said, "and I love him. It wasn't a suicide, it wasn't."
Police are questioning everyone, from neighbors to passersby, even some who also lived in the home - now holding their heads in grief.
"We have not focused the investigation on anybody right now," Torres said. "We are calling everybody a witness."
Family members consoled each other behind the crime scene tape, wondering if domestic violence came into play behind the backdoor. His aunt said George wasn't living in a healthy situation there. Still, she said she tried to guide Flores in the right direction.
"He had his troubles because his parents weren't around, but he was a good kid," Flores' aunt, Sissy Limon, said.
Sobs turned into wails as Flores' body was removed from the home. It was something his family couldn't stand to watch, but they'll try to wipe the image away with their tears.
Online Reporter: Melissa Monti
Lisa Steinberg 6-year-old
Died November 1, 1987
Dear Mr. Jesus
There are times when I just cant forget a song, especially a song with a real message. This song will move anyone to tears--I guarantee it.
It was around the Christmas holidays in 1989, that I recorded this song off the radio. This was before I discovered CDs. I did a lot of recording off the radio back then.
The song I am referring to is entitled, Dear Mr. Jesus. It was written by Richard Klender and sung by a nine year old girl, back then, named Sharon Batts.
Before I display the lyrics of this poignant song of immense emotion, I will give you the facts about the song. It is a true story about child abuse.
In New York City, on May 14, 1981, a baby girl was born by the name of Elizabeth Lisa Launders. By November of the year 1987, the entire world came to know her as Lisa Steinberg.
On November 1, 1987, Lisa Steinberg was beaten to death by a New York attorney, named, Joel Steinberg. This brutal, inhumane crime happened at 14 West 10th Street, in Greenwich Village. It would later be a wake-up call to child welfare authorities and the law concerning how they would handle such unimaginable crimes as this one.
First, he savagely beat his live-in lover, Hedda Nussbaum. Then he delivered several blows to Lisas head. Her baby brother was found in a back room, laying on the floor, tied to his crib with a short length of rope, dressed in filthy clothing.
If that wasnt bad enough, they both waited over 12 hours to call for help. Lisa did not die that day, she died three days later from severe brain injuries.
When Hedda later found Lisa was no longer breathing, Joel still didnt want to call for help, but eventually did. Lisa was in a coma for three days.
This low-life, child killer, deserves no name--only shame, and a ticket to hell. And his live-in lover, deserves more than what she got. He got off easy in the eyes of the law. In 1989, he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, then released after serving only 15 years.
Many others should share the responsibility of this crime. Child welfare workers, police officers and even a teacher who had seen the evidence of abuse on Lisas body, failed to report this or do anything about it. So we have another case of a child who could have been saved if someone had only been willing to help her.
Hedda Nussbaum, was abused by her boyfriend, Joel Steinberg, for years and was beaten by him just before he delivered the blows that killed Lisa, therefore, she was not able to help Lisa. She was not prosecuted since she had been found unable to help Lisa and was not involved in her abuse other than not reporting it.
Following Lisas birth, her biological mother, paid Joel Steinberg, an attorney, $500 to find an adoptive home for her. A home was never found and although he never adopted Lisa, she lived with Joel for her entire short life.
Lisas biological mother, was awarded $15 million in damages in September 2003 from a civil lawsuit she originally filed against Steinberg, Nussbaum and various city agencies. The city of New York, settled without admitting any wrongdoing in 1999 and paid $985,000.
For more information on this horrendous crime, log onto Lisa Steinberg in your search. Also, by logging onto the title of the song, Dear Mr. Jesus, the song is able to be downloaded.
Lisa deserved to live a long and happy life. She also deserves the recognition and attention of child abuse awareness. I will leave you with the lyrics of this special song that is definitely a moving story of Lisas short life of gross negligence and deadly abuse.
Dear Mr. Jesus
(words and music by Richard Klender and sung by Sharon Batts)
Dear Mr. Jesus
I just had to write to you
Something really scared me
When I saw it on the news
A story about a little girl
Beaten black and blue
Jesus thought Id take this right to you
Dear Mr. Jesus
I dont understand
Why they took her mom and dad away
I know that they dont mean to hit
With wild and angry hands
Tell them just how big they are I pray
Please dont let them hurt your children
We need love and shelter from the storm
Please dont let them hurt your children
Wont you keep us safe and warm
Dear Mr. Jesus
They say that she may die
Oh I hope the doctors stop the pain
I know that you could save her
And take her up to the sky
So she would never have to hurt again
Please dont let them hurt your children
We need love and shelter from the storm
Please dont let them hurt your children
Wont you keep us safe and warm
Dear Mr. Jesus
Please tell me what to do
And please dont tell my daddy
But my mommy hits me, too
Please dont let them hurt your children
We need love and shelter from the storm
Please dont let them hurt your children
Wont you keep us safe and warm
Please dont let them hurt your children
They need love and shelter from the storm
Please dont let them hurt your children
Wont you keep us safe and warm
Trevor Schneider 17-month-old
Died September 5,2007
Family Court didn't help !
Shauna Mahoney to 911 operator: " He was crying uncontrollably, so I smothered him with my hand."
Conflicting views emerge of mother who killed 17-month-old son
Child's godfather says mother "never wanted anything to do with the baby."
NIAGARA FALLS ? Shauna Mahoney posted a photograph of her baby online earlier this year and described herself as a proud mother.
But a different picture has emerged this week, one of a troubled woman who became the coldblooded killer of her 17- month-old son.
Mahoney calmly called 911 just before 6 p.m. Wednesday from her Laughlin Drive home and said, "I just killed my child," according to Niagara Falls police.
Emergency dispatchers said she sounded unconcerned and disconnected.
"He was crying uncontrollably," Mahoney told 911 operators, "so I smothered him with my hand."
Mahoney, 20, was arraigned on a second- degree murder charge Thursday afternoon in the psychiatric ward of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, and ordered held without bail by City Court Judge Mark A. Violante.
She is accused of killing her son, Trevor Schneider, on the living room couch by holding both of her hands over his face until he suffocated.
Police Detective Capt. Ernest Palmer said Mahoney was being treated for a mental disorder.
Some of those who know her, including the dead child's father, told The Buffalo News Thursday that Mahoney had been suffering from postpartum depression for some time.
"She never wanted anything to do with the baby," said the child's godfather, Michael Kriewaldt.
That stands in sharp contrast to how Mahoney describes herself on Myspace. com, the popular online social networking site.
On a Web page she last visited July 31, she writes that she is a proud mother in a relationship, has a high school education and doesn't smoke or drink.
Niagara Falls police, school officials and some who know Mahoney begged to differ.
In January, Mahoney woke up residents in an apartment house on Buffalo Avenue by pounding on doors and refusing to stop yelling, according to police reports. She told police she didn't live there, but just wanted a cigarette.
Police ordered her to leave, and when she refused, they charged her with disorderly conduct.
The following month, Mahoney took a midnight taxi ride on Krull Parkway and tried to run away because she said she didn't have any money to pay the $16 fare, police said. The cab driver called police and Mahoney was charged with theft of services.
Niagara Falls school officials said Mahoney left school four years ago without graduating.
When she was 17, Mahoney was institutionalized because her mother couldn't handle her, Kriewaldt said.
She was discharged in December 2004.
Kriewaldt was not only Trevor's godfather, but also the landlord of the infant's father, Adam Schneider, who lives on Linwood Avenue in Niagara Falls.
Adam Schneider, 26, said his two-year relationship with Mahoney ended late last year, and there had been some indications of her mental problems since the birth of their son.
"She told me that many times ? she never wanted to be a mom," Schneider said of his former girlfriend.
Mahoney was taken in for observation at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center twice since the baby was born, Schneider said.
After the pair broke up, Mahoney's mother, Karen, sent her daughter to a psychiatric facility in Medina, Schneider said.
More recently, he said, Mahoney also was living under a set of rules imposed by her mother. She had to be home by 9 p.m., and was supposed to work toward getting her General Equivalency Degree.
Another rule seemed to stick out ? she was not allowed to be alone with the child, Schneider said.
Schneider spent part of Thursday beginning to make funeral arrangements for the son he said he hadn't been allowed to see in six or seven months.
He blamed the Niagara County Family Court system for awarding joint custody to Mahoney and her mother, while allowing him only supervised visits.
When the couple split up, Mahoney and her mother were given joint custody of the child, Schneider said, with the stipulation that Shauna Mahoney never be permitted to be alone with the baby.
"Shauna should have never been left alone," he said.
That custody ruling was broken Wednesday evening.
Shauna Mahoney was at home with the baby, Karen Mahoney's fiance, Rick Kumm, and Shauna's 11-year-old brother, Derek. Karen Mahoney called Shauna to say she was leaving work and would be home shortly, police said.
That's when Kumm decided take Derek to a baseball game in a nearby park.
"He waved to me when he pulled out of the driveway," next-door neighbor Alfie Brennan said. "I was outside and I never heard the baby cry."
About 10 minutes later, Brennan said, she saw police cars and emergency vehicles converging on the house.
"It's heartbreaking," she said, adding she'd never seen Mahoney cuddle or mother her son.
"I was just petrified when she put the baby down," Brennan said. "She would kind of throw him down."
Two people at the Mahoney home Thursday declined to speak with a reporter.
A preliminary hearing on the murder charge was scheduled for Tuesday.
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center spokesman Patrick Bradley said psychiatric patients are guarded by a police officer and monitored around the clock.
"Once the decision is made to hold a patient, it is strictly a clinical decision how long we keep them," Bradley said. "Once they are stabilized, they can be returned to police custody."
Niagara County First Assistant District Attorney Timothy Lundquist said it was too early to say how the issue of mental health might influence the murder case.
"The investigation continues," Lundquist said, "whether [Mahoney] is in the hospital or not."
Bill Michelmore of the News Niagara Bureau contributed to this report.
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
By Nancy A. Fischer and Aaron Besecker - NEWS NIAGARA BUREAU
Updated: 09/07/07 8:07 AM
Niagara Falls Mother Accused of Murdering Baby Still in Hospital
Family Court didn't help !
(Niagara Falls, NY, September 8, 2007) - - A Niagara Falls mother accused of smothering her baby to death is still undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
20-year-old Shauna Mahoney pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder Thursday while in her Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center bed.
Police say she admitted Wednesday to killing her 17-month-old son because he wouldn't stop crying.
The baby's father believes Mahoney shouldn't have had custody of their son because she suffered from depression.
Trevor's father, Adam Schneider, said, "All he was, was crying. She killed him. I want something done. Family Court didn't help."
Police say the child's grandmother, who shared custody with Mahoney, will not face any charges.
Mahoney is due back in court Tuesday.
Christian Nieto 16-month-old
Died September 4, 2006
"I don't want them [CPS] in my house." -"I don't want them near my other son."
Parents Blame CPS For Toddler's Death
Jessica and Ray Nieto cried Monday morning outside a Denton County courtroom, where Child Protective Services was fighting to take back their only surviving son.
"I don't want them [CPS] in my house," sobbed Jessica. "I don't want them near my other son."
The Neitos are grieving because their baby, Christian, was killed on Labor Day in foster care. Corsicana detectives say Beverly Latimer beat the 16-month-old to death. She's now charged with capital murder.
The foster mother had been hired by Mesa Family Services to care for children in CPS custody.
CPS supervisor Teresa Morrow avoided FOX 4's questions about Christian's death, and Latimer as a foster mother. /
The Nietos say Morrow told them something else.
"She told us they had no idea where they [foster children] go," said Ray Nieto. "It's up to Mesa , it's a contract."
The Nietos are still angry at CPS for calling them instead of telling them in person that their baby was dead.
"They let us know we can visit our child in the Dallas County Morgue," said Jessica.
A CPS spokeswoman says Aleda Oaks, the CPS caseworker on the Nieto case, has only two years experience on the job. She didn't show up at work Monday morning.
But the family of the dead child says Oaks and her supervisor admitted they never did their own background check on Latimer.
CPS says they have no idea why Mesa Family Services kept giving Latimer foster children, because since last year, she had been accused three times of abusing kids in her care.
CPS is now reviewing their employees work on the case, and they've suspended Mesa Family Services from placing any foster children.
CPS took the Nietos' children because they admitted they had smoked marijuana, but they were on the verge of getting them back.
"I want something done to change the system," said Jessica, "because obviously, our son isn't the only one who has died in their custody."
Monday, a judge allowed the Nietos to keep their 3-year-old son while CPS figures out what to do next.
Foster Mother Indicted for Capital Murder
Corsicana, TX - In Navarro County, a Grand Jury indicted Beverly Latimer, 53, on charges of capitol murder of a child under the age of 6 on Oct 26th.
The child, Christian Nieto, was a foster child in her custody who died on September 4th at her home in Corsicana. His death was due to head injuries. He was 16 months old.
Bond was set at $750,000.
Christian and his 3-year-old brother, Logan, were entrusted to an agency that had a lengthy recent history of placing children in dangerous or deadly foster homes. At least one child had previously died in their custody. They were removed from their parents for drug addiction.
The agency shuffled the boys through five foster homes in 7 months. The last move killed Christian.
The papers state that she may have just been overburdened, which left her unable to save him. She's being charged with a capital crime, however, his murder.
Beverly Latimer still sits in Navarro County jail. She was licensed through Mesa Family Services. Mesa is now on state probation and licensing officials have suspended placements. The state has moved to revoke their license.
The case spotlights the failures in the foster care system that occur when parties don't do their part for the protection of children. In this case, a child had to die for them to pay attention, as so often happens. The murder of children in care is often the spark that foster care reform needed before the child was placed in harm's way.
Problems with the system in Texas, as reported, are many and varied. Not enough foster contractors, too much privatization in foster care, more removals and a shortage of foster homes, and serious questions about the licensing process for foster contractors and potential foster parents. Many states repeatedly cite similar problems in the wake of a child's death. Reforms rarely work the way we would hope.
As for Christian's brother, Logan, he is back with his natural parents.
By Liz Copeland
Tot's foster care death stuns legislator
She wants review of state plan to put kids in hands of private firms
12:17 AM CST on Wednesday, November 15, 2006
AUSTIN - A key lawmaker says she was horrified to read of the death of a 16-month-old boy in a Corsicana foster home and now is thinking twice about the state's mandate for full privatization of foster care, adoption and management of abused children's cases within five years.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, said she now favors a more cautious approach after reading a Dallas Morning News account of Christian Nieto's death. She said she might recommend that the state throttle back its plan and go with a pilot project instead.
"We continue to hear about child abuse and just horrible deaths in foster care," Ms. Nelson, R-Lewisville, said at a hearing to discuss progress under a protective services overhaul bill passed last year.
Referring to The News' account of how young Christian and his older brother disappeared in the state's foster system, with Christian ending up dead, Ms. Nelson said:
"Quite frankly, when I read that, it just, it kills me. I see so many times that we should have done something. That child's death is at the bottom of a spiral. And up here, parents who were abusing drugs. I would like for us to head off the problem way up here instead of waiting until we've just missed opportunities to protect that child all the way down to, you know, the last opportunity - and the child's not with us."
Ms. Nelson asked Carey Cockerell, commissioner of the state Department of Family and Protective Services, "What went wrong in the instance ... and what else do we need to do to prevent this?"
Mr. Cockerell said Christian's death was sobering, and the state still is reviewing what went wrong.
"Any time there is an instance of abuse, it touches the very core of who we are and what we are about," said Mr. Cockerell, a former Fort Worth juvenile justice official who was tapped by Gov. Rick Perry's administration two years ago to clean up the troubled Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services agencies.
'What we've done'
"It calls on us to examine what we've done, everything that we're doing and everything that we can do as we move forward," he said. "And we are certainly in the process of doing that, as we have done in every case of abuse and neglect tragedies such as this one."
Ms. Nelson did not go into specifics on how she would change the law ordering privatization. Lawmakers, who meet starting in January, would have to approve any change.
Mr. Cockerell said his agency is still reviewing its regulation of Mesa Family Services, the child-placement agency that shipped Christian and his brother, Logan, from Dallas to the Corsicana home of Beverly Latimer on Aug. 30.
Christian, 16 months old, died of severe head injuries five days later.
Foster mother charged
Ms. Latimer, 53, has been charged with capital murder, although there are indications the child might have been injured before he arrived at the woman's home.
Ms. Latimer, beset by health and financial problems, already was caring for three foster girls under age 5 when she says Mesa officials pressed her also to take in the Nieto brothers. They had been removed from drug-abusing parents in Denton in January.
The state has acknowledged it relies heavily on private child-placing agencies to report their actions and rule violations to the state.
Officials also say Mesa Family Services informed them of only two of the five foster homes where the company placed the Nieto boys from Jan. 27 to Labor Day.
Christian was at least the second child to die from neglect while in a Mesa-run foster home. Sierra Odom, 3, died while living in an Arlington foster home in August 2005.
In reviewing his department's enforcement actions against Mesa, Mr. Cockerell told the Senate panel Tuesday that the department halted placements of more children with Mesa Family Services after Sierra's death.
"In some instances about a year ago, we suspended placements," Mr. Cockerell told Ms. Nelson. "We put them on corrective actions. We moved the monitoring plan down to the most rigorous monitoring plan that we had. We continued to do a fairly robust system of monitoring them and identifying deficiencies and asking them to correct those and move forward."
Suspension now denied
Questioned later by a reporter, Mr. Cockerell said he had misspoken.
"We did not suspend [placements] after the first death," he said.
The licensing division's report on its investigation of Sierra's death found foster father Timothy R. Warner responsible. Mr. Warner still is awaiting trial in the case.
"Our investigation did not find deficiencies for which Mesa Family Services was specifically responsible," program specialist Arthur Bussey wrote to Mesa on Oct. 21, 2005.
Mr. Bussey said this even while attaching a list of deficiencies that mentioned a nighttime child-care service being run by Mr. Warner and his wife, which could have conflicted with being a dutiful foster parent. Another violation said Mr. Warner was unfit.
Ms. Nelson said she was relieved to hear that Mesa has relinquished its $7 million state contract for placing abused children in foster homes, and the state has moved to revoke the company's license. Mr. Cockerell said the revocation would last five years.
He said Mesa's 350 foster children and 160 foster homes have been transferred to other placing agencies' supervision.
Patrick Crimmins, the department spokesman, said 140 of the former Mesa homes have been assigned to Therapeutic Family Life, an Austin-based nonprofit with Dallas operations.
New standards Jan. 1
Mr. Cockerell said newly revised standards for child-placing agencies take effect Jan. 1. They will require the firms to hire more staff to oversee foster parents and, in some circumstances, reduce the number of children a foster parent may care for. He also said his licensing division will place "weights" on violations so that serious ones lead to more intensive scrutiny, while mere paperwork lapses do not.
Representatives of placement agencies said the state should move forward with its privatization plan. The plan calls for measuring performance, and whether children spend less time in fewer foster homes. If so, the agencies would be rewarded financially. If not, they'd be punished.
But Ms. Nelson said a pilot project, to test proponents' contentions, might be in order.
"We need to make sure that we move very slowly until we're sure that the protections are in place," Ms. Nelson said. "I don't object to privatizing ... It's just we're talking about kids. You can't afford to lose a kid."
DeAuntae Farrow 12-year-old
Died June 22, 2007
A farewell to Tae-Tae
Clad in a white suit and red tie, the body of 12-year-old DeAuntae Farrow lay in the satin lining of a white casket, roses draped around his head.
It was 11 days ago that a West Memphis police officer shot and killed DeAuntae, plunging this community of more than 30,000 into turmoil.
In a service that churned up a religious fervor, more than 2,000 people swelled the West Memphis Civic Auditorium for three hours Sunday afternoon to say goodbye to the boy who loved football and basketball, video games and flipping. Many mourners took handfuls of tissue from boxes offered by ushers.
"What would I give to have you back here with me? Momma misses you very much," West Memphis City Council member Marco McClendon read from words written by Debra Farrow, the boy's mother.
DeAuntae was shot and killed June 22 after an undercover West Memphis police officer thought the boy had a weapon. It remains uncertain if "Tae Tae" -- as his family and friends called him -- was carrying a toy gun or possibly a soft drink or CD player.
Although there were early indications that the report by the Arkansas State Police detailing their investigation into the shooting would be done by early this week, that no longer appears to be the case.
"The state police isn't placing any sort of deadline on that investigation. The state police is doing everything it can to make sure this is done professionally and accurately," was all state police spokesman Bill Sadler would say when contacted Sunday.
Sunday's service was guarded by members of the Crittenden County Sheriff's Department, with no West Memphis police officers visible.
"We asked the sheriff's office and the Crittenden County search and rescue (squad) to handle all the traffic, just out of respect for the family," West Memphis Asst. Chief Mike Allen said.
DeAuntae's principal remembered a boy she never saw in her office for disciplinary reasons.
"Throughout my 28 years as an educator in West Memphis, I've come in contact with thousands of children. But few were as well-mannered as DeAuntae," Sheri Lowe, principal of Maddux Elementary, told those at the funeral. "With someone the quality of DeAuntae, it's a tragedy to us all."
During the service, several officials -- including national activist Al Sharpton -- sought justice while urging peace and calm.
"We must not be upset for two weeks. They expect you to be angry and cool off," Sharpton said. "If we stand up for justice, this boy will not have died in vain."
Added Kirsten Foy of Sharpton's National Action Network: "You may be feeling a little hurt, you may be angry. But the way to victory is not with hate. Don't turn to hate. Don't turn to darkness. Don't turn to despair. You're better than the ones that took your brother."
By Jody Callahan
July 2, 2007
Street to get name of 12-year-old killed by officer
Posted: 2007-08-21 03:26:21
WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (AP) - A 12-year-old boy slain by a police officer's bullet will be memorialized with the renaming of a stretch of the street where he died, the City Council decided Monday.
A portion of North 24th Street by the Steeple Chase Apartments, where DeAuntae Farrow was shot June 22, will become DeAuntae Farrow Drive.
West Memphis police say the boy was playing in the parking lot with a friend while two officers, wearing SWAT-type uniforms, were on an unrelated stakeout. Police say the boys ran by, yelling, and officers told them to stop. Sgt. Erik Sammis fired when he thought DeAuntae was holding a weapon and moved, police say.
The council action was the first street-name change to memorialize an individual since Club Road was renamed Martin Luther King Drive in 1995, the West Memphis Evening Times reported.
The vote was taken with members of the Farrow family sitting in the front row. Also at the meeting was Brant Sitzes, father of Brittney Sitzes, 16. Brittney died Feb. 21, the day after her car was struck by a West Memphis patrol car driven by officer James Anthony Wright.
Brant Sitzes also asked the council to memorialize his daughter, either with a street-name change or a plaque at the site of the crash.
"If something like that could be done for my daughter, I sure would thank the council," Sitzes said.
A member of the Farrow family thanked the council for renaming the street for the slain youngster and asked the council to also recognize the death of Brittney Sitzes.
Mayor Bill Johnson said the council's Public Works Committee would consider Sitzes' request and make a recommendation to the council.
After the meeting, Brant Sitzes and Deborah Farrow, the mother of DeAuntae Farrow, embraced and spoke briefly.
Officer thought 12-year-old had gun
12-year-old boy West Memphis police shot to death had dreams of becoming an officer himself, family members say, maintaining that the boy wasn't holding a toy gun at the time he was killed.
While police haven't named the boy, family members identified him as DeAuntae Farrow, who had just completed the sixth grade at Maddux Elementary School. On Friday, Farrow was spending the night with a 14-year-old cousin at an apartment complex just south of interstates 40 and 50.
Assistant Police Chief Mike Allen said two officers on an unrelated stakeout in the apartment complex's parking lot saw two people running past them and yelling. As officers got out of the car, they saw one of the pair holding something that looked like a Glock pistol, the standard-issue handgun for the department, Allen said.
Saginaw city and state officials have raised the issue of outlawing imitation firearms to prevent just such a tragedy. Councilman Amos O'Neal highlighted the issue by brandishing a faux chrome handgun during last week's council meeting. Several Michigan cities including Detroit and Flint already outlaw the realistic toys through ordinances.
One of the two Arkansas officers fired at the boy only after he made an "evasive action," Allen said.
"I don't think the officer realized until after the shooting that this boy was as young as he was," Allen said. "He just had no idea."
But family and friends believe the officer mistook DeAuntae for someone else and were skeptical of the police version.
"He had nothing," said cousin Adrian Williams, who lives at the complex. "I saw him with chips and a pop in his hand."
West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert reiterated the 12-year-old did have a toy gun.
"I saw it. It looked so authentic," he said.
Supervisors suspended the officer, who has been with the department for more than 10 years, with pay, pending an investigation.
Arkansas State Police were investigating the fatal shooting, said spokesman Bill Sadler. He did not provide details but said the prosecutor would use the findings to determine if charges are warranted. v
Saginaw News Staff Writer Joe Snapper contributed to this story.
Oscar Jimenez Jr. 6-year-old
Died February 18,2007
"Say goodbye to your son."
The terrible secret of where 6-year-old Oscar Jimenez Jr. had been for the last seven months came spilling out of his sobbing mother in a nearly empty San Jose courtroom late last month.
On Saturday, Kathryn Jimenez showed police the exact spot: a slab of cement in the courtyard of a vacant apartment 700 miles away, in Phoenix.
Within moments, they were unearthing Oscar Jr.'s decomposing body and along with it, the story of how the first-grader ended up there.
Police on Monday revealed the details - along with the arrest of Jimenez's boyfriend, Samuel Corona, who allegedly beat the boy after Oscar Jr. apparently threatened to hurt Corona's 1-year-old son. at Monday's news conference as he held up a grinning photo of Oscar Jr.
"You can't help but look at this picture and ask yourself why we live in a world where a little 6-year-old boy gets beaten to death," he said.
After the news conference, lawyer Ken Mandel told the Mercury News that Jimenez was "an attentive parent who loved Oscar Jr. She was a very good mother."
"She didn't beat her son," Mandel said. "This guy is the killer. He is a brutal man."
The case, as described
"Say goodbye to your son," Corona told Jimenez, according to police, then punched and kicked the boy to death in front of her.
Corona and Jimenez, 38, drove Oscar's battered body from their San Jose home to Phoenix, police said, and buried it under a mound of dirt and fertilizer. Two weeks later, Corona covered the secret grave with quick-dry cement.
Six months later, Corona, 34, is in an Arizona jail accused of killing the boy. And Jimenez is in jail in Santa Clara County facing a charge that she prevented her estranged husband from visiting their son. Jimenez is not charged with the homicide, authorities said, and is not expected to be. Police Chief Rob Davis, her lawyer and other officials said she was scared for her life after the killing.
Davis struggled to remain composed by police and prosecutors, began in March of this year as a possible child abduction. Oscar Jimenez Sr. was unable to contact his son. He and the child's mother had been separated for six years.
Mark Stevenson, an investigator with the Santa Clara County Child Abduction Unit, said Oscar was nowhere to be found. His mother gave long, rambling excuses. None checked out. Oscar was not in Carson Elementary, where he was enrolled in first grade.
On May 17, the district attorney issued a warrant for his mother's arrest. At some point Jimenez and Corona left town.
U.S. Marshals caught up with Jimenez in Southern California on Aug. 23 and brought her back to Santa Clara County to face the charges. Corona was briefly detained - and then let go.
Back in Santa Clara County, members of the district attorney's child abduction unit hoped Jimenez's arrest would get Oscar back home.
On Aug. 31, Julianne Sylva - head of the child abduction unit - and Lindy Hayes, Jimenez's public defender, were in court for a plea when they cleared the courtroom to ask Jimenez some questions.
They just wanted Oscar back safe.
"Is Oscar safe?" Hayes asked.
Jimenez went white, started crying.
"No," she said.
"Is Oscar not safe?"
Jimenez nodded yes.
Is Oscar alive?
Jimenez shook her head no.
Then, sobbing, she insisted on telling the whole horrible story, authorities said.
She repeated the story for police after receiving immunity that her statements would not be used against her.
She said that on Feb. 18 Corona killed the boy at the home they were renting in the 100 block of Hayes Avenue, a modest one-story house across the street from Oak Grove High School's practice football field.
They wrapped Oscar in a sleeping bag and drove in Corona's 1997 Mazda to Arizona, police said, where the homicide suspect had lived and has relatives.
Corona, who has been convicted of several crimes in Arizona, was arrested in Phoenix early Sunday. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Maricopa County.
"She got involved with this person who was brutally violent, he beat her and choked her," Mandel said. "She is not a strong personality. She was a person under his dominion."
The two met in November at Oakridge Mall. She worked at Christopher & Banks, a woman's clothing store. He worked at a nearby kiosk, at one point working the sunglasses stand.
She is a religious woman, Mandel said, who enjoyed going to church with Oscar Jr. and singing in the choir.
Corona was complimentary to her, Mandel said, sweeping her off her feet. But soon his love seemed overly controlling, troubling her friends and relatives.
"She was a lonely person," Mandel said. And she overlooked the tattoos and the bad aura that had her family concerned, Mandel said.
What did Jimenez do during the attack? Did she try to stop it? Neither police nor Mandel would say.
But he said Jimenez was "traumatized in a state of shock."
The case has had a similar effect on police. Chief Davis issued a plea to parents.
"When you suspect a child is being abused, please don't hesitate," he said. "Contact the authorities, allow us the attempt to intervene. Perhaps we can do that and save the life of a child."
Anyone who has information on the slaying can call detective Sgts. Mike Brown or Paul Kelly at (408) 277-5238.
Mercury News staff writers Connie Skipitares, Joshua Molina, Leslie Griffy and Mark Gomez contributed to this story. Contact Sean Webby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Father of slain boy claims estranged wife ignored his misgivings
`I WARNED HER SO MANY TIMES'
For months, there were the unanswered phone calls to his estranged wife, the worrying, the waiting by the phone, the wondering: Where was his 6-year-old son?
Finally, Big Oscar is getting Little Oscar back home.
But the two can't sneak into any more movies together, play around with the G.I. Joes piled up in the corner of Big Oscar's San Jose apartment or pretend they are superhero crime-fighters.
Now, Oscar Jimenez Sr. says, the fight for justice is about his slain son.
The brutal homicide of Oscar Jimenez Jr. - allegedly beaten by his mother's boyfriend Feb. 18, then buried in a grave in Arizona kept secret for seven months - has enraged strangers and brought many to tears.
"Some people wish their kids would grow up to be president and stuff, but I wish he had grown up to be a professional anything, a lawyer, a doctor, something," said Jimenez, 30. "I just wish he was here."
