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Category Archives: bullied by CPS



Real Safety Assessment V. Falsified, Fake Safety Assessment and Irrefutable Proof of Wilkes County DSS Lies, Illegal Activities, Threats, Retaliation, and Unethical Behavior


By Lawdoll

An in-depth comparison of the only real DSS safety assessment Allison S. Baker ever conducted about us versus the fabricated, falsified, and forged safety assessment that Allison S. Baker created to make it appear she had performed her duties as required by law.  I have included pictures of the documents in question.  Also contains some of the lies and documentation that proves those lies, threats, illegal and unethical behavior, and intimidation.

The first thing that needs to be stated is that we reported the mother for abuse and neglect on August 15, 2006 and the report was accepted that same day.  We were not the only persons who reported this mom, there was another report of abuse received and accepted on August 10, 2006, that we did not make.  Allison Baker was assigned to our report August 16, 2006, but she did not begin investigating the abuse and neglect until the middle of October.

The retaliatory “child abuse and neglect” report that was used as the excuse to begin an investigation on us October 25, 2006, was received by Surry County DSS (the county we reside in) on August 16, 2006.  This report was made the same day the mother was informed during mediation that we had made a report of abuse against her.

Surry County DSS screened this report out because, IT DID NOT MEET THE STATUTORY DEFINITION OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT, required to initiate an investigation.

Wilkes County DSS, apparently, after we complained about them in late October, obtained this report from Surry County DSS, over two months later, and screened it in.

The first time Allison Baker even hinted at investigating us, and I had contact with her constantly, was during a phone call on October 25, 2006.  During that phone call, Allison Baker began asking me a lot of questions, such as social security numbers and the like.

This call is recorded so I can prove that this is the date that she began investigating us.

This vindictive investigation, which began precisely two days after I called Phyllis Fulton in Raleigh and complained about the Wilkes County Department of Social Services and their failure to perform their duties as prescribed by law and protect my stepdaughter, supports our assertion that it was began as a means to discredit, intimidate, and malciously prosecute us in retaliation of our valid complaints against them.

When we met with Allison Baker October 27, 2006, she had in her possession this screened out report from Surry County DSS, which said idiotic things:

  • Trees growing in our gutters
  • Poison Ivy in the yard
  • Dirty dishes in the sink
  • My stepdaughter woke up with a rat on her chest

Absolutely crazy stuff like that.

Allison Baker had already seen video of our home, which documented August 4, 2006, and up, and remarked about how clean it was and how nice our daughter’s room was.

Furthermore, if she had already performed a Safety Assessment on us August 17, 2006, why would she need to ask all of these questions, which should have been asked when she performed the safety assessment? 

She had never performed a safety assessment, she had never been to our home and did not come to our home until December 9, 2006.

She NEVER went to the mother’s home, who our report of abuse was on, until the middle or end of October either!  We know this, because the mother moved in September 06, but the only house Allison ever visited was her new residence. Remember our report of abuse was made and accepted August 15, 2006.  I am positive if a comprehensive investigation was conducted falsified documents and forgeries would be found concerning the biological mom, and the other daughters father and stepmom as well.

A significant fact that must be noted is, if our house was this bad, then why was an investigation never commenced about the 3 children that LIVED in our home FULL TIME? 

Neither Wilkes County DSS, nor Surry County DSS ever opened an investigation or case on us concerning the 3 children who lived in our home 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

These 3 children are not mentioned on any of the paperwork, safety assessments, risk assessments, case plan, nothing.  The three children living in our home were never talked to, or interviewed, nor was any CPS Assessement or investigaion of any form ever conducted regarding them… period. 

Although according to North Carolina DSS Policy they were supposed to.

 Based on N.C.G.S. § 7B-302 (b), all children living in the home, in a non-institutional setting, shall be considered as alleged victim children when there is any allegation of abuse, neglect or dependency. Therefore, initiation of a CPS Assessment includes face-to-face interviews with all children living in the home.”

There is ample evidence that proves the sole purpose of the Wilkes County Department of Social Services investigation of us was far outside the scope of their duties, and a complete abuse of their power. 