Samuel Corona, in jail in Arizona, is suspected of beating the boy to death in front of his mother in San Jose last winter after telling her "Say goodbye to your son." Corona and the boy's mother then allegedly drove to Phoenix, Ariz., where they buried him in a hole, covered him up with fertilizer and paved over his grave with quick-dry cement. Police dug up the body on Sunday after Kathryn Jimenez suddenly blurted out the secret of her son's death at a court hearing late last month.
Oscar Jimenez Sr. blots out the mental movie of Corona stomping his son to death.
"He is a . . . monster," Jimenez said, crying. "I wish they would give him the death sentence."
He tries not to ask himself why his estranged wife didn't do something, anything, to stop it. "I used to have a good opinion about her," he said. "Now I don't. I warned her plenty of times he was a loser, a gangster, a degenerate."
Instead, the pest control worker stays at home and lies on the futon and watches a cell phone video of a mischievous little boy at Red Lobster with his father's brown eyes.
Kathryn Jimenez, 38, is in jail facing child abduction charges. Her lawyers and police have portrayed her as a traumatized, abused woman, terrified and threatened by her boyfriend. But her husband - the two are still married - says he can't understand how she could live after seeing what she saw.
Concerns about Corona
"You will have to kill me first before you kill one of my family members," Jimenez said. "I can't believe for five minutes she couldn't get away from him, flag down a cop. We don't live in an empty world.
"It makes me angry. I warned her so many times," Jimenez said.
So did Kathryn's mother, Carolyn Riggio. She said she always thought Corona was trouble.
"I am afraid what I think of him is not printable," she said.
Oscar Jr. was a healthy, happy boy, his father said, with a restless mind that brought his fingers in contact with power buttons, starter switches and other forbidden places he could reach.
His father called him "4 by 4" because the kid would climb over everything. But most people called them Oscar Grande and Oscar Chiquito.
The baby had been unplanned - born a few months after Oscar and Kathy were married. But Oscar Jr. was a happy mistake. He lit up the house, his father said.
In 2002, the couple separated. Oscar Jr. didn't really understand, his father said. The estranged couple was friendly and they and Oscar Jr.'s grandmothers tag-teamed caring for the boy.
Things began to change after Kathy met a man at the Oakridge Mall, where they worked.
Oscar Sr. never saw any signs of major physical abuse, but it soon felt like he was not so welcome to see his son.
Kathy stopped answering calls. And Oscar Sr. started seeing the tattooed Corona hanging around. It grew tense. She told him she wanted to take Oscar Jr. to Arizona. Oscar Sr. was furious and rejected the idea.
Then she asked if Oscar Sr. could take their son for a month while she went alone with Corona to Arizona, Jimenez said. He agreed.
On Jan. 8, Oscar dropped off his son with a Spiderman backpack at Carson Elementary School, hugged him and said "Have a good day, mijo."
Kathryn Jimenez took Oscar Jr. out of school at 10 a.m. and later called her husband to say that his son didn't want to see him anymore.
Kathy Jimenez filed a restraining order against Oscar on Jan. 12. She alleged he had choked his son at a party. Jimenez denied he had ever choked or otherwise abused his son. A hearing was set for Feb. 1. Oscar Sr. showed up. His estranged wife did not, according to court documents.
Oscar Sr. never saw his son again.
It was all Jimenez could think about, getting Little Oscar back.
"I couldn't sleep not knowing where he was at, who he was with, if they were treating him good," Jimenez said.
He called and called; he had his relatives drive by the house where she lived. He was afraid to try too hard for fear she would accuse him of abusing Oscar Jr. again.
He began talking on the phone to Carolyn Riggio. They had never been very close. But Jimenez and his mother-in-law soon bonded with their shared concern over the missing boy.
"My grandson was the most special little boy that ever came into this world," Riggio said. "He had a twinkle in his eyes and a smile that let everybody in."
Finally, on March 15, Oscar Sr. went to the district attorney's office to file a case against his wife for child abduction.
Only twice did Kathryn return calls. She argued with him about getting authorities involved. Oscar Sr. would ask to speak to his son. But she never allowed it.
On Aug. 23, DA investigator Mark Stevenson called to say that Kathy Jimenez had been arrested in Southern California.
Joy turns to pain
Little Oscar was coming home! Big Oscar started straightening up the little apartment. He gathered together some gift cards from the Gap and Old Navy he had received for his birthday, so he could get his son some new duds. They would watch "Spiderman" again, the "Hulk." He dusted off a Superman figure he had bought his son for Christmas. It had never been played with.
But soon Stevenson called back to say Oscar was still missing.
His mother told authorities that he had run away at a rest stop two days before.
Meanwhile, Corona called Riggio to say that they had dropped Oscar Jr. off at his father's way back in March, court records said. He had, he told her, "witnesses."
Then on Sunday, Lt. Junior Gamez called Jimenez and said he should come down to police headquarters that afternoon.
Is it good news or bad news because I'm freaking out over here, Jimenez said.
It's bad news, Gamez said.
Donations for Oscar Jimenez Jr.'s funeral expenses may be made payable to the San Jose Police Officers' Association - Charitable Foundation. Please indicate "Jimenez Funeral" on the memo line and send to 1151 N. Fourth St., San Jose, Calif. 95112. All money for funeral expenses will go to Oscar Jimenez Sr. Any remaining money will go to charity.
Contact Sean Webby at email@example.com.
Mackenzie Anne VandenHeede 4-year-old
Died July 17,2007
A Marshall man, already charged with child abuse, is now accused of murdering a 4-year-old girl.
Chadwick Damon, 20, was arraigned Wednesday on open murder charges in the July 17 death of his girlfriend's daughter, Mackenzie Vandenheede.
During an afternoon appearance before Calhoun County District Court Magistrate Earl Brutsche, Damon was formally charged with open murder, torture and child abuse. Court papers alleged the incident occurred between July 1 and July 17.
If convicted on all charges he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
The child died at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo five days after she was taken to Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall and then transferred to the Kalamazoo hospital.
Marshall Police Chief Mike Olson said a preliminary autopsy report said the child died from head trauma.
Olson said the torture charge was issued because the child also had several bruises apparently inflicted at different times.
"It appears she was struck or sustained the injuries prior to her death," Olson said Wednesday. "The injuries were in varying stages of recovery."
On July 19, Damon, a 2005 graduate of Marshall High School and former member of the military, was arraigned on a child abuse charge in connection with a broken arm the girl suffered on July 4.
During the Wednesday hearing, Prosecutor John Hallacy asked that Damon be held without bond citing "evidence which has great weight including statements from the defendant."
And since the victim is a 4-year-old, Hallacy said, "there is a serious public safety issue."
Brutsche agreed and ordered Damon held without bond. Bond on the earlier child abuse charge is $250,000.
A preliminary examination for the July 4 child abuse case is scheduled Aug. 15. The murder, torture and child abuse case was set for preliminary examination on Aug. 10.
Trace Christenson can be reached at 966-0685 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Message from Jarod Timothy Wetzel, father of Mackenzie Anne Vandenheede
I am Mackenzie's biological father my name is Jarod and I would like every one to know every detail about this case just to help people understand that this kind of thing does happen all the time. It is horrible no matter how you look at it and any person reading this may gain insight enough to keep it from happening to anyone else
First , Jill Anne Vandenheede is Mackenzies mother and she is no where near a "poor mom" she is a twisted individual for she knew my lil girl was being abused, because for 3 weeks prior to my lil girl getting hit in the head so hard that it killed her, Mackenzie was being abused. Jill took mackenzie to the hospital 1 week before chad killed her for a broken arm he had also caused, and the doctors, even then, found bruises on my daughters body that were "consistant" with 1st degree child abuse and they told jill yet she ignored the warning, Jill also has 2 other children both by another man and she had them at her and chads house 2 weekends when the 2 boys heard jill telling chad not to be too rough with Mackenzie in front of them.
Also Jill at this very moment is supporting him in the charges against him her and him both are saying that my lil girl fell out of a 2 foot high bed and that is what killed her! ******! and she still wants to marry the very man that killed my child despite all of this!
Needless to say jill is under criminal investigation for possible involvement and or child neglect and endangerment, so you say leave the poor mother alone, I know you didnt know any better and I am laying no blame upon you but please if all of you who posted on this tell as much of this to everyone you know maybe something good can come of it and not in the name of just my daughter mackenzie or me but to help stop this sort of thing from happening ever again to any child.
Now if anyone wants to turn me in for divulging information that I was told not to give or thinks that my words against Jill are slanderous please turn me in I will gladly go to jail (if that is what it takes) to help any and everyone understand that this sort of thing can be stopped with the right pressure in court, child protective services, hospitals, county, state, and federal law, may be able to catch signs of child abuse sooner so that the child can be taken out of a harmful situation and placed in foster care or with a more mentally stable family member.
In this case I tried my very best to gain custody of my daughter because even before all this I knew that jill was unstable, but, because of the widely accepted opinion that the mother in most cases is a better option for custody cases I was unable to do it. this is as best an example I could give that the more mentally and socially stable individual of any custody case should have a defaulted right to custody regardless if it is the father or mother or grandmother or uncle or cousin...... etc... I could care less what anyone thinks of me because I couldnt stop this before it happened but I will confidently assert that in this case my character will be proven in my actions as it should be with everyone who has to go through something like this. Bottom line..... do not judge if you do not have facts!
thanks for taking time to read this. do children a favor and spread this message.......
Jarod Timothy Wetzel, father of Mackenzie Anne Vandenheede
Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 9:37 pm
Luke O'Daniel 10-month-old
Died September 5,2007
Caregiver faces charges in death
The home at 400 N Daniel St. was not yet licensed but was allowed to operate under state Department of Human Services rules.
WEATHERFORD ? An unlicensed home day care operator was charged with first-degree murder after admitting to police she violently threw a 10-month-old boy under her care into a playpen, according to court records.
Lindsay Pope told police she had felt sick and could not stop the baby from crying when she threw him. The pregnant 25-year-old also admitted she initially concealed a bloody playpen from police.
Pope was charged Friday in Custer County District Court with first-degree murder in the death of Luke O'Daniel. She is in the county jail in lieu of $1 million bail.
The home at 400 N Daniel St. was not yet licensed but was allowed to operate under state Department of Human Services rules.
About 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, Pope called police saying Luke was not breathing, according to a probable cause affidavit signed Friday by Weatherford police detective Sgt. Daniel Evans.
Luke was taken to the Weatherford Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
"Anytime a child is involved with a crime it makes it tough on everybody," District Attorney Dennis Smith said. "A child at this age can't protect themselves."
According to the affidavit, Pope on Wednesday and part of Thursday denied knowing why Luke died.
Luke had been under the care of Pope since Aug. 17, the affidavit states. At the time of Luke's injuries, Pope's 21-month-old daughter, and another child were present.
DHS license pending
DHS spokeswoman Mary Leaver said Pope requested an application packet on Aug. 10. On Aug. 16, she was placed on application status, which allows a provider to operate while awaiting their license.
That process typically takes a few weeks, Leaver said.
DHS asked Pope on Thursday to voluntarily cease operations, and she agreed.
Services for Luke
2 p.m. at the Church of Christ in Weatherford.
1. Pope said Wednesday she laid down Luke, who had an ear infection, for a nap about 2 p.m. When she came back, a blanket was over Luke's head. Luke was limp and blue. She then called 911 and started CPR.
2. Weatherford police detective Sgt. Daniel Evans was at the scene when an officer called from the hospital to say Luke had died.?On Thursday, Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the state medical examiner's office, called Evans and told him Luke died from blunt force trauma to the right side of his head. He suffered a depressed, round skull fracture about the size of a quarter. Rowland said there was little hemorrhaging around the fracture, indicating Luke died instantaneously.
3. Later that day, Pope was interviewed at the police station by Evans. She denied doing anything wrong. At one point, she was left alone about 45 minutes.
4. Evans returned to find Pope writing on a piece of paper. She told Evans she decided to tell him what really happened. She told Evans she was stressed, is pregnant and had bad morning sickness.
5. She said she could not get Luke to sleep. She could feel vomit come into her mouth so she threw Luke into the playpen and went into the bathroom. It took her 80 minutes to check on Luke, at which point she found him lifeless.
6. When Evans asked her to describe how she threw Luke into the playpen, she put her hands to her chest. "Lindsay then made a motion that I can only describe as her violently forcing Luke into the playpen with a rapid throwing motion," he noted.
7. Evans noted during the interview Pope shed a few tears but showed little emotion.
By Chad Previch
Demonte Norton 10-year-old
Died September 16,2007
Police: Man Fatally Stabbed Mother, 2 Foster Kids
Victims Found On Indianapolis' Northeast Side
INDIANAPOLIS -- A man was arrested Sunday after his mother and two boys were fatally stabbed on Indianapolis' northeast side.
Indianapolis Metro police said Sean V. Wright, 35, killed his mother and two of her foster children, a teen and a 10-year-old boy, leaving a grisly scene behind.
Police said they were called to a home in the 4500 block of Shady Lane just after 1 a.m. When officers arrived, they said they found Rodney Anderson, 16, lying on the front porch of a home. The victim had been stabbed repeatedly.
Anderson was taken to Wishard Memorial Hospital, where he later died.
Officers said they saw a blood trail going across the road to the back of another home across the street.
Police went inside, where they found Demonte Norton, 10,and Flossie Wright, 60, both who had also been fatally stabbed, officials said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers said the home had been ransacked as the victims tried to fight off their killer.
"The 16-year-old was fighting for his life. He was able to get out of the house and run across the street," said IMPD Lt. Jeffrey Duhamell. "They know the neighbors ... and pounded on the door for help."
Police said the Norton had been staying with Flossie Wright for about a year.
"It seems like it's not even real. Even though I hadn't seen him in so long, that was my little man," said Demond White, Norton's father. "He (Sean Wright) killed his mother. He killed another child and he killed my son. So, whatever happens to him, I don't care. I know that God's going to deal with him eventually."
"She had plenty of foster kids. She always had them in and out of her home. They loved her like they were her own," said Teria Anderson, Flossie Wright's granddaughter.
Sean Wright was known as "uncle" to the slain foster children, 6News' Cheryl Jackson reported.
Investigators said they don't know why the stabbing happened, but said they had previously been sent to the home on domestic disturbance calls in the past.
Police apprehended Sean Wright without incident just after 3 p.m. Sunday after an intensive search for him. Wright had some cuts in his abdominal area, police said.
"The mother was basically the cornerstone of the neighborhood. She was well-known. She was caring for foster children," Duhamell said. "This is a very tragic incident."
Christopher David Thomas 3-year-old
Died July 19, 2004
The Darkness of the Lost Soul
Emotions spilled out into a Sacramento Superior Court hallway Friday after a couple each was sentenced to a 25-year-to-life prison terms for the beating death of their 3-year-old godson.
The outburst of crying and yelling followed even more emotion from inside the courtroom where Earl Joseph Christopher, 26, and Renecha Marina Gulley, 24, were sentenced.
"You are kicking me out when you are taking my child," cried Christopher's mother, Cynthia Brown, whose wailing caused the judge to order her out of the courtroom.
As this took place, another Christopher relative fell out of her seat.
There were no arrests and no reports of injuries after several women collapsed in the hallway and in the elevator as deputies escorted them out of the courthouse.
A jury last month convicted Christopher and Gulley of the murder of Christopher David Thomas, who died July 19, 2004, of severe head injuries sustained in what the prosecutor described as a week of physical and emotional abuse.
In opening remarks to the jury, Deputy District Attorney Robin Shakely said the boy was forced to box with his 5-year-old brother for "spectator sport" of Christopher and Gulley. The boxing matches and other acts of violence in the Rancho Cordova apartment were for the amusement of the godparents who were taking care of the boy for the parents, trial evidence shows.
The boy, who died of bleeding in the brain, also had several bruises on his chest, hip, knees, shins, hands and legs. He had a bruise on his buttocks in the shape of a hand.
His parents, who have since moved out of Sacramento, said they were not able to attend the sentencing, but wrote a letter that was read in court.
"We put our child in the hands of people we thought would love him and care for him as much as we did," wrote the parents. "Godparents are there to be the secondary parents to a child. Why did someone have to go and hurt him? He had all of the love in the world to give and now it is lost."
Dwight M. Samuel, Gulley's lawyer, told the judge his client loved the boy. There were nine letters of support from family and friends sent to Judge Laurie M. Earl pleading for leniency.
But among the two charges the couple was convicted of - second-degree murder and child homicide -- the latter carries a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life.
Christopher's lawyer, Russell Miller Jr., said he had consulted with his client's family several times about the outcome of the sentencing hearing. Samuel said he too told relatives there was nothing the judge could do to change the sentence.
"It is reality setting in," Samuel said after the hearing as the defendant's relatives could be heard sobbing in the hallway.
This is terribly sad for all those involved and for their families. For one mother lost little son. Another mother loses her son to prison for the next 25 years. But this will not bring back little Christopher David Thomas. A precious life lost and another wasting away in a cell. Oh how dark the human condition can be.
Couple charged in boy's death . Officials say the 3-year-old had been punched, whipped.
By Mareva Brown and Christina Jewett -- Bee Staff Writers
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, July 20, 2004
A 3-year-old boy who had been repeatedly punched, whipped with a belt and thrown against walls during nine days with his godparents died Monday afternoon, a day after an emergency crew was summoned to revive his limp body, authorities said.
In the second child homicide case in a week, Renecha Gulley, 22, and Earl Christopher, 23, both of Rancho Cordova, were charged Monday with child homicide after getting word of the little boy's death at 1:45 p.m. Monday at UC Davis Medical Center. They had been held Sunday on charges of child endangerment.
Officials say the final blow for Christopher Thomas came early Sunday morning, when the nude little boy awakened Gulley and asked her for something to drink. Gulley told investigators that when the toddler wouldn't tell her why he had no clothing on, she picked him up and shook him, slamming his head into a door jamb.
When medics arrived at the apartment about 8:45 a.m. Sunday - more than three hours later - they were told by Earl Christopher that the little boy had fallen from a bed and hit his head before slumping into unconsciousness. But emergency crews grew suspicious as soon as they looked beneath the child's clothing.
"At different times in the last nine days, they've each had their share of punching him," said Detective Sgt. Connie Merkins, who oversees the Sacramento County sheriff's child abuse unit. "He's got bruises on his face, upper torso - front and back - lower extremities and buttocks."
Doctors told detectives that the boy had evidence of new and old brain swelling consistent with abuse.
Child-abuse detectives said the couple outlined their discipline in separate interviews: First make the boy stand in the corner, then a swat with a wooden spoon on the hand or a spanking with a belt or hand.
Once it was for pulling a gallon of milk from the refrigerator and spilling it. Another time it was for "not minding," other times for wetting his diaper, Merkins said.
On Friday Christopher punched the little boy in the abdomen, sending him backward into a wall, detectives said.
The boy's brother, who turns 6 today, was with little Christopher throughout the visit and described seeing him "spanked and whipped," detectives said. He said he was not physically harmed himself. A 10-year-old nephew of Earl Christopher, who was sleeping in the apartment when the 3-year-old was injured, also said he was not physically abused or disciplined, Merkins said.
Officials on Sunday placed the 5-year-old in protective custody.
The dead boy's mother, Elizabeth Crilly, 22, of south Sacramento, said Monday that her son was "an angel" and that she'd never forget his blue eyes. She told authorities she had dropped her sons off with Gulley and Christopher on July 9 for a visit and had not seen them since.
Merkins said that Crilly and Gulley apparently became friends when they worked together some years ago. The boy's biological father had not been a part of his life, Crilly said.
The boys routinely spent time with the couple, whom they called their godparents, according to officials and to Hassan M. Ray, who manages the Mar-Rita Manor apartment complex on Mather Field Road where the couple have lived since February 2002.
Ray said he first saw the little boy with Gulley about a year ago and later had seen them playing on weekends and holidays. She seemed affectionate toward him, Ray said.
Merkins said the mother is not criminally liable, but she has "some unanswered questions to resolve" with detectives.
Detectives on Monday were looking into Crilly's history with social services, which included at least three referrals to Sacramento County Child Protective Services and ongoing work with the Birth & Beyond Program.
That program matches home visitors with mothers of young children who are seeking one-on-one advice on child rearing as well as help linking up with job skills, parenting classes, mothers' support groups and other self-help programs.
Last week, a Birth & Beyond home visitor alerted officials that something was amiss in the home of a woman who since has been charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of her infant twin girls. Program Manager Pat Mangan said clients voluntarily participate in the program, which seeks to match new mothers with in-home mentors to teach child rearing and infant care as well as offering mothers' support groups and job skills training.
Merkins said social services officials had no basis for concern about Gulley and Christoper, who have no children of their own.
Detectives on Monday described how the events unfolded over the weekend:
Early Sunday, after shaking the 3-year-old, Gulley apparently placed his listless body on a couch and got ready for work. Her boyfriend left the boy there - along with the sleeping 5-and 10-year-old boys - to drive Gulley to work at a service station on Sunrise Boulevard at 6 a.m.
After returning home, he apparently discovered that the boy was unresponsive, and - with increasing levels of panic - called Gulley repeatedly at work, according to interviews the couple gave detectives. When she told him that she was going to lose her job if he didn't quit calling, he loaded the unconscious boy into his car and drove to the minimart, Merkins said.
Gulley's boss, seeing the boy's body, told her she could leave and the couple then drove to the Veterans Hospital at Mather Field but a clerk told them they had no emergency services, Merkins said.
At that point, the pair returned to their apartment and called 911.
"These folks had him for the last nine days," Merkins said. "And those injuries have occurred within that time period. I'm looking at who had care and custody of that child in that nine-day window."
Sophia Schmidt 9-month-old
Died January 1996
Nine-month-old Sophia Schmidt is killed by her stepmother, in whose care she'd been placed by Child and Family Services. Her death prompts an inquest that doesn't produce recommendations for more than seven years. In the meantime, province introduces computer system to help track kids as they move from one region to another.
Randolph Thomas 4-year-old
Died August 31,2005
When caseworkers from the county's child protective services tried to investigate, they couldn't locate the family, the sheriff said.
Report details starved boy's ordeal
The 4-year-old who died in Durham showed scarring and other evidence of injury
, Staff WriterThe body of a little boy starved to death last fall showed evidence of previous injuries, malnutrition and dehydration, according to an autopsy report released this week.
Ultimately, Randolph Thomas, 4, died of malnutrition and complications from aspiration pneumonia, a forensic pathologist found.
The child died the night of Aug. 31, about nine hours after his parents flagged down a deputy sheriff on Miami Boulevard near Interstate 40 and said the boy was unresponsive.
Randolph's parents, Amber Dowen, 20, and Richard Dowen, 32, were driving through Durham in a tractor-trailer to make a delivery. The Dowens were from Riverside, Texas, and were traveling cross country in the truck with their 15-month-old daughter and Amber Dowen's son Randolph, police said.
The girl appeared healthy, local law enforcement officers said, and was put in the custody of Durham County Social Services.
Doctors and nurses were unable to save Randolph's life, and his body was examined Sept. 1 at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill. At the time his body was reviewed, officials estimated his weight at 12 pounds, the report said. Another forensic pathologist later said Randolph was 3 feet tall and weighed 19.5 pounds. Most 4-year-old boys weigh 35 to 45 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The boy had scars on his head and chest and extensive bruising on his scalp, the fronts of his legs and the tops of his feet, the report showed. There were also scars on his abdomen and another healed scar on his forehead, it said.
There was also plant material found in Randolph's lungs, the report showed, amid the bacteria, hemorrhages and inflammation associated with his case of pneumonia.
When doctors opened Randolph's stomach, they found that someone recently had fed him. The amount of food in his stomach was a lot, considering his emaciated state, the doctor noted. The boy was wrapped in a Spiderman blanket and was accompanied by a stuffed bear.
At the time of Randolph's death, the sheriff from the Dowens' hometown in Walker County, Texas, reported that one of his investigators went to the trailer where the Dowens lived on March 19 because of reports that the child had a large bruise on his face. When caseworkers from the county's child protective services tried to investigate, they couldn't locate the family, the sheriff said.
According to arrest warrants for the Dowens on charges of murder and felony child abuse, investigators think the couple started starving Randolph in April, five months before his death.
The Dowens were being held in the Durham County jail Wednesday. They have been denied bail while awaiting trial, according to jail records. Both have been indicted on first-degree murder charges, and the case has moved to Durham County Superior Court, according to court records. The couple are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
Ayaka Yoneyama 9-year-old
"I had no love for Ayaka," - "She was a nuisance."
Akita woman denies intent to kill daughter, admits to killing boy(Kyodo)
A woman in Akita Prefecture denied having had any intention to kill her 9-year-old daughter while admitting to killing a 7-year-old boy who lived in the neighborhood at her first hearing at the Akita District Court on Wednesday.
The defense counsel for Suzuka Hatakeyama, 34, said she was "in a state of diminished responsibility" when she strangled the boy, Goken Yoneyama, on May 17 last year at her house in Fujisato, Akita Prefecture.
On the death of her daughter, Ayaka, on April 9, the counsel said the defendant had just brushed her off when Ayaka tried to hold on to her on a bridge, which resulted in her falling into a river in Fujisato, as Hatakeyama "has a disorder in which she dislikes being touched by other people."
"I never made a decision to kill" Ayaka, Hatakeyama said during the hearing, while admitting to killing Goken and abandoning his body, saying the allegations are "right." Hatakeyama added, though, "I'm not sure if my mental condition was normal at that time."
Prosecutors argued in the opening statement, meanwhile, that Hatakeyama, who allegedly so disliked Ayaka that she had not ever wanted to touch her since her birth, separated her bedroom from Ayaka's and became distracted by the presence of Ayaka herself.
Hatakeyama decided to kill Ayaka at the bridge in Fujisato after her feelings of hatred toward her daughter reached breaking point when Ayaka begged her mother to let her see the fish.
Hatakeyama knocked Ayaka off the bridge by pushing her left shoulder with all her might when Ayaka, who was sitting on the railing of the bridge, tried to cling to Hatakeyama by saying, "Mom, I'm scared." Ayaka fell to the river, screaming "Mommy!" according to the statement.
After her daughter's death, Hatakeyama asked the police, who had concluded that Ayaka had died in an accident, to conduct an investigation again on the cause of her death and sought information from other people.
Thinking she was being unfairly ignored because the police were not eager to take up the case, her hatred of people grew and she searched indiscriminately for a target to project her emotions onto, killing Goken and abandoning his body, the prosecutors said.
The main points of the trial are whether she intended to kill Ayaka and how she caused her death, whether she was mentally competent in the case of Goken, and her confession during the investigations was voluntary, according to the court.
Hatakeyama said, "I'm filled with feelings of sorrow for the two kids," and added, "I want to hold Ayaka again if I could."
The court has decided to conduct a mental examination on Hatakeyama at the request of her lawyers. The examination will be carried out in parallel with court hearings.
The defense said in their opening statement that Hatakeyama had suffered emotional trauma since childhood due to bullying at school and abuse from her father.
Court hearings will be held 12 times this year and will likely be concluded in January with closing arguments from both sides. The ruling is expected to be handed down next spring.
It took more than one year to hold the first court hearing since the conclusion of the investigation, as the pretrial arrangements designed to narrow down the points of contention took such a long time, due mainly to the huge quantity of evidence, legal sources said.
Jordan Jackson 4-year-old
Died September 15,2007
Symbol of hope mired in tragedy
Nadir Turner began life in sadness and tragedy, left behind by a crack-addicted mother who walked out of the hospital after giving birth. Yesterday, there seemed to be every chance those fates would befall him again, as authorities prepared to charge Turner, now 19, with killing the 4-year-old son of his girlfriend.
Montgomery County prosecutor Bruce Castor said Turner, of the 2600 block of Lamott Avenue in Willow Grove, had already been accused of aggravated assault after allegedly beating little Jordan Jackson into a bruised, unconscious heap.
Those charges would now be upgraded, he said, after the boy died in a hospital over the weekend.
The criminal charges represent an extraordinary turn of fate for a man who as a baby was held up in news accounts as a symbol of hope. In The Inquirer and other newspapers, his foster, soon-to-be-adoptive mother told how Nadir, 11 days old in the summer of 1988, cried for hours as his little body went through a harrowing drug withdrawal.
Nadir's case was profiled to highlight problems that beset the city Department of Human Services and Family Court Division, helping lead the American Civil Liberties Union to file a massive lawsuit in 1990. None of that mattered yesterday.
"I have to make the decision on whether to charge first- or third-degree murder," Castor said yesterday. Conviction of first-degree murder can carry the death penalty.
In the summer of 1988, when Turner was born, Philadelphia was beset by a crack epidemic, with large numbers of babies being abandoned in hospital nurseries by their addicted mothers. At one time, as many as 60 such babies were at hospitals waiting to be placed in foster care.
They became known as "boarder babies," the problem so acute that Hahnemann University Hospital developed a program that encouraged employees to become the infants' caregivers and take them home.
In August 1988, "Bobbie" Turner, a longtime hospital employee, signed up. She said the second time she scooped up one of the infants, she knew he was the one she wanted - the child she would name Nadir.
"He looked so pitiful," she told an Inquirer reporter.
Turner, then 42, and her husband, Robert, took the baby to their home in West Oak Lane and expressed their interest in adopting him. When the Turners learned Nadir's biological mother had given birth in October 1989 to a baby girl at Temple University Hospital, they decided to seek custody of her, too.
Two months later, Nadir's sister, Zakia, joined the household.
Despite Nadir's difficulties - he didn't smile until he was 6 months old - the Turners pressed forward with their quest to adopt him and his sister.
The Turners were the only parents Nadir knew, although the adoption did not become final until 1993, a few months before he turned 5.
Yesterday, no one came to the door at Bobbie and Bob Turner's home in Abington, a few blocks from the Willow Grove Park mall.
A bay-window shelf held football and cheerleading trophies, some from the Abington Raiders football program. A neighbor said the football trophies belonged to Nadir, the cheerleading awards to his sister.
Both lived at the home with their mother, authorities said.
Risa Ferman, Montgomery County's first assistant district attorney, said yesterday that she could not speculate on what might have sparked the assault on the child. "We'll be in a better position to answer that once we've completed the investigation," she said.
The incident came to light Thursday when doctors at Abington Memorial Hospital contacted police. Jordan Jackson had no pulse when he arrived at the emergency room. He was bruised on the forehead, around the eyes, on his chest, and on his back and upper left arm. Doctors managed to revive him, and he was airlifted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he died Saturday.
An affidavit of probable cause provided details of how, in an interview with police, Turner told them he had been caring for the boy in the absence of his girlfriend, the child's mother, Venus Andaya. On Thursday, he said, he took Jordan to play at Crestmont Park, where the boy became ill, clutching his stomach, then vomiting blood. Turner took the unresponsive child back to his house on Lamott Avenue.
As the boy's condition worsened, a friend of Turner's arrived and drove the child to the hospital. Police said Turner never called 911 for help.
Zakia Turner told police that earlier in the day she had been dressing Jordan when she noticed bruises on his back, forehead and cheek. "Nadir hit me," the boy told her.
She took the child to a McDonald's restaurant, where he complained about back pain and repeated, "Nadir hit me," police said. The two returned home and were speaking with Bobbie Turner, Nadir Turner's mother, when Turner asked the boy to go with him.
The child did not answer. Turner repeated himself, and the boy latched on to Bobbie Turner's arm. Police said that Nadir Turner grabbed the boy and pulled him away. He carried the child - screaming and crying - out of the home, police said.
Later, police said, Zakia Turner saw Nadir Turner carry Jordan, who was motionless, back into the house. At first, she thought the boy was sleeping.
Minutes later, Jordan's mother, Andaya, arrived at the house. She and Zakia Turner saw the boy lying naked on Nadir Turner's bed, covered only with a green towel.
Prosecutor Ferman said the boy's mother, a Philadelphia resident, attends classes at Pennsylvania State University's Abington campus. It was unclear what brought Andaya to the home after the child was injured.
Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 610-313-8110 or email@example.com
Inquirer staff writer Cheryl McEvoy contributed to this article.
Boy, 4, beaten to death
By JACOB FENTON
Authorities say a 19-year-old Abington man beat his girlfriend's 4-year-old son to death.
Nadir Turner was charged with assault last week, but will face murder charges after the boy died at Children's Hospital on Saturday, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor. The boy suffered from a fractured skull and two broken ribs; doctors also found bruises on his forehead, face, chest, back and left arm.
Four-year-old Jordan Jackson was taken to Abington Memorial Hospital on Thursday without a pulse, though doctors were able to resuscitate him. He was later transferred to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Jordan and his mother, Venus Andaya, who had been living in Philadelphia, were in the process of moving into the Lamott Avenue home Turner shared with his sister and mother. Jordan had been staying at the house since Sept. 11 while his mother attended classes at Penn State Abington, police said.
The boy's family couldn't be reached for comment. Turner was not the boy's father.
Turner's sister first noticed Jordan had bruises on his back, forehead and cheek when she was dressing him around 12:45 p.m. Thursday, according to court papers. She asked him about it, and he said, "Nadir hit me." The boy told Turner's sister the same thing again a few hours later while the two ate lunch at McDonald's and said his back hurt.
Police believe the bruises are evidence of prior abuse, but believe the fatal blows didn't come until later in the day, said John Livingood, Abington's deputy police chief.
That afternoon Turner came home and wanted to take Jordan out with him, but the boy didn't want to go. Jordan grabbed on to Turner's mother's arm and wouldn't let go. He was screaming and crying when Turner left with him to go to a park, according to court documents.
"When the accused takes (Jordan) from the house ... that is where we believe the fatal abuse took place," Livingood said.
Turner later told police that after they left the house, Jordan got sicker and sicker ? he held his stomach, clenched his teeth, vomited blood and grew unresponsive. "Based upon Turner's admissions, the victim was in the company of Nadir at the time he entered into his current, serious medical condition," investigators wrote in court papers.
When Turner brought Jordan back to the house he wasn't moving. His sister told police she thought the boy was asleep.
Turner called Jordan's mother and told her something was wrong with Jordan, but didn't call 911. Instead, Turner called a friend who drove them to the hospital. Doctors immediately suspected abuse and called police.
Turner was initially charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child.
Murder charges against Turner were expected to be filed later this week, Castor said.
Jacob Fenton can be reached at (215) 957-8166 or jfenton@phillyBurbs.com.
Halie Wiley 1 1/2-year-old
Died August 12,2004
Social services workers concluded that two prior referrals were unfounded !!
Morgan County. The state report does not include whether anyone was charged in the death but notes bruises found on her body when she died.
Social services workers concluded that two prior referrals were unfounded and closed their investigations even though a doctor had expressed concerns about bruises after the first referral and Fort Morgan police made the second referral. The report found one worker did not disclose that new bruises were found on the child, that a doctor did not promptly report his concerns and that another caseworker was assigned to the second complaint not knowing about the first one.
Died July 8 ,2003
2 Children Left in Hot Vehicle Die
The boys were forgotten for five hours in an SUV outside a Lancaster day-care center. They were the foster sons of the facility's owner.
By Wendy Thermos and Monte Morin
Times Staff Writers
July 9, 2003
Two children died of heat exposure Tuesday when they were left for five hours in a sport utility vehicle outside a day-care center in Lancaster as temperatures reached 100 degrees, authorities said.
The boys, 3 and 5, were the foster children of the day-care center's owner, Leslie Smoot, who at first told police that a miscommunication led to their being left in the Cadillac Escalade.
"She indicated she thought someone else would take them out of the vehicle," said Sheriff's Lt. Al Grotefend. Later, he said, "She indicated that she forgot to take them out of the car." He said that Smoot, 48, was "distraught, hysterical."
Emergency crews were called to A Child's Place at the corner of Fig and J avenues at 2 p.m. When they arrived, the children had been moved to a rear patio area of the center.
The older boy was dead. The younger one died half an hour later at Antelope Valley Medical Center, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Smoot told deputies that she and the boys had arrived at the center she runs with her husband about 9 a.m. She was unsure, she initially said, about whether she had thought her husband or an employee would bring the boys inside, Grotefend said. She returned to the car five hours later and discovered the bodies on the floor, he said. The older boy apparently had unstrapped the younger one from his car seat.
Smoot was taken to the sheriff's Lancaster station Tuesday night. Investigators were continuing to question her because of her conflicting explanations of the incident, Grotefend said. He said it was unclear whether she would face criminal charges, which could range from child endangerment to manslaughter.
Her biological child and another foster child were removed from her custody, Grotefend said.
Employees at the center would not talk about what had happened.
"We're dealing with a terrible tragedy here," said a woman who answered the telephone at the day-care center. "We're not giving stories to anybody."
Michelle Loar, a former neighbor who happened to be visiting a friend several doors away, said, "It's so preventable. It's just crazy to leave your kids in a car in the middle of summer."
Next-door neighbor Eldrin Waid, 67, described the owners of the day-care center as close friends and "real nice people" and said that they "take the kids out of the car every day the very first thing after they arrive."
The SUV was parked in a lot about 40 feet from the center, a converted single-family home of yellow stucco with a bright green door. Several trees rise more than 30 feet in the tidy frontyard, but the shade does not reach the parking lot, which can accommodate about 20 cars.
During the day, about 35 children attend the center, which operates around the clock and is co-owned by Smoot's husband, Larry. It was closed after the deaths.
Naeenah Edwards, 23, of Lancaster said her daughter has attended for three years but "is not going back."
The deaths were the first reported cases of hyperthermia in Southern California this year, according to 4 R Kids Sake, a nonprofit organization in Corona that tracks incidents of hyperthermia and promotes awareness of its risks.
"Summer brings the worst of these cases," said Laura Petersen, the group's co-founder. "The majority of them occur in July and August."
Last July, a 3-year-old Fontana girl was found dead in her father's van after he left her unattended for about four hours in 102-degree heat. The father had unloaded groceries and fallen asleep in the house.
The same week, a Hacienda Heights woman left her 4-month-old son in a car for more than seven hours. He died.
Last June, a 5-month-old San Francisco girl died in a car when her grandfather forgot her.
In 2001, a Simi Valley woman was sentenced to a year in county jail after her sons, a 3-year-old and a 13-month-old, died in a sweltering van in the family's driveway. Marlene Heath, 40, had fallen asleep in the house after drinking wine. Also that year, a 3-year-old died in Rialto after her foster mother left her in the car.
A study conducted by San Francisco State University's department of geosciences found that when cars are in direct sunlight, temperatures inside can increase more than 50 degrees within an hour and reach 140 degrees when the outside temperature is 96.
It is illegal in California to leave a child age 6 or under unattended in a vehicle.
Elizabeth Rose Edwards 9-month-old
Died June 30, 2004
Tragedy exposes flaws in fostering
IN the two months before her death at the age of nine months, baby Elizabeth Rose Edwards bounced between five foster carers and her birth mother. The most time she spent in any one place was 26 days.
When she died on June 30, 2004 - having been put to bed on what was found yesterday by a coroner to be an unsafe, U-shaped pillow - Elizabeth had been with foster carers Jan and Trevor Todd for just eight days.
She died of asphyxia in heart-breaking circumstances, choking as she lay in her cot.
While South Australian coroner Mark Johns made no criticism of the Todds, describing them as kind and experienced, his investigation into the infant's death exposed searing deficiencies in the level of training given to foster carers and supervision of their activities.
Elizabeth's journey through the state-run system began in April 2004 when her mother, Michelle Edwards, who was having trouble coping with the baby and had no family to turn to, voluntarily placed her in state care. She was with her first foster family for a week, and then another family for two weeks before returning to Ms Edwards for just under a month. Her mother then asked social worker Sherri Humphrys to place Elizabeth in care for two or three weeks while she moved house. Elizabeth's two subsequent carers then fell ill, after taking Elizabeth for four and eight days respectively.
Ms Humphrys told the inquest she contacted Ms Edwards to ask about returning Elizabeth, but was told that was not possible because of the stress of moving house. On June 30, Ms Todd - who has cared for about 200 children including about 50 babies - laid Elizabeth down for a lunchtime nap while she went about her household chores, resting the infant's head on a U-shaped pillow and giving her a bottle.
She found Elizabeth, cold and non-responsive, shortly before 1.30pm.
Ms Todd told the inquest she and her husband had taken courses on how to handle sexually abused children, temper tantrums, and eating habits - but they had never received any specific training on caring for infants. In his remarks, Mr Johns said such training might have prevented Elizabeth's death.
Nina Weston, the president of volunteer organisation Children in Crisis, said the foster care system needed a "complete overhaul".
"We have children at risk all the time because the system is not adequately resourced or designed to work for every child," she said. "Until we actually are very clear on what the standards are across the board and people are accountable for them, we're going to see more tragedies."
Ms Weston said the foster carer system needed to be professionalised, with increased training based on specific modules.
Three months after Elizabeth's death, Anglicare introduced specific training on SIDS and sleeping safety for foster carers looking after children under the age of two - a move Mr Johns said was an "implicit acknowledgement" of a deficiency in the system.
"Anglicare will closely examine the coroner's findings to identify whether other improvements can also be made to the future system of training and support of foster carers," the organisation said yesterday.
Mr Johns also questioned the "appropriateness" of Anglicare and other foster care providers assessing their own foster carers.
He said Anglicare would be discouraged from adopting a "particularly rigourous" assessment of foster carers since it was also contractually obliged to provide them to the state Government, at a time of skyrocketing demand.
Acting state Families and Communities Minister Paul Caica said the department would immediately begin a review of education, training, assessment and registration of foster carers, with a report to be completed within a month.
Pia Akerman | September 21, 2007
Niveah Gallegos 3-year-old
Died September 21,2007
Human Services Knew Niveah Had Been Sexually Abused
Denver Human Services To Undergo Review
DENVER -- The Denver Department of Human Services will undergo a third-party review of its child protection practices after 7NEWS Investigators uncovered disturbing details about the department's handling of cases of children who were eventually killed-- Chandler Grafner and Niveah Gallegos.
Chandler was the 7-year-old child who was allegedly starved to death by his guardians. Niveah was the 3-year-old girl whose body was found in a ravine in West Denver.
Denver Human Services had at one time opened child abuse investigations involving both children.A 7NEWS investigation found that Denver Human Services knew more than a year ago that then 23-month-old Niveah showed physical signs of sexual abuse.
Her mother's boyfriend, a registered sex offender, was the only suspect, yet Denver Human Services did not go to court and remove the child from the mother. Instead they opened a voluntary case to monitor the family. The case was later closed as unfounded because the girl's mother would not cooperate with the investigation.
Now both her mother, Miriam Gallegos, and her mother's boyfriend, Angel Montoya, are charged in the girl's slaying.
In Chandler's case, a Denver Human Services case worker went to his house after his teacher called a hot line and reported concerns over the boy's frequent absences and other possible signs of abuse.
Chandler was living with his guardians, who are not biologically related to him. John Phillips and his girlfriend, Sarah Berry, both face charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. Chandler weighed just 31 pounds when he died in May.
A state department reviewed the case and concluded that the three agencies responsible for investigating Chandler's welfare didn't do an adequate job or share information. The state said the Denver Department of Human Services failed to get reports from Jefferson County after it was told of alleged abuses in January.
The state Department of Human Services along with the Kempe Center, and the private Annie E. Casey Foundation will review all aspects of the Denver agency that deals with abused and neglected kids.
"Denver Human Services takes very seriously our role in protecting children. Our team works diligently to protect children every day of the year and we are constantly striving to improve our practices. I have asked for a complete, thorough third-party review of our child protection practices," said Roxane White, Manager of Denver Human Services.
The review is expected to take two months and will be presented to the public when it's completed.
"Among the procedures the review will include a review of hot line calls, investigations of allegations of abuse or neglect, voluntary services, filing of dependency and neglect petitions, and follow-up services to children and families," White said.
The state Department of Human Services is also involved in a fatality review of the 3-year-old's death.
The Denver Department of Human Services had to do something more as it has now come under tremendous pressure for the handling of these cases, said 7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia. This appears to be an effort to get a credible group to determine what, if any, systemic changes need to be made.
Denver Human Services received 11,164 calls of suspected abuse or neglect in the last year, had 4,384 children in out-of-home care and provided in-home services to 3,350 children. In addition 1,469 children were placed with adoptive parents.
Child's Body Found In Trash Bag
Mom: Dead Toddler Put Into Two Bags, Duffel Bag
DENVER -- An autopsy was scheduled Tuesday on the body of the 3-year-old girl that was discovered Monday in a trash bag dumped in a ravine at Lakewood Gulch Park.
Police officers found the body of Niveah Gallegos in a wooded area at 11th Avenue and Perry Street at about 4:45 p.m.
The grim discovery ended a four-day search centered in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood, where police made a plea to the public to look through their Dumpsters and outdoor trash bins for the girl's body."The body was found in much like we were expecting to look for," said Lt. Ron Saunier, with the Denver Police Department. "This is an emotional deal," he said. "Anytime you have a kid involved, it is a tragic situation."
Police believe they believe Niveah was dumped by her mother's boyfriend Friday afternoon.
Niveah's mother had initially claimed her daughter had been kidnapped. But when questioned about it on Friday, she broke down and admitted to police that her 3-year-old was dead and stuffed in two plastic bags, according to arrest affidavits released Monday.
Miriam Gallegos, 20, told officers that while she was at work Friday afternoon, her boyfriend called her and told her to come home right away, but wouldn't say why.
Gallegos, who works at the Sports Authority on 10th and Broadway, said she walked home and found that her daughter was not breathing. She said she tried to resuscitate Niveah but failed.
Gallegos said she and her boyfriend, Angel Ray Montoya, were scared. So instead of calling an ambulance or police, they both decided to place the girl in a white plastic trash bag, cover that with another black plastic bag and place that bag in a royal blue duffel bag with yellow handles, according to the arrest affidavits.
Then she said they both went to an alley behind their apartment and she and Montoya went in separate directions, according to the affidavit. She told officers that the last she saw of Montoya, he was carrying the duffel bag with Niveah inside, and walking northbound.
Hours later, when police arrested Montoya, he was carrying a duffel bag, but it was empty. Police initially thought he disposed of the girl somewhere in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Investigators also said Montoya had a bus pass, so it was possible he took a bus or light rail somewhere to get rid of the body.
The area where the girl was found is four miles west of the couple's apartment on 13th Avenue and Logan Street.
Police began investigating the case on Friday at 3 p.m. when Gallegos called 911 saying that her daughter was snatched from her arms in the alley near their home.
When detectives went to her apartment to get a photograph of Niveah, they noticed "a paper towel on the floor of the living room that had blood or some other type of body fluid on it," the affidavit said.
Officers questioned her further about the alleged kidnapping and that's when Gallegos "spontaneously" told detectives that "she and her boyfriend ... were scared and put the baby into a bag," the affidavits said.
"It is a shame that this happened and the truth is, the man who we all think around here is the father, should have never been allowed to see her," said Elizabeth Murray, the grandmother's next door neighbor. "Because something like this was bound to happen, he was crazy."
Montoya's arrest affidavit also stated that in July 2006, Montoya was investigated in connection with an alleged sexual assault on "a victim." The case was dropped because Gallegos would not cooperate with police.
Meanwhile, neighbors living near Niveah's grandmother's house said they often saw Gallegos and Montoya yelling at each other in the street. They said Niveah and Gallegos lived at the grandmother's home for a while, and that the grandmother basically raised the child.
"(The grandmother) is a mess. She's walking around all the alleys and checking all the trash cans trying to look for her granddaughter," said Murray. "It's just a shame that that man got ahold of that little baby because that never should have happened."
Gallegos is now being held on suspicion of being an accessory to the slaying and on suspicion of filing a false report.
Montoya is being held on charges of first-degree murder.
Montoya is a registered sex offender and has been convicted of child abuse and indecent exposure to minors and adults. He has also been arrested on charges of kidnapping, according to police records.
Gallegos also has a criminal history. In 2006, she was accused of possession of marijuana and found guilty of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Died January 2001
The agency has said it failed to notice Rilya's disappearance for 15 months because a caseworker lied about visiting her home.
Woman Accused of Killing a Missing Child in Florida
MIAMI, March 16 - A caretaker for Rilya Wilson, the foster child whose disappearance four years ago exposed serious flaws in Florida's child-welfare system, was indicted Wednesday on charges of murdering the girl, who was 4 years old when she vanished.
The caretaker, Geralyn Graham, was also charged with kidnapping and aggravated child abuse. Rilya's body has never been found.
Rilya, who was born to a cocaine addict whose parental rights were terminated when Rilya was an infant, went missing in January 2001. Ms. Graham has said that a representative of the Florida Department of Children and Families took the girl away from her Miami home that month, a claim the agency denies. The agency has said it failed to notice Rilya's disappearance for 15 months because a caseworker lied about visiting her home.
The state realized the girl was missing only after a new caseworker tried to check on her at Ms. Graham's house. Ms. Graham is already serving a three-year prison sentence on unrelated fraud charges. The state charged her last summer with aggravated child abuse, saying that Ms. Graham had locked Rilya in a cage, and with kidnapping, saying that she had removed Rilya from the custody of her official guardian, Pamela Graham.
Pamela Graham is not related to Geralyn Graham, but the two women lived together. Pamela Graham was arrested last summer on lesser charges of neglect and abuse, and struck a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Geralyn Graham.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the Miami-Dade state attorney, said in a news conference that someone in jail with Ms. Graham had provided information that led to the indictment. A spokesman for Ms. Fernandez Rundle, Ed Griffith, would not elaborate, saying, "All of the evidence will come out in court at the appropriate time."
But Ms. Graham's lawyer, Brian Tannebaum, said the informant was a "jailhouse snitch" who could not be trusted.
"If the evidence is a jailhouse snitch, I don't think that says much for the state's case," Mr. Tannebaum said, adding that the state has "made it clear from the beginning that their goal is to keep Geralyn Graham in jail for the rest of her life."
The case exposed systemic problems within the Department of Children and Families; forced the resignation of its secretary, Kathleen Kearney; and emerged as an unexpected issue in Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election campaign in 2002.
In a statement on Wednesday, Lucy Hadi, the current secretary of the agency, said, "We are extremely heartened to know law enforcement has achieved this significant indictment," adding that since Rilya's disappearance, "significant changes have been set in place including the requirement for monthly visitation of 100 percent of all children placed in foster care and other procedures that protect child welfare."
Child-welfare advocates say that little has improved.
"The system was taking away so many children needlessly that no one had time to keep track of those children," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, a group that analyzes and seeks to improve policy concerning the child-protection system. "That problem continues to this day."
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: March 17, 2005
Sophia Campione 1-year-old
Died October 4, 2006
Child and Family Services Ministry at Queen's Park spokesperson Mary Ballentyne warns her organization can't talk about a specific case before the courts.
Court Papers Reveal Troubled History Of Mom Accused Of Killing Her Kids
It is the story of a couple in conflict, the end of a once happy marriage now gone horribly wrong.
Court records have been unsealed in the case of Leo and Frances Elaine Campione. The unhappy husband and wife were thrust into the spotlight two weeks ago, when the mother of one-year-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena was arrested and accused of killing the children.
A judge ordered their records sealed for several weeks after revelations that the distraught wife had accused her husband of abusing her.
Those documents were opened Tuesday and they show Frances Campione alleging her spouse began attacking her when she was pregnant with Serena. She tried to hide out at a woman's shelter and papers indicate she had various injuries on her head and legs consistent with a beating.
Pictures taken when she checked in show the young mom with bruises on her face, arms and legs. "I have been sick to my stomach for two months now, but since I got to the shelter I can eat now," she told a nurse at the centre.
She contends her husband beat her for years and charges he pummeled her "bloody" in front of her children, once slapping Serena so hard he also drew blood.
But even though she apparently applied for court permission to relocate her young brood to New Brunswick, where her family was located, and despite the allegations she'd made against Leo, she later showed up at the Woodbridge home of her husband's parents, seeking sanctuary.
She then underwent at least a week of psychiatric care. That was in October 2005. The murders took place a year later.
In the interval, Campione charged her husband with assault, a case that was supposed to go to court the day after police were called to her Barrie apartment and discovered her children's murders.
Francis Elaine Campione was hospitalized twice for psychiatric problems and each time the Children's Aid Society took charge of the children, then released them back to her.
Leo Campione denies the assault charges and insists his wife's fragile mental health and the accusations currently against her are signs she's not credible.
Friends who knew the couple in Bradford indicate they never saw anything wrong and recall the husband as a man who doted on his children.
Police have yet to reveal how the two little girls were killed and their mother remains in custody facing two counts of first degree murder. She's back in court at the end of November.
Jasmine Maxwell 7-week-old
Died August 10,2007
And although the county social worker and shelter employees looked into possible neglect, none of them knew enough about the child to know her sex until she died.
Skid row baby died as social worker delayed stepping in
Ordered to take the child to a doctor, she went home instead.
The investigation into the death of a baby at a skid row shelter last month is focusing on a social worker who was ordered by a supervisor to take baby Jasmine from her mother to see a doctor but instead went home because she had worked a long shift without a break.
The social worker arrived early the next morning to find the 7-week-old child dead.
The Los Angeles County coroner's office has ruled the death a homicide, saying Jasmine died of starvation, dehydration and neglect even though she had lived all of her seven weeks with her mother at the Union Rescue Mission.
The social worker from the Department of Children and Family Services, whose name has not been released, had checked the child during an emergency visit early on Aug. 9, and had reported that the baby's face was "narrow and skinny."
She made an appointment for the child at a nearby clinic but learned later that day that the mother hadn't kept the appointment.
When her supervisor then told her to take Jasmine to a 24-hour clinic herself, the social worker decided to wait, even though overtime pay had been approved for her to take the child that night, according to county records obtained by The Times.
The social worker logged a message into her department's computer system saying she was "unable to go back" to the mission because she had already worked "11 hours without a break" and thought she could take the child the next day.
The investigation raises new questions about how Jasmine died despite both social workers and counselors at the Union Rescue Mission knowing about her dwindling size and health. Though she weighed 6 pounds at birth, the infant weighed just 4 pounds when she died on Aug. 10.
And although the county social worker and shelter employees looked into possible neglect, none of them knew enough about the child to know her sex until she died. Before then, they thought she was a boy because the child's mother often called her Michael Gabriel.
The case has prompted both the rescue mission and the county to consider changes in policy to better protect children on skid row.
But some county officials said Jasmine's death is particularly perplexing because the county started an extensive program more than two years ago to better serve young children who live in the blight and homelessness of downtown L.A.
"Quite bluntly, we think it's appalling," said Roxane Marquez, a spokeswoman for Supervisor Gloria Molina.
"This is the type of work that the social worker is being paid by the taxpayer to do. If she couldn't do the visit herself, it's incumbent upon her to find someone who can," she said.
If Department of Children and Family Services social workers need help, they can call the department's command post and ask for another social worker to assist.
The documents show that Jasmine's social worker did call the command post, but there is no record that she sought help. Instead, she asked a supervisor whether she should wait until the morning. She wrote in her department's computer log that she did not get an answer.
Police initially arrested Jasmine's mother, Ranetta Maxwell, on suspicion of murder, but they released her four days later when prosecutors said they needed a coroner's ruling on a cause of death before deciding whether to file charges.
On Monday, Los Angeles Police Department officials said they began searching for Maxwell, who has not returned to the mission since her daughter's death.
A district attorney's spokeswoman said prosecutors plan to file felony charges against Maxwell today, accusing her of inflicting injury on a child. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 16 years in prison.
During the social worker's visit, Maxwell described herself as a weight trainer who "watches what she eats," according to the documents released by the county.
She insisted Jasmine was fine but acknowledged that she needed to "put some fat on the baby."
Maxwell told the social worker Jasmine would not drink Enfamil formula but promised she would supplement her breast milk with another type of formula and would take her to the clinic appointment.
The social worker wrote in the log that the mother "appeared coherent and appropriate to take the child to the doctor" because she had taken the baby for a medical exam three weeks earlier.
Maxwell's sister, Sharonne Vinson, said she had not seen Maxwell since she disappeared from her home in Atlanta about two years ago.
Vinson said her sister had told her shortly before she vanished that she had been diagnosed as bipolar and wanted to visit California. She said Maxwell has not contacted her since then.
"When she got out to California, something drastic must have happened, something very drastic," Vinson said.
"I believe in my heart that she would not neglect that child. . . . She is the sweetest and most loving and most compassionate person," she said.
According to shelter officials, Maxwell first turned up at the mission when she was four months pregnant.
She told staff she had been the victim of domestic violence. Workers said she had been seen roaming skid row in June looking for Jasmine's father.
Jasmine was born June 24, and Maxwell returned with her to the mission that month.
A shelter worker noticed that the baby continued to lose weight and called the county's emergency child hotline, prompting the social worker's visit on Aug. 9 after she failed to find Maxwell the day before.
Patricia S. Ploehn, the director of the Department of Children and Family Services, said the social worker who handled Jasmine's case is on leave and would not be assigned children's cases if she returns to work before the agency's internal investigation is complete.
She said the department investigation is focusing on whether the worker did enough to keep the child safe and get appropriate medical attention for her. The social worker could face discipline if she is found to have erred.
"I think it broke a lot of people's hearts in the department. Our job is to help protect children and to also help families," Ploehn said.
The death of Jasmine (who is listed on the county documents as "Jashline") will probably reshape the way social workers deal with similar cases in the future.
Social workers are not accompanied by public health nurses on emergency visits unless physical abuse or severe neglect is suspected.
In Jasmine's case, the initial call from the mission reported the baby's weight as 10 pounds, small for her age but not an obvious indication of severe neglect, Ploehn said.
In the future, she said, public nurses will accompany social workers on emergency visits involving neglect of children younger than 3. Social workers will also be asked to disrobe babies for examinations if malnutrition is suspected.
In Jasmine's case, the social worker did not unwrap the baby's blanket but looked only at her face before recommending that her mother take her for a medical examination.
"The bottom line is that common sense would say that if the baby's face is thin, what is the rest of the body like?" Ploehn said.
By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 11, 2007
Zyairre DaShaun Pasenow 2-year-old
Died August 1,2007
Children Services was initially contacted by abuse specialists and doctors at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital who suspected - while Zyairre was still alive.
Family wants answers in Sheffield Twp. tot's death
Now that an autopsy has determined that a Sheffield Township toddler's death was a homicide, family members want justice and closure.
Zyairre DaShaun Pasenow was laid to rest three days before his second birthday, but his great-grandmother, Ann Hydock of Lorain, said he suffered long before he died. He spent the last four months of his young life in hospitals trying to heal from horrific injuries, she said.
"The doctors said the kind of injuries he had were like someone was driving in a car going 35 mph and threw him out a window," she said.
Zyairre was first taken to Community Health Partners in early April when his mother's boyfriend, 28-year-old Jamal D. Lee, called an ambulance saying that the child was ill. Lee often watched Zyairre while his mother, 20-year-old Brittaney S. Pasenow, worked, but he was not his father, said sheriff's Capt. Richard Resendez.
Resendez would not discuss who the suspects are in the case. But he said both Lee and Pasenow have been questioned by investigators.
Pasenow declined to comment Thursday.
In the months preceding his death, Zyairre was treated at CHP and at a private nursing facility before he was transferred to Rainbow
Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. He had a fractured skull, nine broken ribs, and bruises and burn marks on his body, his great-grandmother said.
Pasenow stayed by her comatose son's side until he died early Aug. 1, she said.
"We want an ending to this," Hydock said. "It's like we're in limbo, and we want some closure to the whole thing. This was a sweet child who didn't deserve what happened to him."
Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller ruled Wednesday that Zyairre died from a fungal infection resulting from severe blunt force injuries. However, more than a month after his death, no one has been charged with the crime.
Resendez said the case remains under investigation.
Lee was indicted in April on unrelated charges of possession of drugs, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance and drug paraphernalia following a search of Pasenow's Berkshire Drive apartment. The case is pending in Common Pleas Court.
Resendez said the charges stem from the discovery of a sawed-off shotgun and cocaine found at the apartment. Lee later admitted to deputies that the items belonged to him, Resendez said.
Hydock said her granddaughter is carrying Lee's baby and they have been involved for about a year.
Patti-Jo Burtnett, spokeswoman for Lorain County Children Services, said she could not comment on what, if any, involvement the agency is having with this new pregnancy. Children Services was initially contacted by abuse specialists and doctors at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital who suspected ? while Zyairre was still alive ? that his injuries were consistent with child abuse. Children Services subsequently contacted the sheriff's office.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Roberson | The Chronicle-Telegram
Died September 27,2007
Davion Winrow was a ward of the state !!!
OMAHA, Neb. -- A 1-year-old boy died after he was injured and taken to a hospital on Thursday. The child has faced challenges since birth, records show.