Wilkes County DSS abused their power and unlawfully and maliciously targeted us as a means to discredit our valid complaints against Wilkes County DSS, to intimidate us, to shut us up and to cover up WCDSS’s failure to perform their duties by law and protect a child that was being abused and neglected by her mother.

Wilkes County DSS threatened us with foster care for my stepdaughter, thereby ensuring our compliance with their law breaking, through intimidation.  We had no choice but to comply with their illegal and unethical activities, it was abundantly clear that to do otherwise meant having the child, WE WERE NEITHER ABUSING OR NEGLECTING, needlessly placed into foster care.

Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of abuse and neglect my stepdaughter and her sister were enduring by their mother’s hand…  (Not my husband’s or the father of her other child), the Wilkes County Department of Social Services, ignored that evidence and instead focused solely on discrediting and persecuting us.

They ignored the mother’s noncompliance, lies, and the abuse and neglect of two little girls, so they could teach us a lesson, for speaking out about their initial failure to investigate an accepted report of abuse in the manner and time constraints required by law.

Wilkes County Department of Social Services instituted a malicious investigation against us, without good cause, they falsified records, forged my husband’s signature, discriminated against my husband for being male and the father, lied in assessments and their records, lied to the judge, the psychologist, threatened and intimidated us, abused their power, and neglected their legally duty.

 And then when all of their lies, fabrications, threats and intimidation, illegal and unethical behavior still failed to give them ammunition against us, and after, wrongly and illegally, trying to substantiate against us for serious emotional neglect, they created a new type of neglect and substantiated against us for that.  Injurious environment, parent’s inability to get along, a finding that does not even exist, a finding so far removed from the statutory definition of any type of abuse or neglect that it should have been found invalid the moment they used it, a finding that is so vague that every person in the world could be substantiated against for it.

With the evidence that we have, that proves what Wilkes County DSS did to us, my stepdaughter, her sister and her sister’s father and stepmom, the fact that not one government official will do anything demonstrates the lack of total accountability DSS faces, even when they commit felonious criminal acts.

Handwriting Analysis

  •  This is a comparison of the handwriting on the REAL and ONLY safety assessment, dated December 9, 2006 Allison Baker ever did on me and my husband (Top) and the Fabricated, falsified, and forged one that was created to make it appear she had done one on us, when she had not, dated August 17, 2006.  You can clearly tell these are written by the same person.

  • Again, this is a comparison of the handwriting on the REAL and ONLY safety assessment, dated December 9, 2006 Allison Baker ever did on me and my husband (Top) and the Fabricated, falsified, and forged one that was created to make it appear she had done one on us, when she had not, dated August 17, 2006.  Furthermore, I have no idea where the spanking allegation came from, neither one of us had ever spanked her.  Just another lie.




  •  Below  this is a comparison of the signatures on the REAL and ONLY safety assessment, dated December 9, 2006 Allison Baker ever did on me and my husband (Top) and the Fabricated, falsified, and forged one (bottom) that was created to make it appear she had done one on us, when she had not, dated August 17, 2006. 
  •  I was the only one home on August 17, 2006, David was at work, I will post his work record following this comparison, and you can see for yourself that on the day in question David worked 10 hours at LP.  Note that my signature is missing, David’s signature is different on these documents, and the only ones that look the same are Allison Baker’s and Mary Henderson’s.  The signature for David in the signature section on the bottom is forgery.

David did not sign this document and this safety assessment NEVER OCCURRED.



Work Record


  • This is a copy of David’s work record for August 17, 2006, the day that Allison Baker claims to have performed the August 17, 2006 safety assessment on, impossible to do since David was at work for 10 hours that day. 