Police said the boy was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center in the early hours of Thursday with a critical injury that wasn't described. He died at the hospital.
Davion Winrow was in foster care since he was born. Police said he was taken to the hospital by the person who was caring for him at the time. The name of the individual is not available because the investigation is still ongoing, police said.Davion was born on Sept. 18, 2006, to Lisa Moten. According to court records, she was a known alcoholic and a drug addict. As a newborn, Davion tested positive for cocaine and was placed in foster care, and Moten's parental rights were terminated, records show.
Records show that Moten had previously lost parental rights to three other children, two in 1994 and one in 2003.
Davion was scheduled to be place up for adoption in February.
Charges Filed In Baby's Death
OMAHA, Neb. -- Omaha police said they've made an arrest in connection with a 1-year-old child's death.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Davion Winrow's death is under investigation.
Police said the boy was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center early Thursday with a critical head injury. He died at the hospital.
Suspect Arrested In Infant's Death
A suspect was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death last month of a one-year-old boy.
Twenty-three-year-old Joleet Poole was booked for child abuse resulting in death. Police say Davion Winrow died on September 27th due to a traumatic head injury.
The infant was a ward of the state and had been in Poole's care. Winrow was to be put up for adoption in February.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 6:42 PM CDT
OMAHA, Neb. - A 23-year-old Omaha man has been charged in the death of a 1-year-old in his care.
Omaha Police say Joleet M. Poole was arrested and booked for child abuse resulting in death.
Authorities have said Davion Winrow's death on Sept. 27 was due to a traumatic head injury. He died after his caretaker took him to the Nebraska Medical Center.
Court records show Winrow was a ward of the state and had cocaine in his system when he was born. He had been in foster care since birth.
His mother's parental rights had been terminated, and he was scheduled to be put up for adoption in February.
Died April 3, 2006
Jerry, calling her "Mama," said he wanted to go to the hospital. She wondered if Jerry was playing a game.
Boy paid price as mom spiraled into paranoia
For Vicki Lynn Hulsey, her 10-year-old adopted son was her salvation and her downfall.
Jerry, a boy with a sparkling smile and blue eyes, was the center of her world.
The mentally-ill single mother whose days were often filled with hallucinations, mood swings and paranoia looked to her son as the reason not to kill herself. She kept Jerry's photo on the wall by her bed as a reminder.
"My son is a special gift that touches my life. I can be at my worst and pull it together for him," Hulsey wrote in a letter seeking Veteran Administration disability benefits in 2002. "If it were not for my son, I would not be on this earth. I would have taken my life by now."
Four years later, her paranoid delusions turned deadly.
Hulsey beat Jerry to death April 3, 2006, during an interrogation fueled by a belief that he had betrayed her after a Child Protective Services investigation. But Hulsey, who told police she deserves the death penalty, likely won't join the two other women on Arizona's death row.
In August, Hulsey, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder as part of a deal. She will receive natural life in prison without the chance of parole when she is sentenced Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court.
At the time of his death, Jerry Chandler Hulsey was a well-liked fifth-grader at Superstition Springs Elementary School. He loved baseball.
A review of court records, including two extensive psychiatric mental health evaluations, Hulsey's letter seeking disability benefits from the V.A., and letters from friends and family to the court, provide insight into Hulsey's life and the events leading to Jerry's death at their home near Baseline and Sossaman roads.
Hulsey fought her entire life to overcome physical and emotional trauma, substance abuse and disabling mental illness. She had no criminal record.
Her struggles began as a child. She was raised in an abusive environment in Corvallis, Ore. Her father struck her often and terrified her. Once, he kicked her for spilling milk.
In high school, Hulsey fought depression and became suicidal. A housekeeper once found her with a gun in her mouth.
As a young woman she served in the Navy, spending a year and a half in Iceland in what she called her own private war. There she was physically and emotionally traumatized. As a security officer, she witnessed sexual violence against women, and the experiences sparked nightmares, flashbacks and alcohol abuse.
In her 30s, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite the challenges, she received substance-abuse treatment and stayed clean for more than 10 years. She was honorably discharged after five years in the Navy, obtained an associate's degree in horticulture and held a job as a groundskeeper at a community college for 15 years. It was there in Monterey, Calif., where she built a strong support system of friends and found Jerry.
She met Jerry's mother at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He had been abused, his mother jailed and forsaken by his godparents. Hulsey, inspired by an advertisement on television, adopted Jerry in the late 1990s.
Hulsey had doubts of whether she, as a mentally ill, single mother, could handle the responsibility, according to Kathleen Rozman, a longtime friend, in a letter to the court in August.
"When she impulsively decided that she had to rescue a young boy from what she viewed as an abusive environment, she overextended herself," said Dr. Raphael Morris, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. "Her ability to manage the stressors of family and work was compromised."
Morris, the former director of Bellevue Hospital Center, conducted a psychiatric evaluation at the request of Hulsey's attorney focusing on Hulsey's state of mind leading up to the crime.
A few years after the adoption, Hulsey's mental condition had declined to hearing voices, seeing hallucinations, paranoia and rage states, requiring hospitalization. Eventually, she was forced to leave her job and obtain disability benefits. At times, she couldn't leave the house.
Despite a diagnosis for more than 10 years, Hulsey never received proper treatment leading to her mental decline, Morris wrote.
Everything began to unravel in 2004 when Hulsey's father died. She left her friends and beach house and moved to Arizona to be closer to her mother.
Hulsey had difficulties finding psychiatric treatment because doctors wouldn't accept her private insurance or they weren't taking new patients or there was a long wait period, according to a mental health evaluation by John Toma, a forensic psychologist in Phoenix.
Eventually, she stopped looking for help. She went without treatment for about a year before the arrest.
"I was just trying to hold on," Hulsey told Toma.
In early 2005, state Child Protective Services investigated a low-risk, physical-child-abuse claim involving Hulsey and her son. The allegations were unsubstantiated because of a lack of visible injuries. Hazel Hulsey continued to call CPS saying her daughter and grandson were in crisis, but was never contacted, she wrote to the court.
Hulsey felt betrayed by her son after the CPS probe, which was launched after he told officials at the private school he attended that his mother struck him. In the next year, her mental state declined, vacillating between not being able to get out of bed and rants.
Jerry took care of himself when his mom couldn't get out of bed.
By September, Hulsey began using cocaine to self-medicate, psychiatrists said.
At that time, Hulsey sought treatment for her and her son at Southwest Behavioral Services. She told them that she wasn't taking her bipolar medication; she was suffering from depression, and wanted help to find a provider that would accept her insurance, according to Toma's report.
At Christmas, she began hearing voices in her head telling her to leave.
The month before her son's death, Hulsey began using cocaine daily. She told police she had snorted 10 lines of cocaine Sunday and Monday, the day of her arrest.
Despite no evidence that Jerry had a behavior problem, Hulsey became increasingly frustrated with him, his grades, his treatment of animals and last-minute school needs, Morris wrote.
She believed he was lying about talking to neighbors. She feared the police might raid her house because of her cocaine use and had delusions that helicopters were monitoring her. She often asked Jerry to look outside.
Hulsey told Toma, "I was constantly looking out the blinds and was looking in the ceiling fans thinking that the house was bugged."
The interrogation It was April 2, 2006. Early that Sunday morning, Hulsey gave Jerry a deadline.
By evening, he had to tell the truth about a host of questions she had been asking for weeks. The planned interrogation began at 7 p.m. No answer was good enough for her. That's when Hulsey, who had sniffed about an eighth of a gram of cocaine, started to slap him.
By 11 p.m., Hulsey was surprised when she saw her son's face in the light. It was swollen and red. When blood came pouring from his mouth, Hulsey said she didn't know why.
In the next two hours, she woke up Jerry to continue questioning him. Her slaps turned to punches while telling him how her father had struck her much harder. She locked his leg with handcuffs to prevent him from calling anyone and keep him from falling down. Later, she unlocked him and he fell, striking appliances.
Hulsey eventually asked Jerry if he was OK and if she needed to take him to the hospital.
Around 3 a.m., she threw water on him. He was unresponsive.
Jerry, calling her "Mama," said he wanted to go to the hospital. She wondered if Jerry was playing a game.
The next morning, Hulsey hoped God would fix things. She picked up her son, put him to bed and noticed he was cold.
Something terrible She fell asleep and was woken by the phone ringing. It was Jerry's school asking why he wasn't there. Hulsey attempted to resuscitate him and became suicidal and took sleeping pills. She called her mother, saying something terrible had happened.
When Jerry's grandmother arrived, he was in bed, face-down, with bruises on his back, side and arms. His ribs were broken and he had cocaine in his system, according to a medical examiner's report.
When police arrive, she asked the first officer on scene for his gun because she wanted to die.
Morris concluded that Hulsey knew what she was doing was wrong, but she didn't plan to kill her son or realize she was doing "irreversible" harm to him. He added there is no evidence that there was a pattern of child abuse.
"Hulsey was highly invested in her role as a mother and had spent years dedicated to that role, taking pride in her attentiveness to her son," Morris wrote. "It is clear that delusional thinking drove her to be unable to let go of trying to force her son to reveal information to her, leaving her in a more agitated and irritable state."
"He didn't deserve that," Hulsey said during an interview with Morris. "I can't believe I could do that to a little child."
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 4, 2007 04:02 PM
Alyssa Eickmeier 2-year-old
Died October 22, 2006
She had bruises on her forehead, back and neck, according to court records, and an adult bite mark on her left leg.
Clay County grand jury indicts former KC police officer with murder
Nicholas A. Minet, 29, a former Kansas City police officer, told investigators that he shook the toddler and threw her to the floor on a mattress on Oct. 19, 2006, according to a statement of probable cause filed earlier in the case by police.
Alyssa Eickmeier died Oct. 22 of blunt trauma to the head she allegedly suffered during the incident, according to court documents. Doctors who treated the child at Children's Mercy Hospital reported that Eickmeier suffered from internal bleeding in her skull, a rear skull fracture and brain swelling. She also had bruises on her forehead, back and neck, according to court records, and an adult bite mark on her left leg.
Minet initially was charged with assault and abuse of a child. He has been in the Clay County Detention Center since October 2006 on those charges in lieu of a cash bond set at $250,000.
Minet remained in jail today with bond at the same amount. His request for a personal recognizance bond or a 10 percent cash bond was denied, according to court records.
Neither Minet nor his attorney could be reached today for comment.
Clay County Prosecutor Dan White said it has taken almost a year for the murder charge to be filed because his office was waiting on an official autopsy report. He said staff turnover at the Jackson County Medical Examiner's office, which is contracted to perform the autopsy, also delayed the report, White said.
If convicted on the murder and child abuse charges, Minet could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
To reach Bill Graham, call (816) 234-5906 or send an email to email@example.com.
By BILL GRAHAM
The Kansas City Star
Died July 2007
Volkan was the third child known to Contra Costa County's child welfare system to die of suspected abuse or neglect in the past year.
Abuse claim preceded teen's death
Tipster tells authorities 16-year-old Martinez boy said father hit him
Weeks before 16-year-old Volkan Kayik was reported missing by his father, a Contra Costa County social worker visited their Martinez home.
On May 8, someone told Children and Family Services that the teen had said his father hit him.
The identity of the tipster, a mandated reporter or someone legally required to report abuse, is blacked out in a child fatality report released Wednesday by the California Department of Social Services.
But child welfare workers took the information seriously enough to contact the family, who received unspecified services and also was "involved in counseling."
Child welfare workers last contacted Volkan, a sophomore at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, on May 15 and closed the case a week later, according to the report.
In June, Volkan's father, Erhan Kayik, reported his son missing, telling police that the teen had run away.
Last week, he was arrested after police say he confessed to strangling the boy. Kayik, 41, led police to the body in Sierra County, Martinez police Sgt. Gary Peterson said.
Volkan was the third child known to Contra Costa County's child welfare system to die of suspected abuse or neglect in the past year.
"We don't think of this as a pattern," said Joe Valentine, director of the county Employment and Human Services Department, which oversees Children and Family Services. "This (case) is a very different type of situation.
"We did review the record, the social worker was very thorough, they did everything they were supposed to do. In this case, you almost end up feeling helpless. ... You're dealing with an adolescent who can make choices about whether they can accept help or not."
Following reviews of two deaths earlier this year, administrators for Children and Family Services revamped the way reports of abuse are taken, evaluated and tracked, Valentine said.
Workers receiving calls now check the case file for past reports; they also record the history on a referral form.
Normally, after receiving a tip from a mandated reporter, a social worker will visit the home, Valentine said. "You also want to interview the teenager in a separate neutral environment, at their school or another location."
Teenagers offer challenges different from younger children, Valentine said. "With a teenager ... you wouldn't remove them from the home against their will," he said. "They may have other options available to them that they prefer, such as a friend or another family member."
With the limited information in child fatality reports, it's impossible to know whether social workers acted correctly, said William Grimm, senior attorney at the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law.
Common mistakes include failure to interview a child privately and failure to interview mandated reporters and other nonfamily members, Grimm said.
Too often, he said, child welfare systems are reluctant to deal with teens, who are difficult to place and may get labeled as runaways or problem kids. "It's a real disservice to adolescents who often need that service and protection."
Volkan and his father immigrated to the United States from Turkey several years ago. When Volkan was 5, his mother and grandmother were killed pushing Volkan out of traffic.
In Martinez, Volkan frequently ran away from home and spent nights at Hidden Lakes Park, where he loved to go fishing.
Retired teacher Carol Young, Volkan's friend and neighbor, said he would sell fish to people at the lake to earn money. But he would never accept money for helping Young around the house, she said, because they were friends.
"This boy was so outstanding, he was just caught in a terrible situation," Young said. "Even though he was a runaway, he went to school every day.
"He was the most lonely, lost young man. So bright. So creative."
People who befriended Volkan at the lake said the teen was unhappy at home. Since his death, his friends say they have agonized that they did not do more.
"I'm hearing after the fact that a lot of kids knew about the (suspected) abuse, but the adults did not," said Maria Asturias, Volkan's former English as a Second Language teacher. "Volkan was like my family. But there were things that he didn't tell us, that he hid from us.
"I want kids to know they aren't responsible, but to know in the future, just because they know, they can't assume adults know. Tell someone. They don't need to worry about it. Let an adult work it out. It's up to us to protect them. And we would have, we love Volkan."
Carol Carrillo, executive director for the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, said people often hesitate to report child abuse because they fear retaliation or worry the family will be disrupted.
But confidentiality laws stop the family from knowing who made the report, and the family may receive services they need.
"It doesn't mean the child will be removed from the home -- that's the last resort," Carrillo said. "Make the report and let the system investigate and determine the needs of the family to keep that family protected."
Reporting is important even if you know child protective services has been contacted in the past, Carrillo said. Evidence may have been lacking in past cases, and situations can change.
"It's OK to get involved," she said. "I would much rather report and be wrong and not report and have something happen."
As in any child fatality, Children and Family Services intends to review its actions "with a fine-tooth comb," Valentine said.
In this case, Valentine said, social workers also will discuss ways to serve at-risk youths.
Article Launched: 10/12/2007 03:07:19 AM PDT
Valerie Earley, director of Children and Family Services for Contra Costa County, said confidentiality laws bar the agency from saying whether Volkan was known to Child Protective Services, or if he had been the subject of past reports of suspected child abuse.
Father accused of killing son, 16
PLEASANT HILL TRAGEDY SHOCKS HIGH SCHOOL
As College Park High School in Pleasant Hill remembered student Volkan Kayik on Friday, his father was charged with first-degree murder for the 16-year-old's death.
Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett said Erhan Kayik, 41, strangled the boy during a dispute in their Martinez home three months ago and buried his body in a shallow grave off state route 89 in Sierra County.
Kayik reported the boy as a runaway in June. Police, tipped off about the death, arrested Kayik on Thursday after investigators said he confessed to the killing and led them to the body.
"I don't see any evidence of self-defense associated with the strangulation death of a 115-pound 16-year-old," Jewett said.
Kayik, who immigrated to the United States from Turkey two years ago, was dressed in yellow jail shirt and pants when he was arraigned Friday afternoon, standing behind a portion of the courtroom secured by glass and bars. He appeared calm and attentive, obviously listening carefully to Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Bessie Dreibelbis.
There was confusion between the judge and Kayik, each struggling at times to understand each other.
When asked if he understood English, Kayik said, "Sometimes. Sometimes, I cannot."
Kayik said his wife, Volkan's stepmother, was working to hire a private attorney. The judge appointed the public defender's office to represent him in the meantime, and also ordered a Turkish interpreter.
Kayik was scheduled to return to court on Tuesday for further arraignment and plea entry.
Kayik is being held on $1 million bail in the Contra Costa County Jail.
At Pleasant Hill's College Park High School, where Volkan would have been a junior this year, students and staff shuffled around in disbelief at the boy's violent death.
"I was kind of shocked," said Megan Scott, who briefly shared a math class with the boy this year. "Your own kid? That's low."
Authorities indicated a tumultuous relationship between father and son. Volkan frequently ran away from home, sometimes sleeping in Hidden Lakes Park, his favorite fishing spot and the site of a memorial vigil in his honor today.
Valerie Earley, director of Children and Family Services for Contra Costa County, said confidentiality laws bar the agency from saying whether Volkan was known to Child Protective Services, or if he had been the subject of past reports of suspected child abuse.
During the first period of school Friday, teachers held a moment of silence and asked students to share memories of Volkan, described as sweet, friendly and obsessed with sharks and dinosaurs.
Principal Barbara Oaks was sending a phone message to parents to notify them that a student had died. Many students have already talked to grief counselors, who will continue to be available.
Oaks recalled that Volkan, a frequent visitor to the office, would often run up to adults to show them his progress reports.
"He really appreciated adult validation and support," Oaks said.
MediaNews Staff Writer Sara Steffens contributed to this report. Contact Malaika Fraley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (925) 945-4782.
Article Launched: 10/06/2007 06:46:08 AM PDT
Alexander Escalante 11-month-old
Died May 25,2007
Funeral services set for infant who died, daycare provider is in question
(KMOV) - Funeral services for an 11-month-old baby, police believe was shaken to death is scheduled for Thursday morning.
Police say the baby was violently shaken while in the care of Leslie Pollard.
Three days after being rushed to the hospital with severe brain injuries, Alexander Escalante died.
His grief-stricken parents declined to go on camera Saturday, but tell News 4 their only child passed away shortly after 6:30 a.m.
Alexander's babysitter, Pollard, 42 is charged with shaking the infant.
Investigators say Wednesday afternoon Pollard called police to her home daycare in Florissant.
She reportedly told officers that Alexander was having difficulty breathing and was foaming at the mouth.
Doctors later determined the baby suffered massive brain swelling consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Police tried to arrest Pollard, but were told she and her husband had gone out of town for the weekend.
The baby's death has saddened and stunned residents in this neighborhood.
Right now, Pollard is charged with second-degree assault.
Her attorneys tell news 4 she plans to turn herself in Tuesday.
(KMOV) - An 11-month-old baby is dead and police want to find out if his daycare provider is to blame.
Police say the baby was violently shaken while in the care of Leslie Pollard.
Three days after being rushed to the hospital with severe brain injuries, Alexander Escalante died.
His grief-stricken parents declined to go on camera Saturday, but tell News 4 their only child passed away shortly after 6:30 a.m.
Alexander's babysitter, Pollard, 42 is charged with shaking the infant.
Investigators say Wednesday afternoon Pollard called police to her home daycare in Florissant.
She reportedly told officers that Alexander was having difficulty breathing and was foaming at the mouth.
Doctors later determined the baby suffered massive brain swelling consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Police tried to arrest Pollard yesterday, but were told she and her husband are currently out of town.
The baby's death has saddened and stunned residents in this neighborhood.
Right now, Pollard is charged with second-degree assault.
Police are still waiting for her to turn herself in.
The Escalantes were looking forward to celebrating their baby's first birthday.
(KMOV) - An 11-month-old baby injured while in the custody of a daycare operator has died.
The suspect is charged with second degree assault and could face more serious charges.
Alexander Escalante had been hospitalized with severe brain injuries since Wednesday afternoon.
His parents tell News 4 their baby died from his injuries shortly after 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
Alexander was the couple's only child.
His babysitter, Leslie Pollard, 42 called police to her home day-care in Florissant on Wednesday.
Investigators say the baby was having difficulty breathing and was foaming at the mouth.
Doctors later determined Alexander suffered massive brain swelling, which was consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The baby's death has stunned residents, who live near Pollard's day care.
(KMOV) -- An 11-month old baby is in grave condition tonight and prosecutors have just charged his babysitter.
42-year-old Leslie Pollard called 911 to her home day care in Florissant on Wednesday.
Police say the baby wasn't breathing and was foaming at the mouth.
At the hospital, it was determined that the infant had massive brain swelling consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
Pollard is charged with second degree assault.
She is not yet in custody but bond is set at $100,000.
Police tried to arrest her Friday afternoon and were told she and her husband were out of town for the weekend.
Ashton C. Jones 4-month-old
Died August 8, 2007
That wasn't the first time deputies had been called to the trailer to investigate an infant death.
Mother accused of negligence
A Newton County woman accused of criminal negligence in the death of her four-month-old son is in custody.
According to Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland, Jessica Cynthia Jones, 27, is being held in the Newton County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bond.
Jones has been charged with second degree involuntary manslaughter in the death of her infant son, Ashton C. Jones, who died of mechanical asphyxiation with a high probability of a lay-over. It is believed Jones rolled over onto the child in her sleep.
Bill Dobbs, Newton County assistant prosecutor, said the prosecutor's office decided to file the charges last week because test results on Jones came back positive for illicit drugs.
"In the course of the investigation, she tested positive for methamphetamine, ephedrine and marijuana at the time the child was presented at the hospital," said Dobbs. "We felt like the combination of the drugs with the alleged layover situation constituted criminal negligence and filed the charges."
Deputies were called to the Timber Lost Mobile Home Park, 6350 Spurgeon Road, at 9:15 a.m. Aug. 8 in reference to a small child not breathing. Upon arrival, they found the infant, who was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival.
That wasn't the first time deputies had been called to the trailer to investigate an infant death, Copeland said in an August interview with the Daily News. In February 2006, authorities were called to the trailer to investigate a report of a three-month-old infant who was not breathing. Like the August 2007 death, the cause of death in that instance was ruled to be mechanical asphyxiation.
Four children have been removed from the home and placed into foster care.
The children's father, Jericho Jones, 26, is serving a year in jail for third degree domestic assault, according to electronic court records.
By John Ford / Daily News Managing Editor
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 10:05 AM CDT
Cheyenne Renee Eairhart 4-year-old
Died December 20,2006
"She was a cute little girl."
Deputies say this isn't the first time they have been to the home. Reports show they investigated a case of possible child abuse back in September.
Deputies identify child who died in Port Charlotte
PORT CHARLOTTE: Deputies identified the four-year-old girl who died Wednesday inside her Port Charlotte home and admitted they have investigated claims that she had been abused in the past.
Authorities were called to 21026 Glendale Avenue when someone found Cheyenne Eairhart not breathing.
The medical examiner has finished the autopsy, but deputies say the ME has other tests to complete before making an official ruling on a cause of death.
Deputies will continue investigating the case as a suspicious death as they await the ME report because even though no signs of foul play have been found - they say a four-year-old child just doesn't stop breathing for no reason.
"Suspicious. It's definitely suspicious," said Sheriff John Davenport, Charlotte County.
Deputies say this isn't the first time they have been to the home. Reports show they investigated a case of possible child abuse back in September. The hospital alerted authorities after treating a child in the home for a serious internal injury.
"We could not prove - neither (the Department of) Children and Families or us could prove - or find any evidence of child abuse at that time so it's clear that it was unfounded. But certainly we responded there once before and now we're responding again to a death certainly raises an eyebrow on what's going on," said Sheriff Davenport.
The child lived with her father and stepmother. Her biological mother lives out of state.
Neighbors say they often heard loud arguments at the home and now question whether or not they should have done something.
"It hurt me. It really did. I was with my neighbor there and she had tears and so did I," said Frank Varney.
Deputies say they will not know the actual cause of death until the test results from the autopsy come in - that is expected to take a couple of days.
Toddler's death under investigation
PORT CHARLOTTE -- A 4-year-old Port Charlotte girl died Wednesday morning, and investigators spent the day trying to figure out why.
Cheyenne Eairheart, remembered by neighbors as a beautiful girl with light brown hair, stopped breathing at her house, 21026 Glendale Ave. in Port Charlotte. The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office received the call at 8:54 a.m. Cheyenne was taken to Peace River Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The Charlotte County Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy, according to the CCSO.
The house on Glendale Avenue was surrounded by yellow police tape Wednesday, with Cpl. Mike Wilson wrapping more around posts and mailbox stands. Blinds closed off the windows beneath white window shades. A faded, tattered American flag snapped in the afternoon breeze from a flagpole at the corner of the property.
A large truck, painted green and white and marked CCSO Mobile Command, crouched on the asphalt in front of the house. Plainclothes and uniformed investigators made regular journeys from the truck to the house. Franklin Varney, a neighbor, walked along Glendale Avenue and took in the scene.
"She was a cute little girl," Varney said. "It's pretty hard to take."
Neighbors said the owner of the house, Wesley Eairheart, lived there with a pregnant woman, his daughter, Cheyenne, and a baby. Occasionally, neighbors heard the couple fighting. They said Eairheart was not home when deputies arrived at the house and were told by the woman that Cheyenne was found in her bedroom, not breathing.
Information about the cause of Cheyenne's death would not be released until her biological mother could be notified of the death, said CCSO spokesman Bob Carpenter. He said the mother, who lives out of state, had not been notified as of Wednesday afternoon.
The CCSO did not indicate whether a crime was suspected in Cheyenne's death.
You can e-mail Carolyn Quinn at email@example.com.
-- North Port Editor Elaine Allen-Emrich contributed to this report.
By CAROLYN QUINN
Arrest made in 4 year old girl's death
CHARLOTTE COUNTY: The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office has charged 25 year old Holli Lyn Baty in the death of 4 year old Cheyenne Renee Eairheart who died on December 20th.
Baty has been charged with murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse.
During the investigation into Cheyenne's death, Cheyenne's father Wesley Eairheart said his daughter was fine when he put her to bed the night before her death. When he went to work, he said his girlfriend, Holli Baty, called and said she was going to "whoop" Cheyenne for wetting the bed the previous night.
Eairheart said Baty called him back a few minutes later and said Cheyenne wasn't breathing.
When Eairheart arrived home, he saw his daughter being taken away by EMS. She was later pronounced dead at Peace River Hospital.
According to the Medical Examiner, Cheyenne had a fractured skull and several injuries to the brain. He said there were two major traumas to her head. The autopsy report shows Cheyenne had hemorrhaging in her eyes, bruises on her leg, arm, neck and a mark on her chin.
Probable cause for Baty was based on:
- Medical reports of the injuries.
- Previous incidents of admitted aggravated child abuse by Holli.
- Interviews conducted of family members of both Wesley Eairheart and Holli Baty showing how Holli hated Cheyenne.
- Cheyenne was not sick, injured or acting abnormally the morning of her death, as supported by Holli.
- An admission by Holli of her anger that morning with Cheyenne wetting her bed and how she "whooped" her just before her death.
- The fact that Holli was the only person with Cheyenne at the time that injuries occurred, which caused Cheyenne's death. This was supported by Holli's own admissions to being alone with her.
Baty is in the Charlotte County Jail.
Sherlyn Polonia 2-year-old
Died January 2006
This craziness goes beyond what child welfare can do - how can it end? Or even just get a little bit better?
2 Year Old's Death: From Eating Cocaine?
The two year old Bronx child, Sherlyn Polonia, who died of a heart attack may have swallowed cocaine she found in her room because she thought it was candy. The mother, Johanna Bare, and her boyfriend, Johnny Carvajal, were arrested for drug possession, child endangerment, and reckless endangerment - and police say that Carvajal prepared cocaine in the baby's room. Gothamist doesn't know how much of these tragic stories we can take. Newsday reports that Bare thought that Sherlyn simply had a fever, but later she was vomiting white fluid and that's when EMT was summoned; after the child died, doctors were alarmed by tests that showed she had opiates in her system and then contacted the NYPD. This craziness goes beyond what child welfare can do - how can it end? Or even just get a little bit better?
The grandmother, Maria Almonte, is blaming Carvajal for the tragedy. The Post says that Sherlyn is also the niece of former NY Yankee Luis Polonia.
Timothy O'Clair 12-year-old
Since 12 year old Timothy O'Clair committed suicide in Schenectady, NY in 2001 there has been an effort to get the New York State legislature to pass a law that would require health insurance companies to provide "parity" for mental health services the same as physical health benefits. Currently co-pays and coverage is significantly higher for mental health benefits when it is available at all.
Just as the New York state legislature was closing its business for this session both houses of the legislature, the Assembly and the Senate, came to agreement on the law. A celebration would be premature, but an end-of-session agreement between the state Senate and Assembly has brought New York an important step closer to requiring that mental illness get the same insurance protection afforded physical illnesses. There are still some hurtles which need to be overcome but this is the farthest that this legislation has ever got. Here is what was printed on June 27, 2006 in the Journal News which is a newspaper which serves Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties.
For more than four years, advocates have pushed for passage of Timothy's Law, insurance-parity legislation named for 12-year-old Timothy O'Clair, a Schenectady boy who committed suicide in 2001 after his parents were forced to give up custody so he could qualify for state-paid mental-health treatment. The family's insurance coverage did not cover his needs.
The boy's father, Tom O'Clair, heralded the agreement reached late Friday by the two houses of the state Legislature. The legislation requires health-insurance policies to provide at least 30 inpatient and 20 outpatient visits for all mental-health treatment, lowering co-pays that can now be excessive for mental-health treatment. The bill lists specific adult and childhood disorders that would receive unlimited benefits.
As the article points out, it is not time for cheering yet.
The reasons why it is not yet time for outright cheering
1. Neither house has actually voted on the legislation, the agreement coming late Friday as the Legislature was adjourning. But Assembly and Senate leaders ? including Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, chairman of the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee ? pledge passsage when legislators return to Albany.
2. The bill will require the signature of Gov. George Pataki, who has not yet reacted to the agreement.
3. The legislation directs the state Insurance Department "to develop a methodology" to cover small-businesses' costs. That means legislators didn't figure out how to pay for it.
4. And, most disappointing for the advocates, the legislation does not cover addictions.
Irvin J. Harris 11-year-old
Died July 2006
Weeks after Irvin's death, the chief of detectives said he wished his department had done more to protect the child.
Slain boy's mother avoids prison
Woman pleads guilty to knowingly letting convicted sex offender care for her child
Shanda R. Harris, the mother of an 11-year-old boy who police say was killed by a convicted sex offender, pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court Thursday to knowingly allowing the man to baby-sit her son.
Harris, as part of an agreement reached with prosecutors, received an eight-year suspended sentence on charges of reckless endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The deal spares Harris prison time beyond what she served from Oct. 5, when she was arrested, until she posted bail March 26.
Melvin Lorenzo Jones Jr., 53, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Harris' son Irvin in July 2006. Jones, a convicted sex offender who had been ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children, had repeatedly watched Harris' children, including Irvin.
Irvin disappeared one afternoon as he headed to the Belair Food Market in Northeast Baltimore to buy a snowball. His body was found two days later across the street from the Clifton Park Golf Course, in the woods behind a church a block from the family's home at that time on Lawnview Avenue.
Harris, 42, a recovering heroin addict, learned from an employee at her drug treatment program that Jones was a convicted sex offender about a year before Irvin's death.
She still let Jones play an important role in the boy's life, including allowing Jones to volunteer at Collington Square Elementary School, where Irvin was a fourth-grader.
Jones was eventually banned from the school after the principal found out he was a sex offender.
Prosecutors said they proposed a plea deal that spared Harris from jail because she agreed to participate in an extensive parenting and substance abuse program at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Client Services Division of the Office of the Public Defender recommended treatment that will require Harris to attend drug rehabilitation classes five times a week for three months and receive monthly psychiatric evaluations.
"Our focus from the start was what could be done to protect the surviving children," said Julie Drake, an assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case. "I've never seen a case where anybody became a better parent after they have spent two, three years in jail."
Circuit Judge John M. Glynn called the case troubling but said the treatment plan is best for all parties. "In terms of long-term well-being, this is the best hope that there is," he said. "I'm not an optimist, but this is the best chance anyone has."
Harris declined to comment in court.
The case highlighted a series of breakdowns. A number of caretakers, relatives and friends knew that Jones was a registered child sex offender who had befriended Irvin, but they repeatedly failed to take steps that could have taken Jones off the streets or away from the child.
Jones befriended the Harris family in fall 2002, shortly after he was released from prison. Harris had been dating Jones' brother.
About three weeks before Irvin was stabbed, city police said, they suspected that Jones might have choked the boy at the Inner Harbor and threatened to kill him but they did not follow up on their investigation, and no charges were pursued.
Weeks after Irvin's death, the chief of detectives said he wished his department had done more to protect the child. A detective was assigned to the Inner Harbor case but made only one call, to a cell phone number Harris gave police the day of the incident.
The number did not work.
"We wish everybody, not just us, we wish everybody had done more," Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who was then chief of detectives, told The Sun in a 2006 interview. Bealefeld is now the acting police commissioner.
Jones is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 15 on the murder charge. He pleaded guilty in 1990 to sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl, and in 2002 Jones admitted having sexual contact with a teenage boy.
Jones has not been charged with molesting Irvin. Court testimony Thursday revealed that Jones once sent Irvin a text message that said, "I love you." One of Harris' other children told police that he had seen Jones in bed with Irvin, according to court testimony.
Harris' trial was initially scheduled for February but was postponed for an evaluation on her mental and physical well-being.
Harris has not had contact with her three underage children since October, court officials said.
The juveniles are in the custody of relatives, said Harris' attorney, James L. Scott. Drake said the Department of Social Services will decide whether Harris will be granted custody of her children.
9:02 PM EDT, September 6, 2007
Sherry Charlie 19-month-old
Died September 2002
Troubled child protection system needs stability
A pathologist has told an inquest in Port Alberni that 19-month-old Sherry Charlie was the victim of battered-child syndrome, and had been beaten many times in her short life.
The toddler was beaten to death by her great uncle Ryan George in September 2002, three weeks after she and her brother were placed in his home by USMA - an aboriginal child-welfare agency. George had a violent criminal record. Less than a month after she moved in, Sherry was killed by George. He told authorities that Sherrry's brother had pushed her down the stairs.
Pathologist Dr. Dan Straathof testified on Monday that Sherry had 11 broken ribs, and severe bruises in various stages of healing - and that she died from three blows to the head.
His findings support the suspicions of others who treated her on the day of her death that the little girl's injuries didn't fit her uncle's story. His testimony was hard on the family, with some of them staying out of the courthouse to avoid hearing Straathof's testimony. "It's just the beginning. The worst is still to come," said her grandfather Harvey Charlie. Paramedic David Urquhart told the inquest that Sherry's body was already cold when he arrived, suggesting the 911 call was made too late and that she had not been breathing for some time. The pediatric physician at the Port Alberni hospital says he also had suspicions. Dr. Christopher McCollister told the inquest that the explanation of a fall down stairs "didn't ring true."
But neither reported their suspicions to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
It took four months for a police investigation, despite the pathologist's finding that Sherry was a battered child. And during that time, the family lawyer says B.C's Children's Ministry left Sherry's brother in the home of a killer.
Ryan George was convicted of manslaughter two years later and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He is scheduled to testify on Thursday.
The litle girl's death has been the subject of numerous government reviews. And the opposition NDP says the Charlie case shows the Campbell government was negligent in trying to save money at the expense of child protection.
Died July 2, 2005
She was just rolling the window up and down...
The report found that social services workers in Denver acted properly but noted that an earlier report by a hospital social worker of injuries to the toddler did not "spell out clearly the hospital's level of concern regarding the injuries."
It said the department should have followed up on the hospital report.
32 years for mom in death of girl, 2
Woman, 21, beat toddler for playing with car window
Gloria Medina waved a small red and white dress in a Denver courtroom. Her 2-year-old niece, Zoey Espinoza, picked it out herself from a store just days before her mother beat her to death because she wouldn't stop playing with the electric car window.
On Friday, a Denver judge sentenced Tiffany Moreno, 21, to 32 years in prison for killing a little girl described by Medina as "full of joy and laughter."
Moreno pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death. District Court Judge Martin Egelhoff had the discretion to sentence Moreno between four to 32 years in prison.
"It's just tragic. No one wins, but the sentence was right," prosecutor Kerri Lombardi said later.
On July 2, 2005, Zoey was sitting next to her younger sister in the back seat of a car.
She was rolling the window up and down, and Moreno couldn't get her to stop, Lombardi told the court.
Moreno unbuckled her daughter from the car seat, shook her, spanked her, pulled her leg and put her back in the seat.
Moreno slapped the toddler's face, sending the girl's head crashing to the side of the car, according to authorities. Moreno later told police she beat Zoey for about 10 minutes.
"I just lost it," Moreno told authorities.
Before the sentencing, Moreno's mother asked Egelhoff for compassion for her daughter. She said Moreno was a troubled youngster who became a mother at an early age.
Her daughter, she said, was a good student who attended Catholic school and played sports. In her early teens, she met a boyfriend who physically and emotionally abused her. Others in the courtroom, including Moreno's pastor, told a story of a woman who was starting to turn her life around. Moreno was one class away from getting her GED and had started attending Bible studies.
But when prosecutor Lombardi described the injuries Zoey suffered, several people had to muffle their cries. Others left the courtroom.
Zoey's father, Justice Espinoza, sat in the jury box in shackles, accused of an unrelated offense. He rocked back and forth, trying to control his weeping.
He also asked the judge to give Moreno the maximum penalty.
Cindy Mendez, 49, the paternal grandmother, who had legal custody of Zoey at the time of her death, agreed with the sentence.
"Thirty-two years. Yes, that is justice."
By Rosa Ramirez, Rocky Mountain News
October 7, 2006
Died July 8, 2006
Law keeps abuse out of public eye -The state of Texas doesn't want you to know about Ruben Reyna.
You should not know he was beaten to death with blows to the head or who is suspected of killing him.
You should not know that Child Protective Services had investigated his family on two earlier allegations of abuse involving Ruben.
You should not know if Ruben lived or died next door to you.
You should not even know the boy's name. State law says so. That information is confidential.
One CPS official says the law is necessary. "It's an important law, not meant to protect the reputation of our agency, rather to protect the citizens of Texas," said Sherry Gomez, CPS San Antonio region director. But critics say the lack of transparency prevents the sort of public scrutiny that has helped bring about meaningful reform elsewhere.
"The way you protect children's rights is by exposing the system to scrutiny so it can be made better, said Richard Wexler, executive director for the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in Virginia. "The child is dead, so there is no issue of invasion of privacy. There won't be real accountability until the system is completely open to scrutiny so that we can see all the mistakes they make and when they get it right or when a tragedy is not their fault."
In 23 other states and the District of Columbia, child abuse and neglect cases are considerably more open to the public, as are the workings of the system charged with protecting kids.
Tiffany Ellis, chief of staff of the Office of the Child Advocate in New Jersey, said her office reviews all child abuse and neglect deaths to provide guidance to child welfare workers. She said the transparency in child death cases has helped.
"It has raised awareness and recognition of the prevalence of abuse and neglect," Ellis said. "Putting reports out helps people realize that it's everyone's responsibility to prevent child abuse and neglect. Bureaucracies run like molasses. It takes a lot of pushing from a lot of different angles to effect change."
In New Jersey, the child's name, where he or she died, and the child protection agency's involvement with the victim and family are publicly disclosed.
Why the difference? Each state comes up with its own rules to address a 1996 federal law requiring confidentiality of child abuse and neglect records. The law also requires states to release details in child abuse and neglect fatalities and near fatalities. But it doesn't specify which details.
New Jersey began disclosing details about child abuse and neglect in 1997.
"What we require is that the state has provisions that expose finding of cases to the public," said Wade Horne, the assistant secretary for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Neither the law nor our policy requires the state to release the entire record, but we don't prohibit it."
In Texas, however, all you're allowed to know about Ruben Reyna is when he was born, when he died and that he's the 11th of 14 Bexar County children who died of abuse or neglect last fiscal year.
Vicki Ernst, Bexar County Child Fatality Review Team co-chairwoman who was a CPS caseworker and supervisor for 10 years in San Antonio and in Virginia, said if CPS could release more information, it could be to the agency's benefit.
"(CPS officials) have no choice, it is the law, but at times it hurts them because they can't communicate what they've done to address a specific case," Ernst said.
Because of the secrecy in Texas' child-welfare system, it took the San Antonio Express-News 10 months to uncover and report Ruben's story and the stories of the 13 other children who died last fiscal year. A step-by-step recounting of the process by which we brought you their stories, many of them previously untold, shows how difficult obtaining even the simplest information can be.
The newspaper started out by filing an open-records request for all child death records from the year we chose to examine. CPS, citing the law, denied the request.
The paper then filed a request with the Bexar County Child Fatality Review Team, the only other entity that collects information. The agency returned six reports ? with names and identifying information crossed out. Details in the reports are haphazard or generic, such as whether the victim was a boy or girl or what kind of weapon, including fists, was used to kill the child.
The Express-News appealed to scores of people who had access to the information: CPS sources, law enforcement authorities, attorneys, court staff, lawmakers, county and city employees, hospital medical staff, funeral homes, medical examiners and others.
Several of the sources provided the reports.
Child Protective Services agreed to confirm the names after the newspaper learned them.
CPS provided few other details, but, with the names of the children, the Express-News was able to request police and autopsy reports that revealed information about their deaths.
Interviews with family members filled in the gaps, though sometimes relatives too had little information to share. Most of the children hadn't lived long enough to have much of a life story to tell or even to have been in many photographs.
Ruben's family said it had no photos of the baby, who was 6 months old and weighed less than 21 pounds when he died of blunt force trauma to his head.
The only image by which to remember Ruben is a photo of his grave, which was paid for by the county's pauper funeral program.
Born: Dec. 18, 2005
On July 6, 2006, Ruben's parents, Cindy and Ruben Reyna, took him to Wilford Hall Medical Center, telling doctors he had fallen out of bed onto a concrete floor.
The bed, they told investigators, was his mother's.
It was 18 inches high.
Medical examiners weren't convinced. They ruled Ruben's death a homicide. He died as a result of blunt force head trauma, according to their report, which cites acute and chronic subdural hematomas, or pools of blood on the brain ? an especially deadly head injury that's "inconsistent with injuries that would occur from a fall from a bed and indicate nonaccidental head trauma."
The 6-month-old baby was found to have had three such instances of bleeding in the brain, each at a different stage of healing.
Police are investigating but have made no arrests. The Reynas' old rental house is deserted. Neighbors say they think the couple has moved. Fabian Ramirez, Cindy Reyna's former common-law husband, believes the couple went to Mexico. Reyna was an undocumented immigrant from Nuevo Laredo, Ramirez said.
For about a year before Ruben's death, Ramirez said, the Reynas and Ruben lived with him and his four children from his 15-year marriage with Cindy Reyna.
"They fought all the time like wild people over stupid little things," Ramirez said. "They would hit each other."
CPS knew the Reynas. Twice the agency had investigated treatment of other children in the family.
The first investigation had been closed. The second was ongoing when Ruben died.
Ruben was sick days before he died, Ramirez said. He was vomiting. His parents took him to the hospital.
After Ruben died, Ramirez said, "I told (Cindy Reyna) not to go, to fight it because it was accidental, but she took off," he said.
Guillermo Puente, owner of Puente and Sons Funeral home, said the couple told him last summer they couldn't afford Ruben's funeral.
They went door to door and to a church begging for cash, Puente said, though they knew they qualified for a pauper's burial, paid for by the county.
"One person called and said they had given the couple $400. I guess they were using it to make the great escape," Puente said.
"It's sad, and it makes me angry, too."
Kenia Valencia 18-month-old
Died December 18, 2006
An error of judgment, a child is lost
Andrea Moore said "It's clear Florida children are not being protected in our child protection system,"
It took caseworkers four months to report her missing to law enforcement after she disappeared in September.
At the time of Kenia's death, she and her sister were under protective supervision of the Safe Children
Woman pleads no contest to child neglect
By NATALIE NEYSA ALUND
BRADENTON --A woman, who is awaiting drug and murder charges in the death of her toddler, was sentenced to 300 days in jail in connection with an unrelated neglect case involving the child.
Maribel Chavez, 20, pleaded no contest Monday to a child neglect charge stemming from an April 2006 incident in which her 18-month-old daughter, Kenia Valencia, suffered leg burns, facial bruising and a bone fracture.
The neglect, according to a probable cause affidavit, occurred about eight months before Kenia's Dec. 18, 2006, death at Chavez's mobile home in the Wayside Glen mobile home park on 14th Street West.
Chavez told investigators that the injuries were accidental and occurred after she placed Kenia in a sink and left her unattended.
Doctors say the second- and third-degree burns to her left ankle and foot were non-accidental - a "submersion burn into a hot liquid while wearing" a shoe or sock. The bruises on her face were typical of an inflicted injury from an object such as a belt, switch or cord.
"She was not charged with abuse, but charged with neglect for failing to seek medical treatment or failure to protect the child from abuse," prosecutor Cynthia Evers said.
Chavez had been scheduled for trial on the neglect charge this week. Had she gone to trial and been convicted of the felony, she could have faced up to five years in prison.
Chavez has already spent 230 days in the Manatee County jail, a court official said. She is currently being held without bond on the murder charge.
Chavez told investigators she was sleeping Dec. 18, 2006, while her two daughters played on an oven in her mobile home. Chavez said she awoke to find Kenia pinned under an overturned stove.
The child died from a severe head injury.
Prosecutors say Chavez failed to protect and properly supervise Kenia because the child's death occurred while Chavez was using illegal drugs. She was charged with third-degree murder, possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana.
At the time of Kenia's death, she and her sister were under protective supervision of the Safe Children
Coalition, an agency under contract with the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to provide foster care services.
The Safe Children Coalition, which is operated by the Sarasota YMCA, in turn subcontracts with Manatee Glens to provide foster care in Manatee County.
Kenia and her sister were taken from Chavez in April 2006, and returned to her about a month before Kenia died. A state investigation found those contractors did not follow proper procedures in Kenia's case.
An error of judgment, a child is lost
Officials acknowledge they sent Kenia Valencia back to her abusive home too soon.
By MELANIE AVE
Published July 13, 2007
BRADENTON - It took 18-month-old Kenia Valencia about an hour to suffocate under the weight of a toppled stove while her drugged out mother slept in another room.
Investigators found a "caked oily residue" under the girl's fingernails, indicating her struggle to escape, and a bag of cocaine next to the stove.
If Maribel Chavez, 19, had awakened sooner, when the stove went down with a bang that likely shook the family's mobile home, the girl likely would have survived, a medical examiner concluded. Manatee state prosecutors charged Chavez with manslaughter last week.
The toddler's Dec. 18 death raises a troubling question for Florida's child welfare system: Why was Kenia even with her mother that day?
One month before her death, Kenia had been reunited with her mother through the state's foster care system despite a neglect charge Chavez faced stemming from burns and bruises found on Kenia.
In hindsight, officials with the three child welfare agencies most responsible for Kenia's safety all agree that she shouldn't have been returned to her mother so soon.
"Am I disappointed? Heck yeah," said Florida Department of Children and Families regional director Nick Cox. "A child has died. A child has died when a reunification should not have occurred."
DCF has called the girl's death a "tragic accident" and noted "serious systemic issues" in how her case was handled by private contractors, the Sarasota Family YMCA and Manatee Glens, according to records released this week at the request of the St. Petersburg Times.
Upset about the girl's death, Manatee Glens chief executive officer Mary Ruiz said, "I'm never going to be the same."
YMCA executive vice president Lee Johnson said his agency has already tightened procedures and created a better system of checks and balances for reuniting families.
"We've changed a lot. We're going to change more," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to not let it happen again."
Cox said he is pleased the YMCA is addressing mistakes but is disappointed its corrective plan is not more detailed.
Cox has asked the DCF inspector general to review Kenia's death.
The case marks the second time in as many months that the YMCA's ability to protect children is being reviewed.
* * *
The YMCA has a contract with DCF to oversee foster services in five counties, including Pinellas and Manatee County where Kenia lived.
The agency also was responsible for supervising Courtney Clark, a 2-year-old former Pinellas County foster child who disappeared for nine months with her mother.
Courtney was found safe in Wisconsin in June, but the hunt to find her - which led to a gruesome murder investigation - has highlighted numerous cracks in the state's public-private child welfare system.
Courtney's case also pinpointed problems with a rushed family reunification, which Cox said his office will be monitoring closely.
Currently, caseworkers must try to reunite families within a year, when possible.
On Thursday, DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth announced the creation of a 13-person task force to scrutinize problems Courtney's case revealed.
* * *
Kenia and her 2-year-old sister were put into foster care in April 2006 after her mother sat Kenia in a sink with hot running water and left the room, according to a criminal affidavit. Kenia fell from the sink after her mother went to tend to another child. Kenia suffered bruises and second-degree burns.
When Chavez took her to the hospital the next day, workers also discovered Kenia had a fractured left elbow, according to records assembled as part of DCF's May 21 review of Kenia's death.
In June 2006, the two children were moved from a foster home to an aunt's home.
The girl's father, Sergio Valencia, who was in and out of the picture, expressed a concern that Chavez was using drugs and having unsupervised visits, the records stated.
In November, the aunt told a caseworker she was overwhelmed and considering returning the children to foster care.
When the caseworker passed along the information, a program director told her to start setting up unsupervised visits between the children and Chavez "ASAP," according to DCF's death review.
The YMCA's Johnson said workers pushed for the visits as a way to keep the siblings together as they would have been separated in foster care.
The court returned the children to Chavez Nov. 21.
DCF said the case went from Chavez having "supervised visits, to unsupervised visits, to four overnight visits and finally full reunification within a period of only 15 days" without workers addressing the mother's alleged substance abuse issues or her ability to properly care for them.
Caseworkers also didn't alert prosecutors about the children's return home despite the pending neglect charge.
After her return home, Kenia's caseworker never saw her again. Her case file showed two to four failed attempts to visit the family. DCF policy requires weekly visits since the children were under age 6.
* * *
The day Kenia died Chavez told investigators she took her children to McDonald's for breakfast about 7 a.m. When they returned, she put them to sleep on living room couches and fell asleep herself.
Investigators believe the stove fell when Kenia and her sibling were playing on it with its door open. Chavez said she never heard the stove fall.
Instead, she got up about 1 p.m. when her older child came in her room to ask for a drink.
Chavez, who had cocaine and marijuana in her system that day, according to a criminal affidavit, is held without bail in the Manatee County Jail on manslaughter and drug charges.
"We're here for child safety," DCF's Cox said. "Obviously this is one of the last things you want to see happen."
Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Melanie Ave can be reached at 727 893-8813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A plan for change
The YMCA proposed changes in the wake of Kenia Valencia's Dec. 18 death. They include:
-A review of family reunification cases assigned to Manatee Glens caseworkers.
-Improved training to help caseworkers better assess family safety and family reunification.
-Improved communication between agencies, DCF, law enforcement and parenting class providers.
-A requirement that law enforcement be notified when a family cannot be located after reunification following two failed attempts to visit.
Source: Sarasota Family YMCA
State to share details in toddler death case
By NATALIE NEYSA ALUND
Prosecutors were ordered Friday to give a defense lawyer details about the murder and drug case against a woman arrested after a stove crushed her 18-month-old toddler.
Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan gave the state 10 days to turn over the information, including the date, time and specific circumstances surrounding the death of Kenia Valencia, the daughter of 20-year-old Maribel Chavez.
Prosecutors say the Dec. 18, 2006, death occurred while Chavez was committing another felony - using drugs.
The mother failed to protect and properly supervise Kenia, Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Evers said Friday.
"We need to know what the child neglect is about," Chavez's public defender, Matt Gish, told the judge as his client, dressed in a jail uniform, sat handcuffed during the brief hearing at the Manatee County Courthouse.
Chavez told investigators she was sleeping Dec. 18 while her two daughters played on an oven in her mobile home in the Wayside Glen Community on 14th Street West. Chavez said she woke to find Kenia pinned under an overturned stove.
The child died half an hour later from a severe head injury. Authorities said evidence at the scene indicated Kenia and her sister were jumping on the oven's open door when it overturned.
Chavez is charged with third-degree murder, possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana. If convicted of all three charges she faces up to 21 years in prison, Evers said.
In a separate criminal case, Chavez is also charged with child neglect stemming from an October 2006 arrest in which Kenia suffered leg burns.
Chavez, held in the Manatee County jail since January, is scheduled for trial for that charge on Sept. 10.
Represented by Connie Mederos-Jacobs for that case, Chavez faces five years in prison if convicted of that charge.
If Chavez goes to trial on the murder charge, it won't happen until at least next year, Gish said Friday. At the time of Kenia's death, she and her sister were under protective supervision of the Safe Children
Coalition, an agency under contract with the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to provide foster care services.
The Safe Children Coalition, which is operated by the Sarasota YMCA, in turn subcontracts with Manatee Glens to provide foster care in Manatee County.
Kenia and her sister were taken from Chavez in April 2006, and returned to her about a month before Kenia died. A state investigation found those contractors did not follow proper procedures in Kenia's case.
YMCA to improve on foster-care followup
The Sarasota Family YMCA has a history of failing to make sure all of the foster children in its care are safe, consistently ranking among the worst in Florida for doing monthly checks, state records show.
Month after month for most of the past two years, the YMCA missed dozens of required home visits in the five counties, including Sarasota and Manatee, where it oversees foster care for the state.
Of 22 private agencies that run such programs statewide, the YMCA has typically ranked 17th or worse in the percentage of inspections carried out.
Typically, the YMCA performs 97 percent or more of its home visits. But that can still mean 100 children or more go unchecked each month.
The YMCA's track record was so bad that state officials threatened to cut its state funding at least twice in late 2006.
State officials sent a warning letter in November demanding "significant and immediate improvement" and threatening punitive action, state records show. In October, another state official verbally threatened to cut off state funding.
The YMCA's record improved sharply a short time after the warnings, after at least 18 months of consistently ranking among the state's worst.
Since November, at least one of the YMCA's two regions has been rated among the top performers in the state each month.
YMCA Executive Vice President Lee Johnson recalled the October threat to cut funds but not who made it, adding: "I think it was half jesting." But state officials, contacted last week, said the warning was serious.
"I had a conversation with Lee Johnson and said the children need to be seen," said Jan Gregory, deputy regional director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, which oversees the YMCA contract. "If you don't see children on a regular basis, it's a risk.
"They were the only ones in the red in the state for that measure. To me that is one of the easiest performance measures to meet. There are other performance measures that are more difficult. But seeing the kids are OK -- every 30 days -- should not be in the red."
The YMCA handles foster care in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
Its safety performance, including checks of children under its watch, has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after a Manatee County girl died because of neglect and a former Pinellas County girl went missing for nine months.
Eighteen-month-old Kenia Valencia of Bradenton suffocated beneath a fallen stove while authorities say her mother was passed out from drugs. Her mother, Maribel Chavez, had been reunited with her daughters by the YMCA just a few weeks earlier, despite a pending criminal child neglect charge against her. A YMCA contractor tried to visit Kenia and her sister at their home four times in the month before she died but never succeeded in checking on her, reports say.
Courtney Clark, a 2-year-old former Pinellas County girl, disappeared for nine months. In the months after her disappearance, state officials sent a series of e-mails to the YMCA questioning why she had not been seen by caseworkers or reported missing. It took caseworkers four months to report her missing to law enforcement after she disappeared in September.
She was recovered by police in Wisconsin in June.
In written responses to state officials and in internal memos, the YMCA has admitted problems in checking on children. It started looking for a new company to help handle its foster care cases in March, specifically citing its "poor performance rating" by the state.
But YMCA President and CEO Carl Weinrich said last week that the YMCA's record on monitoring children has been "overall good."
Weinrich denied that threats from the state had any connection to the YMCA's push to see more children.
"It didn't have anything to do with that," Weinrich said. "We don't need anyone kicking us in the butt ... We were very self-motivated."
The YMCA, which took over foster care in 1997 under a state pilot program, is responsible for about 5,300 children, including about 1,100 in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, and 4,200 in Pasco and Pinellas counties, officials said.
Having private agencies run state child protection programs was intended to reduce costs and bring more community control to such services.
But the YMCA is one of the most expensive, and by some measures one of the worst performing of private contractors in the state.
In the most recent year-end ranking, the YMCA spent the most money per child of 22 private child protection groups around the state, but had one of the worst records for making required monthly checks to see that children are safe, state records show.
In the six months ending December 2006, the YMCA's separate north and south divisions ranked 20th and 22nd out of 22 private contractors around the state.
In that same period, the YMCA's overall ranking for eight performance measures used by the state was 17th and 21st out of 22 contractors.
The eight measures that "community-based care" agencies are rated on include monthly inspections, the percentage of foster children reported missing and how quickly foster children taken from their parents are adopted or reunited with their birth parent.
State officials say the YMCA is now doing much better. It saw 100 percent of monitored children in two recent months.
Checking on children each month is a basic, critical responsibility for every state contractor, Gregory said.
"If you're seeing the child every month, you know the child is safe," she said. "You see them in their home and make sure there's no abuse, no bruises. You can see the family dynamics."
Since at least October, YMCA administrators have been putting pressure on caseworkers and subcontractors to improve visitation numbers.
YMCA officials sent e-mails to employees and contractors on Oct. 19, saying: "Seeing children monthly has to be the highest priority! ... We are experiencing issues in performance both north and south."
An e-mail the same day included a warning from Johnson that state money could be cut unless things improved. "We have to get our children seen each month or the region will carve money out of our contract to see them," Johnson's e-mail warned.
An Oct. 19 e-mail from YMCA senior vice president Christy Kane to other YMCA officials, including Weinrich, vowed that every child not documented in state computers by Oct. 25 would be "seen by YMCA staff prior to the end of the month."
But Clark was missing for another eight months. She was found in June at a grisly crime scene 1,000 miles away in Wisconsin, where Courtney's mother is now jailed on murder charges.
State records show that months before Courtney disappeared, there had been a drop in required monthly checks on children by the YMCA.
In a Nov. 3, 2006, letter, DCF officials called that a major risk to children, noting the YMCA was "significantly below target" for the last fiscal year. Taking a sterner tack, DCF officials threatened to cut the YMCA's state funding -- or worse.
"Not seeing 100 percent of children on a monthly basis is a critical safety concern," the letter from then-regional DCF executive director Lynn Richard Jr. warned.
"Significant and immediate improvement in these critical performance measures is essential ... Should acceptable improvements not be demonstrated by the end of the second quarter, the department will be required to exercise all other options available under contract."
Richard has since retired, but Gregory, his longtime deputy, said the "other options" included cutting state funds and could have eventually included canceling the YMCA contract.
The Nov. 3 letter came about six weeks before 18-month-old Kenia Valencia of Bradenton died.
In the three weeks before Kenia's death, a YMCA contractor tried to visit Kenia and her sister at their home four times, but never succeeded in checking on her, reports say.
Weinrich conceded the YMCA had past problems with the checks.
But Weinrich and Johnson both blamed subcontractors hired by the YMCA.
"They've got to manage that process," Weinrich said.
"For whatever reason it was not a priority," Johnson said. Asked why, Johnson said, "I do not know."
That is why the YMCA is replacing some subcontractors, Weinrich said. He said it was not possible to replace them a year ago.
Contractors in Pasco and Pinellas counties faced other problems checking on children because they got less money from the state and had large numbers of cases that made the task overwhelming, Weinrich said.
The YMCA has had a number of months when it checked 97 or 98 percent of children in its care. Weinrich said the YMCA's record was not bad compared to districts that checked 100 percent of children in their care.
"So we're two and a half percent off," Weinrich said. "It's not like there's a huge spread."
A few percentage points can mean more than 100 at-risk children not seen in a month.
"Do we strive for 100 percent in home visits? Yes." Weinrich said. "We weren't hitting it for a while and we weren't happy for a while."
Weinrich also suggested that state statistics can be misleading. He said state computers make it hard to enter all children seen.
"If you enter the date wrong, it's not counted," he said. "A lot of the kids who were not seen, it was more of a technical thing. If a kid runs away at the end of a month, it keeps you from hitting 100 percent."
State officials say other state contractors face the same issues but the YMCA nonetheless ranked at the bottom.
"They were the only ones in the state in the red so that means all the other CBCs (community based care groups) in the state are able to enter it," Gregory said, "And the YMCA obviously found out how to do it, because they're doing it now."