Personal Records

  • I kept meticulous records; this is the August 2006 record.  Note that we made our report August 15, 2006, but there was a previous report made August 10, 2006 on the mom that we did not make.  
  •  Note On August 15, 2006, the custody hearing was postponed, “Court postponed.  Turned Tammy in, Allison Baker assigned to case.”
  • August 16, 2006, my stepdaughter finally had an appointment with Dr. Weinstein in Wilkesboro after two cancelled dentist appointment by her mom. She had new cavities that she did not have when she saw our dentist and had two teeth extracted on July 3, 2006. Court ordered mediation orientation between David and Tammy from 3-5, this is where David informed the Mediator about our report of abuse to DSS.  Special Note…  After this meeting is when Tammy made the report of abuse about us to Surry County, it was received August 16, 2006.  August 17, 2006 The ONLY note on this date is about my stepdaughter’s sister not being seen by the dentist again!  No visit to our home by Allison Baker, no safety assessment, nada.
  • Also, note the continuous missed dentist appoints by both girls in their mothers care. In addition, note my contact with our insurance company verifying how much they would pay toward fixing my stepdaughters teeth.  We had insurance.  On August 11, I talked to the moms Medicaid worker who informed me that my stepdaughters Medicaid expired July 31, 2006…after having it continuously for her entire life.  (What a coincidence) Debbie Perry also informed me that the mom had never turned in David’s insurance information and that she was reporting her for Medicaid fraud.

Other Signatures

Scanned copy of David and my organ donation cards that we signed in 2004.  Please note David’s signature on both.  David has never signed his full last name the entire, almost 12 years I have known him.  I even have his high school senior shirt from 1998 and it is the same on it as it is here, just a little scribble.

  • Below David’s signature on his driver’s license issued in 1999.



  • David’s signature on his driver’s license, 10 years later this driver’s license was issued on November 17, 2009.  David has consistently signed his last name the same way for years…he does not write out his last name, but makes some form of N swoop.


  • David’s signature on the “In Home Family Services Agreement” signed January 1, 2008.


(I changed my mind about Linda Brookes after reading the lies she wrote to Judge Byrd)

I can and have consistently proven that the signature on the safety assessment dated August 17, 2006 is not David’s. 

I have consistently shown and proven that David has signed his name the same way throughout his entire adult life.

I have also shown that the handwriting on both documents is consistent with Allison Baker’s, and that the signatures of Allison Baker and Mary Henderson match on both documents. 

It is obvious and clear that either Mary Henderson or Allison Baker forged David’s signature on the falsified safety assessment. 

There is more than adequate evidence to support that this safety assessment never occurred. 

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

First, we have David’s work record showing that on August 17, 2006, he was at work for 10 hours at LP.

Then, according to North Wilkesboro Police Detective, Chris Handy, there is the absence of our name and information on Allison Baker’s Worker Daily Report of Services to Clients, form DSS 4263.

The DSS 4263 form is required to be filled out daily and turned in weekly and records every service and activity performed, for payment and is absolutely, necessary for federal reimbursement.  Not only is this document required, it must be certified by the worker.  The fact that our name does not appear on the DSS 4263 form alone is proof enough.

When you combined the two, you have irrefutable, documented evidence that for this safety assessment document to exist a felony was committed…because it did not come into existence under legal means.

Since this safety assessment was fabricated, proving who forged David’s signature is not necessary in order to prosecute Allison Baker, Mary Henderson, or other personnel at the Wilkes County Department of Social Services who may have had knowledge of its creation or participated in covering it up after the fact.

Why, in spite of all of this evidence and documentation, charges were dropped against Allison Baker in this case…CITING not enough evidence,  could it be because her grandfather, Glenn  Johnson, was a Wilkesboro Commissioner for 26 years?  

And why charges were never brought against Mary Henderson should be a matter of deep concern, as well?

Furthermore, why has an investigation about the conduct of the Wilkes County Department of Social Services in regards to us, and in the face of this evidence NEVER OCCURRED?

Why, in spite of all of this evidence and documentation, charges were dropped against Allison Baker in this case…CITING not enough evidence, and why charges were never brought against Mary Henderson should be a matter of deep concern, as well.

Frankly, when you considered the fact that the former, Wilkes County DSS Director, James (Donnie) Bumgarner and the current Director, Bill Sebastian were and are aware of this and have been since it occurred, alarm bells should be ringing loudly in your head. 

Tellingly, neither one has asked local or state law enforcement to conduct an investigation.

 Neither one has removed the substantiation against us that was based on the lies, false documents, forgeries, illegal and ethical behavior; it should make anyone reading this question their motives for allowing such a travesty to continue.