Last modified: July 29. 2007 12:00AM
Rodney Anderson 16-year-old
Died September 16,2007
Man arrested in stabbing deaths of 3
Suspect accused of killing his mother and her 2 foster sons
A man was arrested Sunday in connection with the stabbing deaths of his 60-year-old mother and her two foster sons at their home on the Northeastside.
Sean V. Wright, 35, faces three preliminary charges of murder, said Lt. Jeff Duhamell, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Police found the bodies of Flossie Wright and her two foster sons, Demonte Norton, 10, and Rodney Anderson, 16, just after 1 a.m. Sunday at two houses in the 4500 block of North Shady Lane, near the intersection of Arlington Avenue and 46th Street.
Police received a call early Sunday from a resident of that block of North Shady Lane who said someone was on the porch and knocking for help, but the caller was afraid to open the door. When police arrived, they found Anderson lying naked and covered in blood on the porch, according to a police report.
The teen had several stab wounds, so police began administering first aid while they waited for an emergency medical team to arrive.
A police report says the officer asked Anderson who had stabbed him.
"He said (Sean)," the report reads. "(The officer) then asked him who (Sean) was and he said 'uncle.' "
Duhamell said the teenager might be a distant relative of the Wright family.
Anderson was transported to Wishard Memorial Hospital, where he died about 3 a.m.
On Shady Lane, police followed a blood trail from the house where the teen had collapsed across the street and around to the back of the home where Flossie Wright lived. Police forced their way into the house, where they found the bodies of Wright and the 10-year-old.
Both were pronounced dead when medical personnel arrived at the scene, according to a written report.
Residents of the quiet neighborhood where the stabbings took place said they didn't know anything had occurred until they saw flashing lights outside of their windows early Sunday.
Late Sunday afternoon, the porch and door where Anderson collapsed were still covered in blood, and residents at one house left a note letting visitors know they weren't hurt.
Don't get upset. We are all OK it was none of us. Call ASAP," the note read in part.
Some neighbors said the residents of that home were close to Flossie Wright and likely were shaken up.
Neighbors described Flossie Wright as a thoughtful woman who kept her yard impeccably neat and went out of her way to help others in the neighborhood.
Carl Barnett, 54, who lives next to Wright, said she often would help his father-in-law to the door if he had problems getting around.
"That was just her nature," Barnett said. "If there was a problem, she'd come to the door."
Wright had lived in the house for a few years, neighbors said. The two foster children and Sean Wright also had been living with her.
Police began looking for Sean Wright in the hours after the slayings.
Duhamell said Wright had asked his minister to meet with him Sunday, and the minister notified police. About 3 p.m., officers went to the 2000 block of South Sloan Avenue, where Wright had asked to meet the minister.
He was found walking around the area and had cuts on his abdomen. The cuts were treated before Wright was taken for questioning. Duhamell said Wright was arrested without incident, but Duhamell would not provide additional details of the arrest or the questioning.
Police also found Flossie Wright's vehicle, which they believe was taken from the crime scene, in the 1700 block of South Sloan Avenue.
Her neighbors said the area generally is quiet.
"Altogether, it's a great neighborhood," said Charles Schisla, 69, who has lived in his home since 1970. "Our kids were raised here, as were lots of generations of children."
The neighbors knew little about Wright's relationship with her son, but some said she talked about him and another son a lot.
Barnett said Sunday's incidents came as a shock to him.
"You wouldn't think anything like that would happen to her," he said. "She was always trying to help somebody."
Call Star reporter Francesca Jarosz at (317) 444-6303.
Venecia Shanelle Audy 3-year-old
Died August 14,2006
Venecia was in and out of foster care her entire life.
Children's Advocate to look into 3-year-old girl's death
Manitoba's Children's Advocate will investigate the death of a three-year-old girl in Bowsman, Man., in August.
RCMP continue to investigate Venecia Shanelle Audy's death on Aug. 14. Her mother, 23-year-old Melissa Blair Audy, was charged with second-degree murder on Saturday in connection to Venecia's death.
Melissa Audy remains in a Dauphin jail until next Monday, when she will appear in court.
Investigators found Venecia inside a home in Bowsman, a small community 19 kilometres north of Swan River. At the time, police were told the girl had fallen down stairs. Venecia was transported by ambulance to the Swan Valley hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
In addition to the RCMP investigation, Children's Advocate Billie Schibler has been asked to look into the case.
Schibler said Monday she's launching the investigation because the family had received services from the province's Child and Family Services Department in the past.
"With any review our office does do, it's always with respect to, you know, were services provided in the best way possible, and in accordance to the standard," Schibler said.
She said she will be looking at how child welfare officials were involved in Venecia Audy's life, what services were provided, and when those services had started and ended, "so that we could be assured that services had been provided as was necessary and that the closing was done at a time where all the matters were attended to," she said.
It is not clear at this time what child welfare services were offered or when they were offered.
Schibler expects to submit her report, with recommendations, to the provincial government by mid-November.
The Children's Advocate is also busy preparing two reports into the workings of the child welfare system, which were ordered after several deaths of children who've been in care.
The most high profile case is that of five-year-old Phoenix Victoria Sinclair, whose mother Samantha Dawn Kematch, 24, was recently denied bail in connection to her first-degree murder charge.
Family members of the girl told CBC News that Venecia Audy was a normal, happy girl who loved playing with her cousins, trying to join in with the older ones at their games.
Grace Audy, a family member, told CBC News on Monday that Venecia had spent most of her life living with her grandmother, only going home for visits.
Venecia and a four-year-old brother had only returned to live with their mother this spring, family members said.
Slain girl, 3, was sexually assaulted: RCMP
More charges laid against common-law husband of girl's mother
A three-year-old girl who was killed in Bowsman, Man., in August was sexually assaulted before she died, according to new evidence the RCMP announced Tuesday.
The evidence surfaced during an autopsy on Venecia Shanelle Audy and led to further charges against 26-year-old Jason Allen Kines.
"We did discover a number of things at autopsy that led us to a sexual assault investigation," Staff Sgt. Steve Saunders said.
"It was as a result of that ongoing investigation and forensic work that resulted in the arrest yesterday of the 26-year-old common-law husband of the [woman] who was originally charged in this death."
Melissa Blair Audy, 23, was charged in September with second-degree murder in relation to Venecia's death. Kines was charged in October of failing to provide the necessities of life for a child.
Kines was charged Monday with aggravated sexual assault and sexual interference. He will appear in court in Swan River on Wednesday to answer to the new charges.
A three-year-old girl who was killed in Bowsman, Man., in August was sexually assaulted before she died, according to new evidence the RCMP announced Tuesday.
The evidence surfaced during an autopsy on Venecia Shanelle Audy and led to further charges against 26-year-old Jason Allen Kines.
"We did discover a number of things at autopsy that led us to a sexual assault investigation," Staff Sgt. Steve Saunders said.
"It was as a result of that ongoing investigation and forensic work that resulted in the arrest yesterday of the 26-year-old common-law husband of the [woman] who was originally charged in this death."
Melissa Blair Audy, 23, was charged in September with second-degree murder in relation to Venecia's death. Kines was charged in October of failing to provide the necessities of life for a child.
Kines was charged Monday with aggravated sexual assault and sexual interference. He will appear in court in Swan River on Wednesday to answer to the new charges.
On Aug. 14, RCMP found Venecia injured in a home in Bowsman, a small community 19 kilometres north of Swan River. She was pronounced dead in hospital.
Initially, investigators were told the girl died in a fall down some stairs.
Brian Thompson 2-year-old
Brian was not properly monitored by social workers
Judge John Guy releases inquest report into death of two-year-old Brian Thompson who died in foster care in 1994 of complications of the flu. Guy found little Brian was not properly monitored by social workers, and said workers carry too many case files.
Died March 9, 2002
Alexis was stabbed to death
Location: Toronto, Ont.
Killed: March 9, 2002. Alexis disappeared during a custodial visit with her father. The toddler was stabbed to death. Her body was found near Claremont, a forested area northeast of Toronto.
Investigation: Soon after the disappearance, her father, Peter Currie, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Alexis Currie, 2. Scarborough. Alexis was stabbed to death during an child access visit with her father. Peter Currie was later charged with first-degree murder, abduction, possession of a weapon, and carrying a concealed weapon. He had recently been convicted of assault against his ex-partner. (March 2002)
Goken Yoneyama 7-year-old
Father of slain Akita boy files complaint on police
AKITA (Kyodo) The father of a boy slain in Akita Prefecture said Thursday he has filed a complaint with the prefectural safety commission alleging that sloppy police work led to the murder.
Katsuhiro Yoneyama, 40, is demanding an apology from the police and is urging the commission to examine the way they investigated the murder of Ayaka Hatakeyama, 9, in April. Hatakeyama was allegedly murdered by her mother, who is also suspected of murdering Yoneyama's 7-year-old son, Goken, the following month.
According to the complaint, filed with the Akita Prefectural Public Safety Commission, Yoneyama said the investigations into the murder of the girl were insufficient, a conclusion drawn from his own research, in which he questioned 242 households.
"Because of improper investigations, my son was also murdered," Yoneyama says in the complaint.
Suzuka Hatakeyama, 33, was arrested in connection with the murder of Yoneyama's son and was later indicted for killing him and her own daughter.
The girl was found dead in a river, and the police concluded her death was accidental.
On Sept. 4, Akita police chief Tomoyuki Kinebuchi told a prefectural assembly panel that the probe into the girl's death "was not necessarily sufficient." He did not apologize to the Yoneyama family and no action has been taken against the police officers responsible for the allegedly improper investigations.
Police investigators concluded after the boy's death that Hatakeyama threw her daughter into the river in the town of Fujisato.
"The prefectural police said it was a difficult case, but in fact it was a simple case," Yoneyama said, adding that the police botched the investigation into the first case.
"It is wrong that the police do not take responsibility . . . although they have admitted making mistakes," he said.
Yoneyama also sent a document to the National Public Safety Commission chairman and the National Police Agency commissioner general, urging them to examine the details of the police investigations of the girl's death.
Died September 16,2007
The Short Life And Hard Times Of Treau Bemis
Before 2-year-old Treau Bemis drowned in a bathtub last week in what prosecutors are calling a "cold-blooded murder," she was learning who - among her many caretakers - were her mommy and daddy.
Bounced from caretaker to caretaker in a family tree with many branches, in her short life the 2-year-old lived variously with her parents, aunt and grandparents as her family dealt with alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other struggles.
The details of the toddler's life are documented in hundreds of pages filed in Norwich Superior Court, New London Regional Probate Court, police departments across the region, the offices of the state Department of Children and Families, the Juvenile Matters Court in Waterford and now, in New London Superior Court, where the details of Craig Betancourt's alleged confession have yet to be revealed.
Prosecutors have charged Betancourt with capital felony murder, a charge that takes into account that the victim was a child.
DCF is now conducting its own investigation into Treau's case, including whether the department was in any way responsible for what happened. A spokesman for DCF said this week that any findings that did not have to be kept confidential would be made public.
The two sides of Treau's family are now fighting among themselves about the circumstances surrounding the child's death.
Treau Jadyn Bemis spent the first year of her life in her parents' rented home on Marla Avenue in Ledyard, just off Route 117.
The neighborhood, speckled with modest, single-story ranch houses, wasn't quiet after her parents, Loretta and Timothy Bemis, moved in.
Neighbors said the couple mostly kept to themselves, but police and ambulances were constantly called to the house.
"I work nights, so when I would leave for work you would see three cop cars in front of their house," a neighbor said. "It was typical, what seemed like a weekly thing. Something was always going on there."
Police records show that officers were called to the Bemis' home 17 times in the last year, for domestic disputes, caller-initiated well-being checks and other concerns. None resulted in an arrest.
"The Ledyard police and resident state trooper are familiar with the residence and its occupants because of the number of calls for service received," said Sgt. John Rich, the town's resident trooper.
One call came in last Dec. 21, when Loretta's aunt in Ohio and sister in Florida called police to report they could hear Loretta screaming in the background whenever Timothy Bemis picked up the phone.
On Feb. 5, Loretta called police to complain that Timothy had been drinking. He was taken to his parents' home.
Police responded again on Feb. 17 when Loretta called to ask for the assistance of an officer. When police arrived, no one was home.
Neighbors say the Bemises have not lived at the house for several months.
Carol Holway, who lives several houses down, said she's been in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. She said it was normally quiet, and seldom was there any police activity.
Holway said her grandchildren were walking their rat terrier one day when the Bemis' Akita left the unfenced yard and attacked the terrier.
"I banged on their door.... All I wanted to know was if their dog had its shots," said Holway. "They never answered the door. I called the dog warden. I was later told that they would make restitution and apologize, but I knew better."
TTHE DEATH OF TREAU BEMIS has aggravated an already tense relationship between the paternal and maternal sides of her family, some of whom had her in their care at various times in the past year.
Betancourt is the longtime fiance of Treau's maternal aunt, Kimberly Bemis. They lived together with their 7-year-old daughter at 164 High Rock Road, Groton, where Treau died.
Members of the Bemis side of the family have publicly supported Craig Betancourt, calling the murder charge against him unfounded and saying that Treau's death was a terrible accident.
They say Treau had vomited on herself and that Betancourt ? who was watching Treau and his own daughter ? put the 2-year-old in a tub to clean her, walked away and fell asleep on the couch after an exhausting day at work.
"Nobody's saying that he didn't mess up," said Eric Bemis, Treau's uncle. "But he had no intentions of ever hurting a child."
Jacqueline and James Bemis Sr., the child's grandparents, said Tuesday they blame DCF for not allowing them to take custody of the child, as they, Kimberly Bemis and Craig Betancourt had wished.
Kimberly's work hours had changed, Treau's grandfather said, and it was growing increasingly difficult for her to care for Treau. Kimberly was working on the night Treau died. The grandparents and Treau's uncles ? James Bemis Jr. and Eric Bemis ? believe that if DCF had granted custody to Treau's grandparents, she would still be alive.
DCF is now questioning whether Treau was really living with her aunt. Timothy Bemis left a message on a DCF social worker's phone Monday, saying that Treau had been living with him and his wife at her grandparents' house for the past month and a half.
"The system failed to help," James Bemis Sr. said. "So who's responsible?"
James Bemis Jr. said Betancourt is a big kid himself who loves children and always had children playing in his backyard.
"Every time the New England Patriots threw a touchdown, he taught her to jump up in the air and yell, 'Touchdown!'," James Bemis Sr. said.
Groton Town police have said Betancourt confessed to murder in "gruesome" detail.
By statute, the charge of murder implies an intention to kill. New London State's Attorney Michael Regan said Friday that usually, in the case of serious crimes, police consult with the state's attorney's office before deciding what charges to bring against a suspect.
Betancourt's capital felony murder charge, which could carry the death penalty, has been vetted through police, prosecutors and a New London Superior Court judge, who found probable cause to hold Betancourt on $3 million bond for the crime.
A formal probable-cause hearing will be scheduled for Betancourt, but he has the right to waive the hearing ? something that is frequently done in a case where there has been a confession.
Andrea Stollar, Treau's maternal grandmother, said Thursday that her side of the family was not yet prepared to talk about the little girl's death.
"Right now to be honest, we're just wanting some time to put her to rest," Stollar said Thursday. "Our focus is burying our granddaughter."
Stollar said she has not received any details on what led to her granddaughter's death.
"We can't even get information on what actually happened," said Stollar.
Stollar also said she would not discuss the troubles her daughter and son-in-law faced or why Treau was living with Kimberly Bemis.
"Everybody has their faults," said Stollar. "Their life was no different. They just had a hurdle to go through. They're human."
But she wanted to make it clear she doesn't agree with the Bemises, except her son-in-law, Timothy.
"We don't care what the Bemis family is saying," said Stollar. "We don't back the Bemis family and don't back Betancourt."
Marsha Pitzen, who is the maternal aunt of the victim, said her family is still reeling over the death of the little girl.
Pitzen, who lives in Zephyrhills, Fla., said that Treau Bemis had beautiful blonde hair and a smile that could light up a room. Her daughter is five months younger and resembles Treau, she said.
Pitzen said that the fact that her sister, Loretta, lost her daughter on her 30th birthday, has made things even worse.
"My sister is not doing very well," Pitzen said last week. "Imagine losing your 2-year-old. You see her, and a couple hours later she is dead."
She said Loretta had stopped drinking when she found out she was pregnant with Treau. She remained sober for more than a year after the birth, Pitzen said.
Loretta was arrested in December for driving under the influence of alcohol and charged with five counts of risk of injury to a minor after police found her driving with a blood-alcohol content that was six times the legal limit and with five children in the car.
"I don't know what drove her back to drinking but because of Treau she fought to get herself sober," said Pitzen.
Treau Bemis' funeral was to be held privately Saturday. At the end of last week, Kimberly Bemis and her daughter were hiding to prevent police from questioning the child.
By Izaskun E. Larrañeta Julie Wernau
State Seeks Custody Of Dead Girl's Cousin
The state is seeking custody of a 7-year-old girl who may be the only witness to the drowning of 2-year-old Treau Bemis other than the man who is now charged with the toddler's murder.
Craig Betancourt was babysitting for his daughter, Cassondra Betancourt-Bemis, 7, and Cassondra's cousin, Treau, when the 2-year-old Treau drowned in the bathtub Sunday. Betancourt and his fiancée, Kimberly Bemis, had temporary custody of Treau.
Betancourt was charged this week with capital felony murder after police said he confessed in "gruesome" detail to murdering the toddler while babysitting her.
According to paperwork left at the Groton home of Kimberly Bemis Wednesday, the state is asking that her daughter, Cassondra, be placed under the care of the state Department of Children and Families, in part because Kimberly Bemis does not believe that Betancourt committed the murder. She and other members of the Bemis family believe the drowning was accidental and that Betancourt's "confession" to police was the result of an hourslong interrogation and Betancourt's suicidal thoughts following Treau's death.
"Her disbelief and minimization creates concern for her judgment and ability to protect and do what is in the best interest of her daughter," the State of Connecticut Superior Court for Juvenile Matters document states.
According to the documents, DCF received a referral Monday morning from Groton Town police Lt. John W. Varone, who stated he believed Cassondra could be living with psychological trauma and in harmful conditions. DCF workers said they were unable to check on the welfare of the child following what police have called a murder, the documents state.
"The department and police have been unable to assess the well-being and safety of the child, as the mother and Cassondra's whereabouts are unknown," the paper states.
Varone could not be reached to comment late Wednesday.
Members of the Bemis family, including Kimberly Bemis and Cassondra, requested a meeting with a Day reporter and photographer late Wednesday night at a local McDonald's, but say they will be hiding Kimberly and the child from the DCF and police questioning.
"Until I can get an attorney for them, they're sitting at a friend's house," said Kimberly's father, James Bemis Sr.
Kimberly Bemis has been summoned to a hearing for the custody of her child and is scheduled to appear Sept. 28, according to the documents. The family said they will not give Cassondra over to DCF workers.
"Am I not allowed to mourn?" said Kimberly Bemis, who has not gone back to her home since Treau's death and has refused to allow her own daughter to be questioned.
At the time of Treau's death, Kimberly Bemis, who is the toddler's paternal aunt, was petitioning the DCF to release Treau from her care, according to DCF documents obtained by The Day Wednesday.
James Bemis and his wife, Jacqueline, who are Treau's paternal grandparents, were seeking guardianship of the 2-year-old while her parents, who were attending counseling for alcohol abuse and domestic violence issues, also sought to regain custody.
According to a DCF family treatment plan dated July 27, the agency was not yet ready to allow Kimberly Bemis to relinquish custody of Treau and had asked that Jacqueline and James Bemis first undergo a court-ordered evaluation before they would be considered for placement.
The agency would not allow Treau to return to her parents, Loretta Stollar-Bemis and Timothy Bemis, and told the family that the 2-year-old would most likely be placed in foster care if Kimberly Bemis refused to continue to watch over Treau.
The report does not mention Betancourt.
Stollar-Bemis still had "significant criminal matters" that needed to be resolved, according to the document, and DCF was concerned that she could face jail time. Stollar-Bemis has been placed on the trial list for charges stemming from an incident Dec. 5 in which she was arrested in Norwich driving with a blood alcohol level of .36, four and a half times the legal driving limit, and five children in her car.
According to police records, officers were called to the Ledyard home of Treau's parents 17 times in the last year, for domestic disputes, caller-initiated well-being checks and other concerns.
The grandparents refused to participate in the court-ordered evaluation, according to the DCF document. Jacqueline Bemis said Wednesday the family had asked that they be permitted to choose their own physician and to have an attorney present.
"There's going to be an investigation into the DCF's role," said attorney Raymond Trebisacci, who had agreed to represent the Treau's grandparents but has not been retained for Kimberly Bemis and Cassondra.
Trebisacci said he has petitioned the probate court to open up an estate for Treau in anticipation of a wrongful death lawsuit. He said it was too soon to say who would be named in the anticipated suit.
"We are going to undertake a thorough investigation on behalf of Treau, and we will uncover whatever wrongful death action there may be," he said.
Betancourt is being held at Corrigan Correctional Institution on $3 million bond and is scheduled to appear in New London Superior Court Oct. 9.
DCF Told Order On Toddler Was Violated
After Girl's Death, Father Said She Had Been Living With Parents
The morning after Timothy Bemis learned his 2-year-old daughter was dead, he called a social worker and left a voicemail blaming her for his daughter's death.
"Our daughter didn't die; she was murdered. I really hope you're happy. Protective? A safer place? I hope you sleep at night," Bemis said, according to a sworn affidavit signed Monday by a social worker for the state Department of Children and Families.
Other information left in the message led the agency to believe that ? against court orders ? Treau Bemis' aunt and sole legal guardian, Kimberly Bemis, had been allowing the 2-year-old to live with her parents, who were undergoing counseling for domestic violence and treatment for alcohol abuse.
"For the past month and a half, Treau has been living with us at my mother's house. The only time she ever went to Kim's house was to satisfy you because you were coming," Timothy Bemis said, according to the affidavit.
Kimberly Bemis denied late Wednesday night that Treau was living with her parents and paternal grandparents. Timothy Bemis has asked that he be left alone to mourn and bury his child and said he will not be answering questions from the media.
Craig Betancourt ? who is being held on $3 million bond on a capital felony murder charge ? was babysitting his daughter, Cassondra Betancourt-Bemis, 7, and Treau, who is Cassondra's cousin, when Treau drowned in the bathtub Sunday in what prosecutors have called a "cold-blooded murder."
The state is now seeking custody of Cassondra, because of the information left in Timothy Bemis' voicemail message, because DCF workers have been unable to locate Kimberly Bemis and Cassondra, and because Kimberly Bemis has said she believes her niece's death was an accident.
The department stated that it believed Cassondra was being permitted to live "under conditions, circumstances or associations injurious to well-being" due to her mother's poor judgment and the actions of her extended family.
"Cassondra is similarly situated to the deceased child," the department stated in documents.
While a hearing date on the state's motion for temporary custody has been scheduled for Sept. 28, the state has the right to take any child ? through a four-day emergency hold ? it feels is at immediate risk for serious physical injury, before arguing to extend custody in juvenile court.
Kimberly Bemis and her daughter have said they will go into hiding until a suitable attorney can be found to represent Cassondra.
Betancourt and Kimberly Bemis, who is his fiancée, had temporary custody of Treau after filing for immediate temporary custody of the child at the Regional Probate Court in New London in November.
According to DCF documents, the agency intervened on the child's behalf in December following a referral from Norwich police, who had charged Treau's mother with driving under the influence of alcohol while she had five children, including Treau, in her car.
A New London Regional Probate Court judge awarded sole custody of Treau to Kimberly Bemis based on the information in that referral, the documents state.
DCF has stated that it is conducting a full review of Treau's case together with the Child Welfare League of America and will discuss the results of that review once the investigation is complete.
Treau and Cassondra's paternal grandparents could not be reached to comment Thursday.
Died July 20, 2006
Boy died in van, not park
Day-Care Owner May Have Moved Child's Body
Investigators said a day-care owner with a criminal past might have moved the body of a boy who died in her care as part of a coverup.
Officials said they know that 4-year-old Jacob Fox died from heat exposure while on a field trip with the Dream House Learning Center, which was supervised by day-care owner Blynithia Washington, but they are not certain about where he died.Detectives are now searching for two people who they said may have helped her.
However, Washington insists that the child died at the park while she was running errands.
Amid the new developments, investigators said Washington has a criminal history and that she has used as many as eight different names.
"If someone is using a different identity or maybe even a stolen identity, it makes it very difficult to get an accurate background check," Child Protective Services worker Marissa Gonzalez said.
Before issuing Washington a day-care license, the state did a background check, but never found her convictions for assault and theft because officials said she used a different Social Security number and the name Blynithia McGilbra.
"Ms. McGilbra did surrender her permit, so Dream House will not be reopening . but we want to make sure we know who these people are for real," Gonzalez said.
Washington faces charges of endangering and abandoning a child.
Boy died in van, not park
Police say evidence indicates he was left for hours, then was moved
The 911 call from the Pleasant Grove day-care center's owner was frantic: "One of my babies is at the park, and he's not breathing!"
But Balch Springs investigators say they now have evidence indicating that 4-year-old Jacob Fox died elsewhere July 20 - overlooked and left for hours in a hot van outside the Dream House Learning Center - and that his body then was moved two miles to the Kidstown playground before Blynithia Washington phoned authorities.
With the new evidence in hand, police this week changed the charge against Ms. Washington from abandoning or endangering a child to injury to a child/recklessly causing serious bodily injury. Like the old charge, the new one is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison upon conviction, but Ms. Washington's bail was increased from $200,000 to $500,000.
The 40-year-old remained in the Lew Sterrett Justice Center.
Neither she nor her attorney, Scottie Allen of Dallas, could be reached for comment.
A police affidavit released Tuesday sketches out what investigators believe happened.
It says Jacob's mother told police that Ms. Washington picked Jacob up in the day-care van at 7 a.m. for his usual trip to the center, but he apparently didn't get off when the van reached Dream House, at 10121 Lake June Road.
When his brother noticed him missing "sometime after lunch," the affidavit says, Dream House employee Melissa Williams went outside and found Jacob curled up in the driver's seat of the van.
"The witness advised that the victim had died," the police affidavit says.
The affidavit doesn't say how Jacob's body got to Kidstown Pavilion in Balch Springs, and Police Chief Phillip Prasifka wouldn't elaborate. But officers impounded both the tan day-care van and Ms. Washington's black Hummer.
Ms. Washington, who called 911 about 2:15 p.m. that day, later told investigators she had left Jacob and several other children playing at the park unsupervised while she ran an errand and that she had returned to find him unconscious.
Emergency workers found the boy lying in the shade of a piece of playground equipment, face up and eyes open, with his arms to his sides. To Officer M. Palfreyman, it appeared that Jacob's body "had been laid there intentionally," the affidavit says. He said the boy's skin was pale, dry and hot to the touch.
Paramedics measured his temperature at 107.9 degrees, the affidavit says. The air temperature at the time was around 100.
Jacob was taken to Medical Center of Mesquite, where death became official at 2:59 p.m. An autopsy found the cause of death was heatstroke.
Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, said the temperature inside a vehicle can rise as much as 50 degrees above the outdoor temperature in about an hour, depending on the time of day, color of the car and other factors.
"That kind of day, the little one didn't have a chance," said Ms. Fennell, whose organization advocates for vehicle safety and tracks incidents related to children and automobiles.
Jacob's mother, Avonda Fox, couldn't be reached for comment on the new developments, but her attorney and employer, Gregory Shamoun, said she was outraged and distraught.
"She is grateful that Melissa [Williams] came forward with the truth," said Mr. Shamoun, who helped Ms. Fox file a lawsuit last week accusing Ms. Washington, Ms. Williams and fellow day-care workers Sharon Denmark and Tonya Roberson of improper supervision leading to Jacob's death.
Ms. Washington is the grandmother of Jacob's brother, and her daughter, Krystal Carraway, attended Jacob's funeral Saturday but didn't return calls later.
The new allegations against Ms. Washington were not news to Mr. Shamoun. The Oak Lawn lawyer said he had received a tip Friday from a man who said that the boy had been found dead in the van about noon and that his body had been moved to the park. The man didn't identify himself but said he was familiar with Ms. Denmark.
Initially, according to an earlier police affidavit, Ms. Williams had given a different story, telling police that she and Ms. Washington had driven Jacob and 10 other children to Kidstown. She said she was supervising some of them when Ms. Washington told her Jacob was not breathing.
On Friday, the affidavit says, she went to the police station to tell the truth because "she could not sleep or eat and ... was afraid of the defendant."
Ms. Washington has owned Dream House Learning Center since 2000 but voluntarily gave up her permit last week to state child-care licensing officials. The center has been closed since Jacob died and will not reopen, Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales has said.
Dallas County records show Ms. Washington had an old aggravated assault conviction under the name Blen Kelley that should have kept her from working at a day care, but it didn't surface when officials checked her criminal background. Officials have said they believe she gave them a false Social Security number.
Ms. Denmark and Ms. Roberson also have criminal convictions on their records, according to the Dallas County district attorney's office - Ms. Denmark for possessing a prohibited weapon and theft, Ms. Roberson for prostitution and drug possession.
Staff writer Ian McCann contributed to this report.
12:05 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Katrina Rivera 4-month-old
Died February 3, 2006
Report recommended the county review cases involving infants returned to homes involving drug use.
Mesa County. The outcome of the case is not included in the report. The infant was found dead in a house containing drug paraphernalia.
She died of asphyxiation after someone rolled over on her on a bed. The report said there were two referrals involving the family, one concerning the mother's admitted use of cocaine and marijuana during her pregnancy and a domestic violence case two years before the infant was born.
The report noted that the two referrals were handled in a timely fashion, but the report recommended the county review cases involving infants returned to homes involving drug use.
Aliyah Myrick 19-month-old
Died October 2005
Police didn't take her seriously enough fast enough, and that's why the 19-month-old girl is dead
"CINCINNATI -- As Aliyah Myrick's mother grieves, she says police didn't take her seriously enough fast enough, and that's why the 19-month-old girl is dead, News 5's Emily Longnecker reported.
Lanetta Myrick told News 5 she is angry that a 911 dispatcher told her to stop chasing her husband after he allegedly snatched their little girl from her Thursday night. While Lanetta followed him in a car, a dispatcher told her police wouldn't respond if she was engaged in a high-speed chase.
Lanetta also can't understand why it took six hours for an Amber Alert to be issued after she frantically called 911 and said her husband, Darius, took the girl. She told the dispatcher her husband had mental problems.
"I'm not picking on the police department, but I feel somebody in the system let me down. They failed me and my baby, and I'm trying to figure out why, when my baby's life was in your hands, why you didn't take it seriously," Lanetta Myrick said.
Aliyah's body was discovered in a Mount Auburn park about noon Friday. She died of brunt force trauma, police said.
Darius Myrick, strapped to a gurney, was wheeled into a courtroom Saturday to face a charge of aggravated murder. He was wearing the yellow inmate garb issued to suicide risks.
Myrick's bond was set at $1 million.
Aliyah cried when her father snatched her, her mother said. She was late with her bottle and Aliyah probably was hungry, Lanetta said.
Lanetta has not been allowed to see her daughter, Longnecker reported."
JonTay Horse 14-month-old
Died November 3, 2006
About three weeks earlier, child-protection workers removed JonTay from Means, who was drinking, and gave her to Iron Horse. The child was returned to Means the next day.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mara Kohn: "The point about this case that makes it so serious is that it was so preventable."
Father sentenced to 30 months in baby's death
RAPID CITY -- Jacob Iron Horse will spend 30 months in federal prison for child abuse and neglect, but his sentence will last a lifetime.
"No amount of incarceration can match the amount of suffering that he will put himself through," defense attorney George Grassby told U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier Monday at Iron Horse's sentencing.
Iron Horse, 43, drank until he passed out on Nov. 3, 2006. When he awoke, he found his 14-month-old daughter, JonTay, had suffocated to death behind her mother, Wilberta Means, who also had passed out after drinking heavily.
Iron Horse pleaded guilty in federal court to child abuse and neglect, which is a state law used because of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. Means is scheduled for trial next month.
At Monday's sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mara Kohn told Schreier that Iron Horse knew he shouldn't drink around his young daughter. About three weeks earlier, child-protection workers removed JonTay from Means, who was drinking, and gave her to Iron Horse. The child was returned to Means the next day.
The couple normally left JonTay with a babysitter when they planned to drink. Kohn said Iron Horse acted recklessly when he instead drank with JonTay in his care on Nov. 3.
Grassby argued that Iron Horse did not intend to harm the child and that his sole offense was falling asleep near her.
"It was an extraordinary accident with a tragically surprising result," he said. "To his knowledge, the child was not in danger when he went to sleep."
Kohn asked Schreier to go above the sentencing guideline range of 24 to 30 months in prison and send Iron Horse to prison for five years.
"The point about this case that makes it so serious is that it was so preventable," she said.
Grassby asked that Iron Horse be given a lesser sentence. He noted that Iron Horse pleaded guilty, that JonTay's death was an accident, and that Iron Horse, who suffers from severe degenerative arthritis, would physically suffer in prison. He cited letters from Iron Horse's six older children describing him as a good father.
Iron Horse told Scheier he was "very sorry for what happened to my baby." He said he wants to change his life and stop drinking.
But Schreier said Iron Horse's past actions showed otherwise. He continued to drink heavily after JonTay's death, which wasn't the first time he lost a child to alcohol: Iron Horse's 2-year-old was killed by a drunk driver some time ago.
Schreier sentenced Iron Horse to 30 months in prison, which she said would give him time to experience life without alcohol or drugs. She recommended that he undergo intensive substance-abuse treatment while in prison.
Federal prosecutors charged Iron Horse under the state statute for child abuse and neglect.
There is no federal law specifically dealing with child abuse and/or neglect. Before the Adam Walsh legislation, cases like this one were charged as involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison. The state child abuse and neglect charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
In this case, South Dakota U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley said, Iron Horse received the same penalty he would have had if he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. But there is still a benefit to using the state charge, because it requires less of the government.
"We only have to show that there was not a safe and secure environment," Jackley said, not that the defendant showed reckless conduct. The state law also allows the court to consider the "collective conduct" of more than one defendant, he said.
Iron Horse is the first person charged in South Dakota's federal courts under the Adam Walsh provision to go through sentencing, Jackley said, praising Kohn's work on the case.
The Adam Walsh legislation also expanded the national sex-offender registry and launched Project Safe Childhood to help investigate and prosecute Internet crimes against children. Jackley's office has charged several cases as part of that project.
Contact Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or email@example.com
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal staff
Allison Newman 2-year-old
Died September 22, 2006
Fallout hits care center in death of 2-year-old - Director charged with misdemeanor
Jacqueline Hadwin saw bruises and scratches on 2-year-old Allison Newman at least once, but she didn't call
Child Protective Services, prosecutors say.
Hadwin, director of the Childtime Learning Center in Plymouth, now faces up to 93 days in jail or a $500 fine,
or both, if she is convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse.
The 36-year-old Westland resident was arraigned Monday in 35th District Court in Plymouth on the
misdemeanor charge. She was released on a $1,000 personal bond and is to appear at a pretrial hearing Nov. 20.
Allison, who attended the center five days a week, died Sept. 22 of head injuries. Her foster mother, Carol Ann
Poole, 40, of Canton has been charged with murder and child abuse in her death.
"It was serious enough that it was pointed out to the director," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said of
the injuries Childtime workers told authorities they brought to Hadwin's attention.
Neither Hadwin nor her attorney, Gerald Evelyn, could be reached for comment.
In a statement, Childtime said Hadwin denies wrongdoing and the center has "never hesitated to notify the
appropriate authorities when we suspected that a child might have been in danger." The state shut down the
center Oct. 16.
Allison died the same month two workers told police they had reported their concerns to Hadwin. The workers
had done the same in July, Worthy said.
"It's tragic in this case that later she died," Worthy said.
Child-care workers are required by law to immediately report suspected abuse by phone and then in writing
within 72 hours, Worthy said. The Childtime workers did not face charges because they said they were trained
to report only to the director, Worthy said.
Amy Popp, a spokeswoman for Childtime, said the center's training manual requires workers to report abuse to
the state and the center director. She said a copy of the manual is at the center and available for all employees.
Poole, who told police that Allison accidentally hit her head, is scheduled for a Nov. 13 preliminary examination
on felony murder, first-degree child abuse and involuntary manslaughter charges.
"If that director would have listened to her employees, Allison possibly could have been saved," said Allison's
paternal grandfather, Ken Newman of Westland.
Allison was taken from her biological mother in November 2004 and was a temporary ward of the Wayne
County Family Court. Poole, who was licensed for foster care last year, received Allison this summer through
Lutheran Social Services.
The state suspended the center's provisional license, which was set to expire Nov. 7, and is continuing its
investigation, Maureen Sorbet, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said Monday.
Childtime is working with the state to have its license reinstated, Popp said.
Foster Mother Charged in Death of 2-Year-Old
Canton, MI - The foster mother of Allison Newman, the 2-year-old girl who died due to head trauma in September, was officially charged with felony murder, first-degree child abuse and involuntary manslaughter on October 2nd.
Allison died on September 22nd, after being removed from life support. Mrs. Poole called 911 around 2am to report that she wasn't breathing. Around 14 hours later, she took her last breath at University of Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital. Investigation revealed that she died of a traumatic head injury.
Poole was arrested in part due to her conflicting stories on how Allison was injured. Later investigations have revealed what appears to be a pattern of abuse. A former employee at the child care center that was caring for Allison, Childtime Learning Center in Plymouth, stated that she had come to the center with injuries for months prior to her death. According to sources, the center never reported Allison's injuries to authorities.
Craig Hirsch, maternal grandfather of Allison Newman, stated that she had other injuries at the time of her death.
Carol Poole's husband was out of town at the time of the incident. Mrs. Poole and her husband were licensed through Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, through which they received Allison Newman and a 3 month old boy who was removed from the home on September 22nd. Neighbors have stated that Mrs. Poole and her husband intended to adopt Allison, though the mother's rights had not been terminated.
Mrs. Poole's attorney, Mark Satawa, stated that the recent rash of child deaths in Michigan have led to the charges that his client faces. Indeed, several children have died in Michigan in the last several months.
Raven Jeffries, age 7, was reported missing on August 4th. Her body was found about a week later in a field.
On August 10th, Kenneth Thomas, age 4, shot himself in the home of Detroit Police Officer Louis Anderson. Anderson has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
On August 16th, Isaac Lethbridge, age 2, was found beaten and burned in the home of the foster mother in charge of his care. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Children's Hospital of Michigan.
All of this just before the murder trial for the adoptive parents of a previous foster child, Ricky Holland, was set to begin. Ricky Holland was 7 years old at the time of his murder.
No charges have been pressed in the cases of Raven Jeffries or Isaac Lethbridge at this time.
Anne Hirsch, mother of Allison Newman, has retained Geoffrey Fieger's firm in connection with her daughter's death. The parents of Isaac Lethbridge have also hired Mr. Fieger. Mr. Fieger's firm has filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of Isaac Lethbridge against the Lula Belle Stewart Center and other parties in mid-September. The Lula Belle Stewart Center was shut down almost immediately after Isaac's murder due to multiple licensing violations. They are appealing their licensing suspension.
By Liz Copeland
Accused mother faces hearing
A Canton Township woman accused of murdering her 2-year-old foster daughter faces a hearing tomorrow.
Carol Poole was charged with felony murder, manslaughter and child abuse after her foster daughter, Allison Newman, died of head injuries on Sept. 22, 2006. Poole's defense attorney, Mark Satawa, said he is filing a motion to suppress statements that his client made to police before Newman's death.
Satawa said that Poole's statements to police should be discarded because she was overwhelmed by recent family tragedies.
"I think that all of the evidence shows that Ms. Poole was not in the right frame of mind to make statements to the police. Her foster care child was hurt and her father was dying in the hospital," he said.
The medical examiner's report stated that Newman died from brain swelling and bleeding on her brain's surface. The report concluded that these types of injuries are usually caused from being struck at the back of the head against a hard surface.
Satawa, however, said that Newman died after falling off the railing of the upper part of her house to the lower part of the house. He also said that the accident apparently occurred as Newman and Poole were playing a game.
"My client is punishing herself because of the accident," he said. "It's a shame that this had to be made worse by charging her with first degree murder."
Satawa also said that Poole and her husband continue to grieve over their foster daughter's death.
"She and her husband are devastated about losing Allison," he said. "They struggle with it everyday."
Michele Murtha 12-year-old
Died October 2000
Parents of girl slain in Seffner suing state. The Murthas say the state was negligent when it placed their disabled daughter in a home where a man with a criminal record lived.
TAMPA -- The last time Patricia Murtha saw her daughter alive was a sunny October afternoon at a gas station off Interstate 75.
It was their weekly way station. Mrs. Murtha and her mentally disabled 12-year-old daughter, Michele, drove up from their home in Charlotte County. Nancy Marlins -- Miss Nancy to Michele -- drove the half-hour down from Seffner.
Michele lived with Marlins during the week and went to a nearby school. It was supposed to be temporary until a space opened in a special-needs group home. But weeks were stretching into months. And Michele's mother was concerned about a man she had seen during a recent visit to Marlins' house.
That day at the gas station, Mrs. Murtha and Marlins talked about Michele's seizures, her diet. Then the child hugged her mom and climbed into Miss Nancy's Toyota. They sped away.
Five days later, there was a message on the Murthas' answering machine. A Hillsborough detective. Call immediately.
"Is this about my daughter?" Tom Murtha asked, panicked. The detective asked if he had seen the story on the news about five people murdered inside a house.
Mr. Murtha looked at his wife.
"Michele's dead," he said. "Nancy's dead too."
Dexter Levingston, Marlins' deaf grandson, is accused of murdering his grandmother, three other family members and Michele.
In the aftermath, the Murthas want to know why officials didn't raise flags that Levingston was living there. They say the state assured them the house would be monitored, their child cared for. Levingston has a misdemeanor record that includes battery.
The Department of Children and Families would not comment, citing privacy concerns. But the Murthas say Michele's story offers a glimpse into how the system deals with disabled children.
They have notified the state they plan to sue for negligence. "We intend to make sure this can never, ever happen to another child," Mrs. Murtha said.
The Murthas met and married in New York in 1987 and moved to Brandon. When she became pregnant, she teased her husband after her first doctor's visit.
"I'm not having a baby," said Mrs. Murtha, 45. "I'm having two."
Fraternal twins Michele and Patrick were inseparable. For the first 16 months of her life, Michele was normal, a spitfire. Then came the seizures, the medications, the developmental disabilities. There were times she could not swallow or hold up her head. The doctors could never say for sure what caused it, but Michele was never the same. Patrick has no disability.
Michele's parents sought the best help they could find, enrolling her in school after school.
One day, Mrs. Murtha sat next to her daughter's bed at Tampa General, where Michele was admitted after a seizure. A woman walked in. It was the aide from Michele's kindergarten class.
Her name was Nancy Marlins.
"How's that little girl?" Marlins asked.
They struck up a relationship. Marlins sometimes babysat for Michele before the family moved.
"She was just one of those special angels," Mrs. Murtha said Wednesday.
Caring for Michele had consumed the Murthas' lives and stretched their energies and finances to the limit..
"We needed Patty to work," Mr. Murtha said.
"I was falling apart," Mrs. Murtha said. "I was becoming a zombie."
They had high hopes for a group home in Hillsborough run by a private organization called Quest Inc. It had the services Michele needed, and state money paid for some of the clients there.
They were told the Quest home was full, so they put Michele in a Charlotte County group home. But there was no teaching, no therapy.
"It was just baby-sitting," Mr. Murtha said. "Michele was regressing."
They became even more convinced about the Quest home. They say state officials assured them a space would soon be available.
With the Hillsborough school year about to start, they decided to let Nancy Marlins care for Michele during the few weeks before the spot in the Quest home opened up. The Department of Children and Families agreed to pay Marlins. The Murthas say they were assured the department would complete the necessary checks to make sure their daughter was safe.
Michele was happy to be reunited with Miss Nancy, who took her out for movies, dinner and shopping. The Murthas expected a short wait.
Then, on a visit to the Marlins home a few weeks ago, Mrs. Murtha saw a man washing Marlins' car. She said she didn't bring it up with Marlins but reported it to their caseworker.
Mr. Murtha, 47, didn't want a strange man in the same home with his disabled daughter. But the Murthas say the department never responded to their concerns.
Levingston, who had listed his grandmother's address on various records and who relatives say was living there, had convictions for charges including battery and DUI.
Wednesday, less than a week after they buried their daughter, the Murthas faced TV cameras at the office of their Tampa lawyer, Richard Hirsch.
"If I knew there was anyone in there with a criminal record, I would have been up there in a jet plane," Mr. Murtha said.
"I cry a hundred times a day," he said.
The cruel gap between what was supposed to be -- Michele in a safe, therapeutic group home -- and the reality of her loss squeezed tears from his eyes.
"We were so close," he said. "We were this close."
By SUE CARLTON and WAYNE WASHINGTON
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000
DCF answers slain girl's parents
The parents of Michele Murtha, killed in 2000 when she was 12, claim the state was negligent.
By GRAHAM BRINK
Published August 13, 2003
TAMPA - Twelve-year-old Michele Murtha was stabbed to death in 2000 while staying at the Seffner home of a state-funded caregiver.
The alleged murderer, also accused of killing four other people that day, was living at the same home.
Michele's parents, Tom and Patricia Murtha, sued two years ago, claiming that the state should have done more to monitor the home and ensure Michele's safety. A Hillsborough County jury began hearing the case Tuesday.
"A reasonable inspection would have shown that you don't keep a handicapped child" in that situation, the Murtha's attorney Richard Hirsch said during opening statements.
Not so, fired back lawyer Jeff Goodis, who represents the Florida Department of Children and Families. The DCF and the Human Services Foundation, also named as a defendant in the suit, "did more" for Michele "than the parents" once they decided they couldn't care for her at home, he said.
"The burden of proof remains (the parents')," Goodis told the jurors. "The burden of care remains theirs. The responsibility remains theirs."
Tom Murtha, who took the stand first Tuesday, said Michele was about 16 months old when she began having seizures. She had a series of ups and downs over the next few years. At times, she had serious trouble talking and walking. Her IQ was measured at around 50, Hirsch said. The average IQ is about 100. Anything under 60 can be considered seriously disabled.
Murtha said they tried hard to care for Michele themselves, taking her to many states for treatment in hopes of "getting her back." When medical professionals first began suggesting Michele might be better off in the structured environment of a group home they balked, he said.
"We didn't want to hear it," he said. "We still wanted her back."
But after a major regression in 1999 that severely diminished her speech and other functions, they began listening to the advice, said Murtha, who lives with his wife in Charlotte County.
State officials, he said, assured them that a spot at a Quest Inc. group home would open soon. Officials suggested they move Michele temporarily to Hillsborough County to live with Nancy Marlins, an aide from Michele's kindergarten class, Mr. Murtha said. The short wait, however, stretched on for weeks.
The state officials did not tell the Murthas that several other people were living at Marlins' home, Hirsch said. The state also failed to perform criminal background checks on the people staying in the home, he added.
On Oct. 20, 2000, Michele and four others were killed inside the Seffner home. Police charged Dexter Levingston, who was living at the home, with all five killings.
Investigators said he used guns, a knife and scissors to kill his grandmother, Marlins, 57; her sister, Lillie Cacciamani, 56; Lillie's daughter, Connie Carter, 40; Lillie's husband, Barry Cacciamani, 47; and Michele Murtha.
Levingston was nearly totally deaf and had a history of mental problems. He also had accumulated a small-time rap sheet, with misdemeanor arrests for shoplifting, drunken driving and resisting arrest without violence, according to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Levingston never has been tried for the homicides. His mental competency has been an issue before the court. Goodis told the jurors that the Murthas knew that Marlins was not licensed. They also never turned over custody of Michele to the state.
"DCF and (the Human Services Foundation) could not make the Murthas do anything," he said.
The trial is scheduled to last up to three weeks.
- Graham Brink can be reached at 226-3365 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Man deemed fit for trial in killings
The psychiatrists' finding comes four years after five people were slaughtered in a Seffner home.
By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD
Published October 23, 2004
TAMPA - Four years have passed since sheriff's deputies found 25-year-old Dexter Levingston crouched in the garage at 4217 Lakewood Drive, the only person left alive in a Seffner home that had become a slaughtering ground.
Stabbed to death were Nancy Marlins, the grandmother who doted on Levingston; her sister Lillie Cacciamani; and Michele Murtha, a young girl in Marlins' care. Shot in the head were Cacciamani's husband, Barry, and her daughter, Connie Carter.
One after another, authorities say, Levingston waited for his housemates to come home and killed them, using two guns, a knife, a machete, a screwdriver and scissors.
Charged with five killings, Levingston has spent much of the last four years at a state mental hospital, visited by psychiatrists who have repeatedly deemed him mentally unfit to stand trial.
After recent interviews with him, however, those same psychiatrists deemed Levingston mentally competent, clearing the way for his trial.
"It's about time," said Wandi Willis, sister of Barry Cacciamani. She said she thinks Levingston has been faking mental illness.
"He knew what he was doing," Willis said. "He wasn't crazy."
Although Levingston is back in the Hillsborough County Jail, lawyers on both sides expect it may be a year or more before the case goes before a jury.
No depositions have yet been taken, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, which complicates the process. There is also a small mountain of forensic evidence taken from the house, including a slab of blood-spattered concrete investigators cut out of the garage floor.
"The case is really just kind of beginning right now," said Assistant Public Defender John Skye.
There is also the possibility that Levingston's condition may deteriorate while he is in county custody, delaying the trial again.
From the nature of the crime to the mental state of the defendant since his arrest, Skye said, "It's a very, very bizarre and unusual situation."
Much remains unclear about what motivated the killings on Oct. 20, 2000, but witnesses said tension had been brewing in the home. It was particularly sharp between Barry Cacciamani, who moved into the house after financial setbacks, and Levingston, who had amassed a criminal record.
Willis, Barry Cacciamani's sister, recounted a conversation with her brother shortly before his death. Cacciamani said Levingston had punched his wife, Lillie, and that he tussled with Levingston when he tried to break up the confrontation.
"It was going on for a couple of months, that he was having a problem," Willis said.
She said her brother wanted out of the house. "Barry was very upset, because Dexter's grandmother was defending him all the time," she said. "I knew there was a problem, but I didn't know it had come to that. Dexter was just used to being the man in the house."
Levingston had prior charges of marijuana possession, shoplifting, obstruction of justice, and misdemeanor battery, for which he served probation.
Among those killed was 12-year-old Michele Murtha, a mentally retarded girl who came to Nancy Marlins' home in July 2000 after her parents decided she should be in a residential facility. Murtha's parents said they allowed their daughter to live there on the state's assurance it would be a temporary stay until a bed became available at a group home. Marlins had taken other children into her home for brief stays.
Michele Murtha's parents are now suing the state, claiming it was negligent in monitoring the girl after she moved into the home. "Clearly, this child should not have been living with someone of this background," said attorney Richard Hirsch, who represents the parents.
When the civil suit went to trial in August 2003, a judge declared a mistrial after Michele's mother, Patricia, grew too distraught to go on. Hirsch said defense arguments upset Mrs. Murtha. "The defense in this case is she made a choice to abandon the child to Ms. Marlins," Hirsch said.
The case is set for trial again in February. This time, Hirsch said, he will advise Patricia Murtha not to sit through all the testimony. Hirsch said the psychiatrists' declaration that Levingston can stand trial does not affect the civil case.
Though four years have passed, "It seems like it happened yesterday," said Anton Cacciamani, Barry Cacciamani's brother, of Salem, N.J. "You go to bed thinking about it, and you wake up thinking about it. He's buried about two miles down the street for me, and I pass him every day."
Since his brother's murder, Anton Cacciamani said, two other brothers have died of cancer. "They were so heartbroken over what happened to Barry, it seemed like they didn't want to fight," he said. "My three brothers are buried together."
Christopher Goffard can be reached at 813 226-3337 or email@example.com
Died July 15,2006
Boulder County Department of Social Services went to the boy's home in July 2005 and obtained a written promise from the father that he would not be alone with his children while drinking.
Father charged in death of son, 2
Man turns self in, released on bail in Carter Lake incident
By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News
An arrest warrant was issued, and Smith, 44, turned himself in about 5:45 p.m. Thursday, said Eloise Campanella, spokeswoman for the sheriff's department.
Smith posted $25,000 bail and was released, she said.
The toddler, Shay Smith, disappeared into the lake on July 15. His body has not been found, despite more than 1,800 hours of searching involving several dive teams from Colorado and elsewhere and the use of sonar cameras.
Boaters who saw the toddler fall off a tow tube pulled by Smith in his power boat contacted the marina, the sheriff's department said.
Smith told searchers that the child fell from the boat, not a tube, while trying to put a pop in a cup holder.
Smith, who was boating at up to 30 mph, was unable to show investigators where his son vanished into the lake, which is up to 150 feet deep, investigators said.
Linda Jensen, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said that Smith was charged with a Class 2 felony, knowingly or recklessly causing the death of a child.
If convicted, he faces a mandatory prison term of 16 to 48 years, she said.
Smith has faced other charges in several states, including a 1993 federal grand jury indictment in New Jersey for allegedly threatening to kill federal Postal Service employees.
Dave Hartnett, spokesman for the District of New Jersey federal courts, said that Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison and three years of supervised parole.
Smith also was required to refrain from using alcohol or illegal drugs and to participate in a mental-health program.
Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden said that Smith had been drinking while boating and that his 3-year-old son, Nicholas, was the only one watching Shay Smith on the tube before he disappeared, even though there was an adult passenger, Robert Venegas, aboard at the time.
The toddler weighed 25 pounds, but was wearing a life vest sized for a child of 30 to 50 pounds, Alderden said.
August 18, 2006
Died December 13,2006
Can children as young as Rebecca be accurately diagnosed with mental illnesses? And should children so young be prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs meant for adults?
Parents accused of drugging child for money
Prosecutor says they made up girl's symptoms to get government benefits
BROCKTON, Mass. - Parents accused of killing their 4-year-old daughter with an overdose of prescription drugs had concocted symptoms of mental illnesses to qualify the girl for government benefits, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Michael and Carolyn Riley pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges Tuesday and were ordered to remain in custody without bail.
The Rileys' applications for Supplemental Security Income for their daughter, Rebecca, were twice rejected after government doctors examined her and found no evidence to back the parents' claims of bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton said.
Rebecca was found dead on the floor of her parents' bedroom on Dec. 13. A medical examiner said she died of a lethal combination of prescription drugs, including a fatal dose of Clonidine, which she had been taking for ADHD.
The Rileys' attorneys blame the girl's death on her psychiatrist.
"The medicines that a totally irresponsible doctor gave her killed her ? not the parents," said John Darrell, Michael Riley's lawyer.
Rebecca's older siblings, now ages 11 and 6, already had gone to the psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, and were diagnosed with the same disorders and were receiving Supplemental Security Income, the program administered by the Social Security Administration for disabled children.
Middleton said Carolyn Riley told Kifuji that Rebecca had "mood swings" and was "driving me crazy." Kifuji diagnosed her with bipolar disorder at age 3.
Carolyn Riley "continued to feed Dr. Kifuji fabricated symptoms," Middleton said. He said Rebecca's teachers, a school nurse, mental health therapist and neighbors and adults who lived with the Rileys all told a grand jury that "Rebecca showed none of these behaviors."
Prosecutors also say that in one year Carolyn Riley got over 200 more pills than should have been prescribed for Rebecca by claiming she either lost or ruined bottles of pills, and by telling a pharmacy she had run out.
According to a state police investigator's report, witnesses told police the Rileys gave their daughter large doses of powerful prescription drugs to keep her quiet and sleeping for long periods.
The couple's other two children had been diagnosed with the same illnesses and were on almost identical prescriptions.
Kifuji agreed to stop practicing medicine until the state Board of Registration in Medicine completes an investigation. Her attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., has said she did nothing wrong and did not overprescribe medication for Rebecca. He declined to comment Tuesday.
Girl's death stirs debate over psychiatric meds
Parents of 4-year-old accused of intentionally overmedicating daughter
HULL, Mass. - In the final months of Rebecca Riley's life, a school nurse said the little girl was so weak she was like a "floppy doll."
The preschool principal had to help Rebecca off the bus because the 4-year-old was shaking so badly.
And a pharmacist complained that Rebecca's mother kept coming up with excuses for why her daughter needed more and more medication.
None of their concerns was enough to save Rebecca.
Rebecca ? who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity and bipolar disorder, or what used to be called manic depression ? died Dec. 13 of an overdose of prescribed drugs, and her parents have been arrested on murder charges, accused of intentionally overmedicating their daughter to keep her quiet and out of their hair.
Interviews and a review of court documents by The Associated Press make it clear that many of those who were supposed to protect Rebecca ? teachers, social workers, other professionals ? suspected something was wrong, but never went quite far enough.
But the tragic case is more than a story about one child. It raises troubling, larger questions about the state of child psychiatry, namely: Can children as young as Rebecca be accurately diagnosed with mental illnesses? Are rambunctious youngsters being medicated for their parents' convenience? And should children so young be prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs meant for adults?
Dispensing drugs to children diagnosed with mood or behavior problems is "the easiest thing to do, but it's not always the best thing to do," said Dr. Jon McClellan, medical director of the Child Study and Treatment Center in Lakewood, Wash. "At some level, I would hope that you'd also be teaching kids ways to control their behavior."
Powerful drug cocktail
According to the medical examiner, Rebecca died of a combination of Clonidine, a blood pressure medication Rebecca had been prescribed for ADHD; Depakote, an antiseizure and mood-stabilizing drug prescribed for the little girl's bipolar disorder; a cough suppressant; and an antihistamine. The amount of Clonidine alone in Rebecca's system was enough to be fatal, the medical examiner said.
The two brand-name prescription drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in adults only, though doctors can legally prescribe them to youngsters, and do so frequently.
Rebecca's parents, Michael and Carolyn Riley, say they were only following doctor's orders. Rebecca, they told police, had been diagnosed when she was just 2½, and Rebecca's psychiatrist prescribed the same potent drugs that had been prescribed for her older brother and sister when she diagnosed them with the same illnesses several years earlier.
But Rebecca's teachers, the school nurse and her therapist all told police they never saw behavior in Rebecca that fit her diagnoses, such as aggression, sharp mood swings or hyperactivity.
Prosecutors say the Rileys intentionally tried to quiet their daughter with high doses of Clonidine. Relatives told police the Rileys called Clonidine the "happy medicine" and the "sleep medicine."
Through their attorneys, Michael Riley, 34, and Carolyn Riley, 32, have accused Rebecca's psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, of over-prescribing medication.
Kifuji did not return calls for comment and declined to be interviewed. But Kifuji has vehemently denied any role in Rebecca's death. She has agreed to a suspension of her license while the state's medical board investigates.
Kifuji told police Rebecca had been her patient since August 2004, when she was 2. She said she based her diagnoses of ADHD and bipolar disorder on the family's mental health history, as described by Carolyn Riley, and Rebecca's behavior, as described by Carolyn and briefly observed by her during office visits.
Kifuji told police she became alarmed in October 2005 when Carolyn Riley told her she had increased Rebecca's nighttime dose of Clonidine from 2 to 2½ tablets, and warned Carolyn the increased dose could kill Rebecca.
But Carolyn told investigators Kifuji told her she could give Rebecca and her sister extra Clonidine at night to help them sleep.
Tufts-New England Medical Center, where Kifuji worked, issued a statement supporting Kifuji, saying her care of Rebecca "was appropriate and within responsible professional standards."
?They don't look right'
In the months leading up to Rebecca's death, others noticed there was something wrong.
Teachers and staff members at the Johnson Early Childhood Center in Weymouth, about 20 miles south of Boston, say they called Rebecca's mother repeatedly to tell her that Rebecca was "out of it," but her mother said the girl was tired because she wasn't sleeping well.
A neighbor who lived next door to the family in the last month of Rebecca's life said Rebecca and her siblings seemed listless.
"They looked like little robots. They looked very lethargic," Phyllis Lipton said. "I said, ?Wow, they don't look right,' but who knew?"
Pharmacists at Walgreens in Weymouth called Kifuji twice to complain that Carolyn Riley was asking for more Clonidine, even though her prescription was not due to be refilled yet, according to state police.
Once, Riley said she had lost a bottle of pills, and another time, she said water had gotten into her prescription bottle and ruined the pills, according to police.