 I believe Donnie Bumgarner was involved in this forgery and falsification and/or at the very least, covered it up.

In fact, many government officials were contacted about this issue and all of them failed or refused to do anything.

People who have been made aware of this illegal and unethical behavior include.

  • Renae Steele, Caseworker, Wilkes County Department of Social Services
  • Nikki Hull, Caseworker, Surry County Department of Social Services
  • Linda Brookes, Caseworker, Wilkes County Department of Social Services
  • Mary Henderson, CPS supervisor, Wilkes County DSS
  • Sonya Freeman, CPS supervisor, Wilkes County DSS
  • Donnie Bumgarner, Former Director, Wilkes County DSS
  • Bill Sebastian, Current Director, Wilkes County DSS
  • Dr. James D. Powell, (who went right along with DSS’ lies)
  • Matthew Levchuk, Assistant District Attorney, Wilkes County (who believed the lies told to him by Wilkes County DSS)
  • Charles F. Bauer, Assistant District Attorney, Wilkes County (who dismissed the charges against Allison Baker for lack of evidence.)
  • Keith Elmore, Wilkes County DSS Board Chair
  • Rudy Holbrooke, Wilkes County DSS Board member
  • Ken Noland, Town Manager, Wilkesboro, NC
  • Lanier Cansler, North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary
  • Dempsey Benton, Former North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary
  • Sherry Bradsher, North Carolina DSS director
  • Joann Lamm, North Carolina DSS Deputy Director
  • Ellen Thomas-Pullen, Child Welfare Services Consultant
  • Former North Carolina Governor, Mike Easley
  • North Carolina Governor, Bev Purdue
  • Chris Downing, Region IV Director
  • Carlis V. Williams, Region IV Administrator
  • Ruth Parker, Regional Program Manager, Region IV, Administration for Children and Families

And many others.

Not one of these people did anything about the law breaking, discrimination, malicious persecution of me and my husband for trying to protect a child…, which WAS the only thing we did.

Not one of these people stood up and tried to enforce the laws of this state, nor did any of them take any steps to protect these children by ensuring that the Wilkes County Department performed its statutory duty.

Not one of these people cared about the children who were being harmed while WCDSS continually harassed us, persecuted us, violated welfare policy and broke the law.  NOT ONE!

Even when faced with the damning evidence I have shown in this document, these people ignored it and allowed this travesty to continue.

Honestly, if these government officials were upstanding, honest, people you would think that when faced with this type of evidence they would do what is right or at the very least ask for an investigation.

The only person who tried to stand up for what is right and enforce the law was Chris Handy, North Wilkesboro Police Detective (who tried to seek justice, but was blocked by ADA Bauer)

We did not do the things that Wilkes County DSS lied about.


When we stood up to them, my life was threatened on, a public forum.

  • You best be glad you live out of the county.
  • I know what your “REAL NAME” is.
  • Be careful and don’t cut your own throat.
  • You will be dealt with, and just as the same in your case, this is the “END”!

And still nothing was done! 

Then after my stepdaughter’s mother died, on the same public forum, another person who clearly worked at Wilkes County Department of Social Services accused me of killing her.

This person also talked about statutory protected confidential DSS information, for even if it is not true, it is still confidential.

Again, nothing was done.

We are the victims in a series of crimes committed by The Wilkes County Department of Social Services and the fact that no one will step up and do what is right, just enables WCDSS to continue to break the law and do this to other people.

Investigation Needed

An investigation desperately needs to occur in this case…and the wrong that has been done to us corrected… in order for that to happen, an extensive examination of the department and persons involved must be conducted.

  • First and foremost, my husband and I must have access to the Wilkes County case file on us, so that we can view the contents and expose the lies, forgeries, and unethical documents, notes, and assessments, among other things, that are hidden behind the confidentiality laws that protect DSS case files from view, even when they have broken the law.
  • The Wilkes County Department of Social Services and its DSS board members need to be investigated.
  • The substantiation against us needs to be removed and our names cleared.
  • The Wilkes County District Attorney’s conduct and refusal to prosecute, despite having adequate evidence to do so, needs to be investigated.
  • Charges need to be pressed against the person/persons who committed these crimes.
  • Most importantly, Charges need to be press against the Wilkes County DSS for failing to protect these two little girls.

To be clear

The Wilkes County Department of Social Services, in retaliation for our criticism about their unscrupulous conduct and dereliction of statutory mandated duties to protect children, invented a reason to investigate us, and created a fictitious abuse and neglect case against us, with the intention of discrediting, intimidating, and silencing us. 

When their harassing and vindictive, examination of us failed to uncover any abuse, neglect, or dependency being committed by us, they conjured a statutory nonexistent neglect finding out of thin air, so they could cruelly, spitefully, and callously brand us as child abusers.

After WCDSS vindictively substantiated against us, they continued their unlawful, harassing, and needless invasion in our lives forcing us to comply with whatever they “recommended” by threatening to place my stepdaughter into foster care if we bulked.

Some of the lies

They created an In Home Family Services Agreement that contained ignorant and useless findings, which did not remotely meet the definition of abuse, neglect, or dependency.

  1. 1.  David was to provide basic insurance as directed by the child support agency, so cost would not be a reason to deny dental care.
  • When her mother neglected her dental care, and allowed her teeth to get so decayed that two of them had to be extracted, David had insurance on his daughter, the mother had insurance on her, and the mother had her on N.C. Medicaid.  Lack of insurance was not the reason her mother denied her dental care.  Neglect by her mother was the reason for the denial of dental care!
  • Not having insurance is not neglect or abuse, but besides that point, the only reason David did not have insurance on his daughter at this time was because he had lost his job, because of DSS, and their inability to attend appointments, for example:
  • When we were scheduled to meet at Dr. Powell’s for the “evaluation” meeting, DSS did not show up so it had to be rescheduled.  David had to take off for the meeting because of DSS negligence to attend, then turn around and take off again for the rescheduled appointment, that DSS, specifically Renae Steele was an hour and a half late to.
  • DSS was order by Judge Byrd after he was notified that we had made a report of abuse, to submit their findings to him.  DSS, failed to investigate the reported abuse in the manner prescribed by law for 2 and a half months, then drug their feet for almost 2 years.  David would have to miss work to go to court, only to have it postponed because DSS had not sent the Judge their findings.
  1. 2.  David and I were required to make the child custody exchanges that were taking place “be as amicable as possible, with no heated exchanges.
  •  David and I always made the exchanges as “amicable” as possible.  When the mother screamed, yelled, and cussed at us, we did not even respond.  We recorded the custody exchanges to ensure that the mother could not lie about our behavior and to document hers.  DSS ignored this proof and lied about us.
  • Heated exchanges, bitterness, and verbal hostility are not abuse or neglect furthermore, David I NEVER engaged in them, proven by recorded phone calls and video recordings of the exchanges.
3.  The parents were required to take the girls to counseling. 
  • First, David and I had been trying to get counseling for his daughter for years, because of the abuse and neglect concerns we had in regards to her mother’s treatment of her.
  •  Second, Dr. Powell their own “Forensic Psychologist” said the girls did not need counseling.
 The entire In Home Family Services Agreement was a complete and total sham of statutorily insufficient findings, a ruse for their continued illegal involvement in our lives.

Furthermore, they lied in the Strengths and Needs Assessments, the Risk Assessments saying that “minimally participated in pursuing objectives in service agreement”.  This is an outright lie.  WE always complied with anything and everything that they asked us to do. Even with the knowledge that they were illegally persecuting us. Further lies include:

  • For the Risk Reassessment dated 11-07-07 it states as a reason for Discretionary override: “age and previous report static but not pursuing all goals outlined in cft of 9-11-07”…there was no cft on 9-11-07, or 11-07-07 the cft wasn’t completed until 1-08-08 two months later.
  • On this assessment we had a total score of 3, mainly just because of this lie.  This is just them trying to justify leaving this case open against welfare policy.
  • They use the same override reason on 3-27-08, but in this one they do not mark R8 and R9 with (b) Minimal participation in pursuing objectives in service agreement…….1…So I guess basically the only reason it was left open then is my husband’s age.  Under 29…we had a 1 on this reassessment.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, they closed the case even though the one and only circumstance that had to be met to “keep the child out of foster care” according to the In Home Family Services Agreement, had not been met.  It was so important for my stepdaughter to go to counseling that they threatened foster care if she did not, but then closed the case before the required 3 sessions, THAT THEY REQUIRED, had been completed. 