Kifuji authorized refills, but after the second incident, she began prescribing Clonidine in 10-day refills instead of 30-day supplies, investigators said.
On Aug. 16, a prescription for 35 Clonidine tablets ? a 10-day supply ? was filled at Walgreens, even though the Rileys had obtained a 10-day refill only the day before, investigators said.
Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said: "The scrip was filled as written, as it was prescribed by the doctor, and all the appropriate information on the medications was given to the family."
?The doctor is God'
After Rebecca's death, police found only seven Clonidine tablets in the family's medicine tray; the pharmacist said there should have been 75. All together, prosecutors say, Carolyn Riley got 200 more pills in one year than she should have.
The Rileys' lawyers call them unsophisticated people who did not question their children's doctors.
Both were unemployed; they collected welfare and disabilty benefits and lived in subsidized housing. Michael Riley, who is also awaiting trial on charges of molesting a stepdaughter in 2005, claimed to suffer from bipolar disorder and a rage disorder; his wife told police she suffered from depression and anxiety.
"They are not the sort of people who go on the Internet and look on WebMD. These are the sort of people who, when they go to a doctor, the doctor is God and they do what the doctor says," said John Darrell, Michael's lawyer.
Carolyn's lawyer, Michael Bourbeau, said that because the Rileys' three children were all taking Clonidine, Rebecca's prescription may have come up short at times when her siblings were given some of her pills. And some of the pills may have been lost when they were split in half, he said.
In July, after a therapist filed a complaint with the state Department of Social Services, social workers met with the family's doctors and other medical professionals and were assured that the medications Rebecca was taking were within medical guidelines.
"There were lots of medical eyes on this case and none of them seemed to say there was an issue of over-medication in this case," said Social Services Commissioner Harry Spence, who has come under fire for the agency's handling of the case.
Still, there were lingering concerns. When social workers tried to make a home visit in November, Carolyn "resisted and evaded," Spence said. Weeks later, workers resolved to make a surprise check, but Rebecca died the very next day, before they could visit.
Rebecca was found dead on the floor of her parents' bedroom wearing only a pink pull-up diaper and gold-stud earrings, on top of a pile of clothes, magazines and a stuffed brown bear.
Rebecca's uncle, James McGonnell, and his girlfriend, Kelly Williams, who lived with the Rileys, told police that the Rileys would put their kids to bed as early as 5 p.m. Rebecca, they said, often slept through the day and got up only to eat.
When Michael Riley decided the kids were "acting up," he told Carolyn to give them pills, McGonnell and Williams told police.
According to McGonnell and Williams, Rebecca spent the last days of her life wandering around the house, sick and disoriented. But the Rileys told police they were not alarmed. "It was just a cold," Carolyn repeatedly said during police interviews.
Slow, painful death
The medical examiner said Rebecca died a slow and painful death. She said the overdose of Clonidine caused her organs to shut down, filling her lungs with fluid and causing congestive heart failure.
Williams told police that the night before she died, Rebecca was pale and seemed "out of it." At one point, the little girl knocked weakly on her parents' bedroom door and softly called for her mommy, but Michael Riley opened the door a crack and yelled at her to go back to her room, Williams said.
Later that night, McGonnell told police, he heard someone struggling to breathe and found Rebecca gurgling as if something was stuck in her throat. McGonnell told police he wiped vomit from his niece's face, then kicked in the door to her parents' room and yelled at the Rileys to take Rebecca to the emergency room.
Instead, Carolyn Riley said, she gave her daughter a half-tablet of Clonidine.
Carolyn's mother, Valerie Berio, said that when she visited the kids the night of Dec. 11, Rebecca seemed congested but not seriously ill. In a photograph Berio said she took that night, Rebecca is smiling slightly as her mother holds a new green velvet dress in front of her.
Berio said that shows that her daughter and son-in-law could not have known how sick Rebecca was.
Tantrums or bipolar disorder?
Rebecca's death has inflamed a long-running debate in psychiatry. Some psychiatrists believe bipolar disorder, which was traditionally diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood, has become a trendy diagnosis in young children.
"As a clinician, I can tell you it's just very difficult to say whether someone is just throwing tantrums or has bipolar disorder," said Dr. Oscar B. Bukstein, a child psychiatrist and associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
A study of mentally ill children discharged from community hospitals, published in January in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found the proportion of children diagnosed with bipolar disorders jumped from 2.9 percent in 1990 to 15.1 percent in 2000.
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002 estimated that about 7 percent of elementary school-age children ? or approximately 1.6 million youngsters ages 6 to 11 ? have been diagnosed with ADHD.
The annual number of U.S. children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs jumped fivefold between 1995 and 2002, to an estimated 2.5 million, according to a study published last year by researchers at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.
Some child psychiatrists say bipolar disorder may have been under-diagnosed in children for years, partly because several key symptoms are also symptoms of ADHD, including hyperactivity, distractibility and talkativeness.
Dr. Janet Wozniak, director of the Pediatric Bipolar Disorder Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said early diagnosis and treatment are critical because the illness can cause social and academic problems, and lead to drug abuse, crime and suicide.
"What's commonly overlooked when considering diagnosing and treating children at such an early age is the risk of not treating and not intervening," Wozniak said.
March 27, 2007
Bryce Jasper Meining 20-month-old
Died May 19, 2006
Child Protective Services should have done more to ensure the safety of Bryce Jasper Meining.
Meining gets 24 years for killing son
Theories were offered Tuesday at Kelly N. Meining's sentencing as to why she got as far as she did, to a horrifying point on May 19, 2006, when she went from cuddling her youngest child to stabbing him to death.
Her husband and parents told Clark County Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard that doctors never took Meining's claims of hallucinations, paranoia and depression seriously and ordered pills for her instead of hospitalization.
They said Child Protective Services should have done more to ensure the safety of Bryce Jasper Meining, who died when he was 20 months old.
The agency first got involved with Meining in 2003 when she left her middle child, now 4, in his car seat in a parking lot and then called 911 to report a kidnapping; she temporarily lost custody.
But Meining, when it was her turn to speak Tuesday, couldn't point a finger at anyone else.
"I murdered my son, and there are no excuses," said Meining, 32. "He was supposed to be safe with me, his mom."
Woolard said mothers are supposed to keep their children safe. If they can't, the state should step in.
"And that didn't happen," Woolard said.
The judge said Meining deserved credit for taking responsibility for Bryce's death.
Woolard sentenced her to 24 years in prison, short of the 28-year term requested by Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Fairgrieve.
Fairgrieve said Meining's mental health problems were not serious enough to be a mitigating factor.
On Sept. 12, Meining pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Her court-appointed attorney, Jeff Barrar, had wanted to pursue an insanity defense over Meining's objections.
"Finally she said, 'No more,' and I listened to her, and we're here," Barrar said Tuesday.
Had an insanity defense been successful, Meining would have been committed indefinitely to Western State Hospital.
"I deserve to be in prison," she said.
She plans to take advantage of classes and work opportunities in prison. She asked if she could have contact visits with her daughter, 7, and son. While in the Clark County Jail, she has seen her children every other month through a glass panel.
After conferring with Kristopher Meining, Woolard agreed to supervised visits where the children can hug their mother and hopefully maintain a relationship.
"I'm certainly not wanting his children to suffer another loss," Woolard said.
Kelly Meining, who has been on two medications while in jail, said she will continue taking them.
"Eventually I will be a normal person, without any problems."
A specific mental illness has never been identified as the trigger to her violent outburst, although a few have been mentioned as possibilities.
Her parents, Paul and Sandy Reed of Ridgefield, said their daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis. Meining said she has a hormonal imbalance that causes her to "freak out" around the time of her period.
"I've lived with this since I was 13," she said.
And she'll live with the fact she murdered her son for the rest of her life.
To endure, she remembers the good times with Bryce.
"He was my little angel. He was so beautiful."
She recalled how she would sing, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," to him before bedtime.
And how now, she likes to think of him in heaven.
Up there, among the stars.
This story was posted at 5:31 p.m. Tuesday at www.columbian.com .
Previously: Kelly N. Meining pleaded guilty Sept. 12 to first-degree murder in the May 19, 2006, stabbing of her 20-month-old son.
What's new: Meining was sentenced Tuesday to 24 years in prison.
What's next: She will be transferred today from the Clark County Jail to the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.
Stephanie Rice covers the courts. She can be contacted at 360-759-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Shariq 4-year-old
"My Heart Belongs to Grandma."
a child who lived a seemingly stable childhood with a foster mother for most of her life until being returned to her parents
Mother's trial begins in '90 death of daughter
Even years after her death, the bones belonging to Jennifer Shafiq read like a map of the suffering she endured at the hands of her parents, Suffolk prosecutors said on the first day of her mother's murder trial.
"She had survived a complicated and in the end short life in just four years," Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly told a Riverhead jury in her opening statements in the trial of Khairual Abdul, 43.
Abdul and Jennifer's father, Parmjit Singh, are charged with second-degree murder in the 1990 slaying of Jennifer, whose skeletal remains were discovered in a shallow grave along the Long Island Expressway 11 years ago. Singh is awaiting trial on his charges.
As Abdul sat at the defense table Tuesday wearing a melon-colored blouse, her long, black hair in a bun, Kelly pieced together what she said was the tragic life of the girl whose birth certificate knew her only as Baby Girl Shafiq.
The girl's skull was discovered in 1996 by a hiker. Police recovered several other bones, as well as a 4T-sized shirt that read, "My Heart Belongs to Grandma."
Suffolk investigators had no hint of the girl's identity until Abdul herself gave police their first tip while being questioned for an unrelated incident in 1997, Kelly said. Abdul told police that the girl's name was Jennifer and that she was killed by her father.
It took another eight years for police to identify the remains positively as Jennifer Shafiq, a child who lived a seemingly stable childhood with a foster mother for most of her life until being returned to her parents, who lived in Hollis, Queens.
Further investigation discovered several healed fractures in the girl's bones -- apparent signs of child abuse. Abdul eventually admitted to police that she shook and threw the girl, who hit her head on the pavement and died.
"Her little body was left to decompose over the next six years in that desolate spot, until nothing existed of Jennifer" but her bones and her shirt, Kelly said.
In her opening statement, Abdul's attorney, Mary Elizabeth Abbate, of Deer Park, questioned whether the remains were those of Jennifer. She said DNA findings were "statistically irrelevant."
Abbate also spoke about an FBI lab's misplacement of two bones and two teeth found with the remains. "We have a lot of holes in the people's case. We have a lot of mistakes," Abbate said. "We have no physical evidence that ties this skeleton with Mrs. Abdul."
Abbate added, "I'm not saying she did ... but pushing a child down is not murder."
- 8:09 PM EDT, October 2, 2007
Roberto Reyes 15-year-old
Died November 2004
Missouri boot camp part of national investigation
A Missouri boot camp where a student died nearly three years ago is part of a federal investigation into the nation's facilities for troubled teens.
Three former employees of Thayer Learning Center in Kidder, Mo., told The Kansas City Star this week that government investigators told them Thayer was a key focus of that investigation.
Greg Spies, a Kansas City attorney for Thayer, said Thayer officials have "fully cooperated" with investigators for the U.S. Government Accountability Office who recently visited the facility and interviewed students.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is conducting the nationwide investigation into residential treatment programs for children at the behest of U.S. Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C., before the House Education and Labor Committee, of which Miller is the chairman.
Ultimately, Miller's office hopes to convince Congress that boot camp-type facilities should be more stringently regulated.
Thayer ? which is exempt from state oversight under Missouri law ? houses more than 100 troubled teens about 50 miles north of Kansas City. It has been the subject of numerous child abuse allegations, most of which came to light after the November 2004 death of student Roberto Reyes.
Roberto, 15, died after spending less than two weeks at Thayer. His death was attributed to a spider bite. Thayer owners John and Willa Bundy denied any wrongdoing in connection with the fatality. They also have denied any abuse allegations.
In February 2005, Roberto's parents alleged in a wrongful-death lawsuit that Roberto was subjected to physical exertion and abuse that caused or contributed to his death. They alleged that he would have lived had he received competent medical care in a timely manner and that he was dragged, hit, placed into solitary confinement and "forced to lay in his own excrement for extended periods of time."
In court filings, Thayer officials denied those and other allegations. The two sides settled the case in March 2006 for slightly more than $1 million.
A 2005 investigation by The Star showed that, between April 2003 and October 2005, at least seven persons had reported more than a dozen allegations of child abuse at Thayer to the Caldwell County sheriff's office. A state investigative report said "it appears that those responsible for the safety and well-being of Roberto Reyes failed to recognize his medical distress and to provide access to appropriate medical evaluation and/or treatment."
Thayer officials are challenging in court the Department of Social Services' findings of "probable cause" that employees at Thayer medically neglected Roberto.
No Thayer official was charged in connection with Roberto's death or any other child-abuse allegations.
Tom Kiley, communications director in Miller's office, said the GAO began a review of boot camp-type facilities in 2006 and expanded it in 2007.
Kiley wouldn't confirm the specific subjects of the investigation, but former Thayer employee Sarah Mackey of Polo, Mo., told The Star she was interviewed in September and that one of the GAO investigators told her Thayer was a key subject.
Former employee Kris Trimble of Gallatin, Mo., said the same thing, adding, "They said they wanted to open the public's eye about things that are going on."
Miller first asked the GAO in December 2005 to conduct a nationwide investigation, noting in a letter to the agency, "This study is urgently needed because of allegations of child abuse, human rights violations, fraud and other violations" at facilities throughout the country.
He estimated that thousands of American children were enrolled in hundreds of programs nationwide.
Miller introduced legislation in April 2005 that would provide more monitoring of boot camps and similar programs. The End Institutionalized Abuse Against Children Act would, among other things, provide $50 million to states to support the licensing of child residential treatment programs.
Miller is concerned that many states, like Missouri, have laws that allow facilities such as Thayer to operate with virtually no state or federal oversight.
The third former employee interviewed by The Star, Ricky Ableidinger of Jamesport, Mo., not only spoke to the GAO but also in August filed a report with the Caldwell County sheriff's office. In it, he alleged that a student was "grabbed by the neck and squeezed until (his) face started turning purple."
The same report referred to a separate incident in which the same student allegedly was repeatedly pushed to the ground by a drill sergeant. That student at some point suffered a broken arm, the report says. The report doesn't make clear when or how that happened. Spies, the Thayer attorney, said all allegations in Ableidinger's report were investigated by "a couple of different agencies" and were determined to be unfounded. He didn't know which agencies had conducted the investigation.
Ableidinger, who worked as a security guard for Thayer for a little more than a month during the summer, alleged that a drill sergeant was forcing the student to run and repeatedly slammed his own hands into the student's back hard enough to make the student fall. The student was crying and begging the drill sergeant to stop, according to the report.
Ableidinger alleged that the student fell to the ground "at least eight to 10 times" and that, at one point, he "landed on his right wrist and elbow."
According to the police report, Ableidinger called in sick the next two days and then was off work for two more days. The next time he saw the student, the report said, the child's right arm was in a cast and Ableidinger was told it was broken in two places. The drill sergeant then told Ableidinger that the student's injury did not occur at Thayer but happened before he got there.
According to the police report, a Thayer official offered Ableidinger a promotion if he didn't go to the police about the incident. Spies said that never happened.
"Not even close," he said.
Ableidinger quit and filed the report on Aug. 4.
When contacted recently by The Star, Ableidinger said he stood by his allegations.
He said that the student's arm wasn't broken when the student first got to Thayer and that he saw other things that bothered him: Some students were denied bathroom breaks until they urinated and defecated on themselves, for example, and other students were forced to exercise until they vomited and were then forced to exercise in their own vomit.
"I was so disturbed by some of the things I saw there," Ableidinger said.
Thayer officials previously have called similar allegations "ludicrous and false."
Caldwell County Sheriff Kirby Brelsford couldn't be reached to discuss his office's role in the investigation. Ana Compain-Romero, communications director for the Department of Social Services, cited state privacy laws in declining to comment about the state's role in the case.
Caldwell County Prosecutor Brady Kopek said he's not sure whether investigators have had a chance to speak with the child named in Ableidinger's report and that nobody has been charged in connection with the incident.
"It's still under investigation," Kopek said.
To reach Steve Rock, call (816) 234-4338 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
By STEVE ROCK
The Kansas City Star
Died July 17 ,2007
After 2-year-old's death, Mesa County looks at ways to keep children from being abused and neglected
The toddler's death was preventable
A cluster of framed photographs on the dining room table captures smiling, precious moments in the short life of Logan Acord. The toddler with big blue eyes, who would have been 2 this year, could count to 10, loved baseball and was becoming a gentleman, said his mother, Stacey Moore of Grand Junction.
Little Logan always said "please" and "thank you," even for the smallest favors, and would try to help his mom by tugging at his car seat when the two were heading out the door for a drive.
"It's crazy how every little moment is like a treasure now," Moore, 21, reminisced about Logan while cradling her 5-month-old son, Aiden. "I always talk about Logan. I want to keep him alive for his brother."
But when Aiden is older, he'll have to rely on those photos and second-hand snippets to imagine what his brother was like. Logan, doctors said, died at St. Mary's Hospital on July 17 from massive bruising and injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome, according to an arrest affidavit for Brandon Moore, 22, who was Logan's stepfather.
Stacey Moore said the night leading up to the moment when she and Brandon rushed the toddler to hospital marked the first time Brandon Moore had watched Logan for an extended period of time. Brandon Moore has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death on suspicion of killing Logan.
But Logan's death, as tragic as it is, may become more than a statistic. It marked a tipping point for Mesa County officials at the Department of Human Services. The toddler's death was preventable, officials said, and it marked the sixth death of a child in Mesa County in a little more than a year.
Numbers aside, Logan's death sparked an untapped community response. A candlelight vigil for the slain toddler attracted more than 200 people, the largest gathering to date in comparison to similar events, with many of the attendees neither friends nor relatives of the victims' family. In the days after the child's death, and the attendant media coverage, the Human Services Department received an additional 15 to 20 calls of reports of child abuse.
"All of this has caused us to realize we need to do more in Mesa County," Commissioner Janet Rowland said.
Since January 2006 in Mesa County, four children have died because of child abuse, an unusually high number for a two-year period.
On Jan. 28, 2006, 2-year-old Keaton Anderson was beaten to death by his father's girlfriend, Sarah Beudoin.
On July 22, 2006, Cheyenne Corbett's newborn baby died from suffocation. The 18-year-old pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death. Destiny Burke, 8, died from health problems Nov. 12, 2006, from the effects of her mother's methamphetamine use when she was pregnant.
Department of Human Services officials stress that anyone who suspects child abuse in their family or other families should report it. Reporting suspected abuse doesn't mean a child will be removed from his or her parents. In fact, only about 13 percent of all reports of suspected child abuse since January resulted in confirmed cases.
The agency received 4,388 calls through its hotline, and of those, officials determined 2,313 cases needed follow-up.
A total of 570 of those cases were confirmed child-abuse or neglect cases, the majority being neglect cases.
Most of the county's neglect cases are attributed to a poor home environment, department numbers show.
Abuse, the department said, is largely physical, and almost half of the victims range in age from newborn to 5 years old.
"I think the current perception in the community is that if they contact the Department of Human Services, we're going to go in and remove the children," Human Services Department spokeswoman Karen Guillen said.
"That is something we want to alleviate. We want them to know they can reach out for help. Our main goal is to keep children in their home with their biological parents, but not if it's not a safe home."
Rowland said she wants to work with local government to develop a 24-hour child-care facility where frustrated parents or guardians, needing a temporary respite from the rigors of parenting, could drop off their children.
Offering parents that support can stave off the potential for child abuse, neglect and death.
The program also could provide officials with a chance to direct struggling parents toward other local resources for children that already are available.
Guillen said parents using a child-care facility wouldn't be suspected of bad parenting or abusing their children simply because they used the service.
Rowland said she'd like the child-care facility in Grand Junction to be run as a government service (not a nonprofit organization) and possibly replicate similar centers in operation for the past three decades in Oregon.
The private, nonprofit Relief Nursery there has expanded to eight centers across the state, providing comprehensive services to low-income parents with children up to 6 years old who are considered at high risk for abuse and neglect.
The centers, which are being used as a model for interested communities in other states, offer counseling and support groups, education, mental health and medical screenings, and home visits, among other help for families.
Rowland said she'd like Grand Junction's center to accept children up to 11 years old and be operated out of an existing facility, though a site hasn't been determined.
She said funding for the facility will be a high priority.
"It's not an issue of money when it comes to protecting children," Rowland said.
Human services officials have planned a first step toward that goal, scheduling a meeting later this month aimed at gathering information and educating the public about preventing child abuse in Mesa County.
Rowland said she hopes the meeting will help gauge how much people already know about local resources.
The Early Childhood Partnership, which was started in 1998 in response to the deaths of three children a year earlier, offers a comprehensive, holistic approach to deterring child abuse by providing education on a range of issues, such as seeking medical help and parenting tips.
Strong Families, Safe Kids works to prevent child abuse through education and classes.
Through Hilltop, the Early Childhood Team provides programs such as B4 Babies & Beyond, Family First and Kiddin' Around Learning Center, all efforts to maintain healthy bonds between children and parents.
Only days after Stacey
Moore's son allegedly was beaten to death by her husband, the young mother knew she couldn't keep quiet about her loss.
Along with friends and family, she made yellow T-shirts in Logan's memory, emblazoning the toddler's smiling face on them.
As fast as she can make them, Stacey passes out blue ribbons to signify a campaign against child abuse.
"I've got to have some place to funnel my energy," she said. "I just don't want this ever to happen again."
According to the Brandon Moore's arrest affidavit, Logan Acord's father, John Miller, told investigator's Logan "routinely" had bruises on his body and sustained a hairline fracture in his leg.
Stacey Moore's parents, Pam and Mitch, also were concerned about their grandson's injured shoulder, and they took him in for a medical exam. The doctor said the child likely fell down the stairs.
But none of them reported what they were witnessing to authorities.
Stacey Moore said she was blinded by love of her husband, but had she known about the abuse, she said she "would have reported him in a heartbeat."
Stacey, who has filed for divorce from Brandon Moore, said she plans to keep Logan's memory alive for her son Aiden.
However, Stacey doesn't want another person to go through what she must one day, when Aiden asks the question.
"One of the hardest things will be telling him where his brother is and where his father is," Stacey said.
Questioned about advice for other parents who suspect child abuse, Stacey said firmly, "Trust your heart. Take classes. Know what's going on with your kids. If you don't know where a bruise came from, find out."
Amy Hamilton can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Jayden Schneider 6-month-old
Died October 3, 2006
It's a decision mother regrets now.
On October 3rd, 2006, Jayden Schneider and his sister Jacenya were taken to Kimberly Coopers at-home day care, a day care Kristi Schneider says came recommended to her by the State of Idaho.
One Year Ago, A Baby Died at Kimberly Cooper's Day Care
The case of the local wedding crasher is getting national attention because it's so unusual that someone would show up to a wedding - uninvited - and leave with some of the gifts. But this is not Kimberly Cooper's first run-in with the law.
Last year, she was charged with Operating a Day Care Without a License and Injury to a Child after a five-year-old suffered third-degree burns while in her care. But the most tragic case is one Cooper was never prosecuted for - the death of 6-month-old Jayden Schneider. He died in her at-home day care one year ago Wednesday. Kristi Schneider says she is not surprised that Cooper is in trouble again and that it was only a matter of time. She still wants Cooper to explain how her baby died.
Kristi Schneider: "I keep re-playing in my mind what today was a year ago... what I was doing a year ago today."
On October 3rd, 2006, Jayden Schneider and his sister Jacenya were taken to Kimberly Coopers at-home day care, a day care Kristi Schneider says came recommended to her by the State of Idaho.
It's a decision she regrets now.
Kristi: "When I left for work a year ago today, I never ever imagined that would be the last time I'd see my little boy alive."
Hours later, she gets a call to rush to the hospital because her child died at the daycare.
Kristi: "When I picked him up to hold him, all I could keep saying was, 'What did she do to you?'"
The autopsy showed Jayden had a skull fracture. Cooper admitted later that a week before he died, Jayden fell off her bed. But she never told that to his mother.
Jayden's death was ruled as "Sudden Unexplained Infant Death". What was frustrating to his parents, police investigators. and the prosecutor is that the results were unable to clearly show if Cooper was to blame.
She has denied any involvement in Jayden's death. Kristi had Jayden's body cremated and has his urn and a picture of him at home.
There is good news. Even though it's been a difficult year, she is 8 months pregant and so thrilled at being a mother to another baby.
Kristi: "I didn't want another little boy to replace him or another baby to replace him, but I am very excited, and her name is going to be Jayla."
Kristi says about Cooper's latest troubles with the law, that it was only a matter of time.
Kristi: "I just feel like she's a very cold-hearted woman. She, I feel like she doesn't deserve to be a mother - and she has 5 children, and I don't think she deserves a single one of them."
She has an idea of what should happen to Cooper now.Kristi: "I'd like to see her in prison for the rest of her life. She doesn't deserve to be a mother. She deserves to sit in a jail cell forever. That's what I think."
Kristi says she is still pursuing a civil lawsuit against Kimberly Cooper. As for Cooper's latest wedding crashing issue?
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says it is not ready to charge suspect Kimberly Cooper with a crime, but they anticipate charges by the end of the week. Joshua and Courtney Van Tress say Cooper and her 12-year-old daughter used fake names and had a story that they knew the groom. They even signed the guest book and then allegedly got away with hundreds of dollars in gifts.
The Van Tresses caught Coooper using gift cards the following day at the Ammon Target and called police. Evidence from their reception was found in her Idaho Falls home. Cooper is charged in Bonneville County with burglary for doing the same thing at another couple's wedding reception earlier in the day.
Some good news today for the two newlywed couples who say they are victims of Cooper's wedding reception crashing.
After seeing the national coverage of the wedding crasher story and realizing that several Target gift cards were part of what was stolen, Target has offered Charles and Sciara Dougherty and Joshua and Courtney Van Tress $300 in Target gift cards to replace the ones that were stolen.
Bianca Limerick 8-month-old
Died March 14, 2006
El Paso County Department of Human Services officials investigated two reports of abuse involving Bianca, who was reported once to have bruises covering her face.
Woman admits killing baby by throwing her
A Colorado Springs woman Thursday admitted killing her 8-month-old baby by throwing the girl so hard that she died from head injuries.
Tracie Preston's admission came as part of a deal where she agreed to plead guilty to child abuse resulting in death and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, and prosecutors agreed to drop a first-degree murder charge.
Preston's daughter, Bianca Limerick, died in March 2006.
Preston will be sentenced to between 55 and 75 years. Fourth Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey will decide the prison term at an Aug. 6 sentencing hearing.
When Lowrey asked Preston, 37, what she did, Preston said: "I threw her and she hit her head on the bed rail."
Preston admitted she was "really stressed out" and that her oldest daughter was crying and demanding her attention. That girl, 2 at the time, lives with family in Illinois.
On the second charge, Preston admitted pulling Bianca's arm so hard the bone snapped.
An associate coroner who performed an autopsy on the baby ruled she had "battered baby syndrome," an indication of repetitive child abuse.
El Paso County Department of Human Services officials investigated two reports of abuse involving Bianca, who was reported once to have bruises covering her face.
Investigators also found she had at least a dozen old rib, arm and leg fractures.
Colorado Springs police found Bianca's body in a childsafety seat March 15, 2006, in the back of Preston's minivan. Preston had driven the van with the baby's corpse in it for at least a day, including a trip to Denver, police said.
State mental health officials evaluated Preston and found her competent to stand trial.
Deputy District Attorney Deborah Pearson said they needed to see a pre-sentence investigation on Preston before deciding what sentence to seek.
Deputy Public Defender Eydie Elkins said she saw no need to keep Preston in prison longer than 55 years.
"She will never, ever be a problem for the rest of her life," Elkins said.
Preston suffers from a developmental disability and emotional problems, Elkins said.
She remains in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center without bond.
Mother gets 68 years for killing her baby
1st-degree murder charge dropped in plea deal
A Colorado Springs mother who admitted killing her baby by throwing her to the ground was sentenced Monday to 68 years in prison.
Tracie Preston, 37, had pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury for repeatedly abusing her 8-month-old daughter, Bianca Limerick. Prosecutors agreed to drop a first-degree murder charge in exchange for the guilty plea.
Limerick died in March 2006 of severe head injuries. El Paso County Coroner Dr. Robert Bux testified Monday it was the "worst case of fractures I've seen in 22 years" after testifying that both of Limerick's arms and a leg had been broken repeatedly.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey could have sentenced Preston to up to 75 years in prison under the plea agreement. He decided on 68 for both charges, saying it was a "horrible crime that deserves substantial punishment."
Preston apologized to her family, the family who wanted to adopt the baby and to her slain daughter.
"I don't know how to live with myself," she said. "I could switch with her and give her my life."
Cynthia Anderson told Lowrey that she took care of the baby for the first five weeks of Limerick's life but that Preston changed her mind about adoption after her divorce lawyer said a judge would likely give custody of her older daughter to her ex-husband.
"She was a happy baby who rarely cried," Anderson said. "Never once in five weeks did Tracie ask how her baby was."
Preston's elderly aunt, Florine Cenami of Illinois, said her niece took care of her when she couldn't walk and described her as "kind, caring and thoughtful." She said Preston endured a childhood of "physical, mental, verbal and sexual" abuse. Cenami blamed herself for deciding to have Preston care for her, causing her stress while trying to raise two children.
"This young lady in prison for the rest of her life will not serve the public," Cenami said.
Deputy District Attorney Deb Pearson asked Lowrey for the maximum sentence, saying Preston lied to avoid punishment and knew exactly what she was doing.
"Tracie Preston is harmful to society," Pearson said. "She abused a defenseless child. Based on the pain and agony that Bianca endured, we ask for a 75-year sentence."
Deputy Public Defender Eydie Elkins said her client has a developmental disability that causes her to "act on impulses ? her emotions control her."
"When a baby is killed, everyone wants retribution," Elkins said. "But there comes a point where the logic in a punishment is lost . . . (Preston) will never in her entire life hurt another living being."
Lowrey keyed on the fact that Preston didn't try to get the child help ? she drove around with the corpse in a baby seat for most of the next day ? and that she only took the girl in an effort to keep her older daughter.
"As Ms. Elkins pointed out, it's almost as if this sort of horror was designed to play out in your life," Lowrey said before sentencing Preston to prison.
August 7, 2007 - 8:15AM