This speaks volume to their true intent and purpose.

We then received a letter from Linda Brooks that stated:


This letter from Linda Brooks is a direct contradiction to the one that she wrote, that same day, May 14, 2008, to Judge Byrd, in that letter, Linda Brookes lies about the entire situation, case, and us.

Letter to Judge Byrd page 1 and 2


From beginning to end, every step that the Wilkes County Department of Social Services made in our case was either, illegal, unethical, untrue, or in violation of statutory law.

Since the entire case was based on falsified, forged documents, lies, as well as unlawful and unethical conduct, any substantiation or case decision reached by them is unduly prejudicial and fatally tainted. 

A decision based on lies, is a lie itself, for the truth cannot be discovered with lies.

Wilkes County Department of Social Services behavior in our case denotes a willful, malicious, and conscious intent to deceive, invent, and lie in order to harass, harm, intimidate, and discredit us.  Their persecution of us was a calculated, deliberate, and purposeful act, a wanton abuse of power that served no legal purpose.

Our case is so illegally tainted with lies, fabrication, embellishments, falsified and forged documents that it is wholly unreliable, and should be considered a work of fiction.  The only truth that could ever be ascertained from the Wilkes County DSS file on us is that it is necessary to verify the corruption in this case.

Allowing the substantiation against us to remain, in view of this indisputable evidence, is a travesty of justice.

Failing to seek prosecution of these criminals, allows them to continue to operate in this unlawful manner, puts families at risk, and endangers the lives of children.  Failing to take legal action against the Wilkes County Department of Social Services enforces their belief, as evidenced by their behavior in our case, that they are untouchable, above the law, and can do whatever they want because they will never be held accountable for their crimes.

They will do it again…if they have not already, and eventually a child is going to lose their life because of the rampant, unchecked, corruption of Wilkes County DSS.

 The unjustified treatment and criminal manner in which we were subjected to has left a scar on our lives.  The bogus, unlawful substantiation placed on us can prevent us from working in a daycare, or with children, prevent us from adopting or being foster parents…it can and does impinge on our lives.

 To allow this illicit, unethical, and fictitious case and phony finding to remain against us, despite the overwhelming facts attesting our innocence in this matter, harms not only us, but also the entire community and damages the public trust in Child Protective Services.

If CPS is permitted to behave in this manner without consequences, or accountability, why would anyone trust them to protect children?

Wilkes County Department of Social Services has proven with this contemptible behavior that they are unreliable, untrustworthy, criminal, and corrupted; they are more concerned with protecting themselves then the children of Wilkes County.

It would injudicious and foolish to assume that our family has been the sole victim of their corruption.

*This document does not contain everything that happened, I have complete documentation and records of everything that occurred, if you received this via email then those records are attached, if you are seeing this one line then those documents are below this posting.

I have other evidence that proves our claim, if I have emailed this to you, that evidence is attached.  If you are reading this one line, then that evidence is below this posting.  I have not finished uploading all the phone calls on to my computer, but when I do, they too will be sent or posted.

You can see the rest of this story and more documentation at Wilkes County Department of Social Services Failure to Protect my Stepdaughter

Chicago mom and CPS reform advocate, Miranda Yonts has vowed to find and bring home the remains of Tyler Payne, so he, and his mom, Jamie Hallam, can finally be at peace.

Yonts is the founder of The Miles Payne foundation, a soon to be 501(C) non-profit organization, which was named after Shavon Miles and Tyler and Ariana Payne.

She is also Jamie Hallam’s best friend.

The Miles Payne Foundation advocates needed changes to the laws that govern CPS, to ensure better protection of America’s children through the accountability and transparency of Child Protection Services.

Yonts feels that the only way to protect the children in this country, and save lives is to hold CPS liable when they fail to perform their legally required duties.

Continue reading on Chicago mom vows to solve cold case – Winston-Salem CPS |



In Memory of Tyler and Ariana Payne


Tyler and Ariana

Ask yourself:  If these Departments of Social Services cannot handle child fatality disclosures, in accordance with the law, which frankly, requires writing a summary of DSS involvement with a child that any 8th grade English student could write…how can we possibly trust them to investigate child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment cases?

Child death disclosure hindered by Bureaucratic circumventing, ignorance? Part 4

Read Part 12, and 3

Part 4: Failure to meet disclosure criteria.

Is mandatory disclosure, being thwarted by insufficient findings and information?

Is the Department of Social Services hiding mistakes and systematic problems behind the curtain of confidentiality?

Failure to meet disclosure criteria

Although several of the disclosure summaries were lacking the necessary content to comply with the statutory definition of facts and information that shall be released, one department completely failed to abide by the statute, in not only the information and facts they were supposed to release, but in denying disclosure in cases, without just cause and good faith. 

Read more of part 4

In Memory of Shinaye Smith

DSS Asked To Investigate Shortly Before East Charlotte Child Killed


School officials in Mecklenburg County reported signs of abuse more than a month before a 3-year-old girl died from internal injuries.Police arrested 20-year-old Andrew Cortez Price on Friday and charged him with murder in the death of Shinaye Smith. Officers said Price is the boyfriend of Smith’s mother.Eyewitness News uncovered an internal email sent out by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials on the day Smith died. The email states: “On September 29th, the student (Smith) came to school with a bruised and swollen left side of the face.”

Hickory Grove Elementary School’s nurse reported the incident to the Department of Social Services in Mecklenburg County. But, according to the e-mail, DSS returned the report, saying “the allegations reported, if true, do not fall within any of the North Carolina statutory definitions of abuse, neglect or dependency.”

DSS officials said they could not comment on specific cases, but said each claim of abuse is investigated through a strict protocol.

The statutory definitions of “abuse, neglect or dependency” are available online. Click here.

You can read the entire juvenile code by clicking here.

RELATED STORY: Warrants Issued In Child’s Death That Appeared Natural

In Memory of Jalenthia Caldwell

Man accused of killing girlfriend’s baby

by NewsChannel 36 Staff

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 1 at 1:03 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police are searching for a man who’s accused of shaking his girlfriend’s baby to death. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say Randy Moorehead is charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse. 

Lattayne Caldwell says she left her 22-month-old daughter, Jalenthia, in Moorehead’s care when she went to work on Friday. When she returned home, Caldwell says, she thought her child was sleeping.

“My baby was in a coma having a seizure, couldn’t look at me, couldn’t breathe, wasn’t swallowing and I mean I’m like, what in the world?” said Caldwell. “I’m thinking she’s asleep because this what I was told and she is dying.”

A funeral will be held for Jalenthia on Saturday.

In Memory of Demytre Rashaad Pendleton Jr. (D.J.)

January 20, 2009-September 9, 2011

Mother now facing charges relating to 2-year-old son’s death

Posted: Sep 09, 2011 2:36 PM EDTUpdated: Oct 09, 2011 2:36 PM EDT

By Jeff Rivenbark, Web Content Producer  

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Police have arrested the mother of a toddler who died earlier this month.

 Ariacna Romero, 21, was taken into custody Thursday night on felony accessory charges in the murder of her 2-year-old son.

A friend of Romero, James Gregory Cleveland, 25, is charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, and murder in relation to the death of Demytre Rashaad Pendleton Jr.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Demytre’s mother took her son to Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Due to the severity of the boy’s injuries, he was airlifted to CMC-Main.

An examination at the hospital revealed injuries in which hospital staff believed were serious enough to involve police. The next day, CMPD detectives with the Youth Crimes Unit were called to CMC to investigate how the child was injured.

Demytre died at the hospital two days later as a result of his injuries.

This latest incident, however, is not the first time the child has ended up in the hospital due to a severe injury.

Officers were called to CMC-Main on August 24, 2011, at 10:24 p.m. after Demytre was admitted with a skull fracture and several bruises which police deemed possibly consistent with a fall.

At that time, detectives with the CMPD’s Youth Crimes Unit were assigned to the case.

The child was treated and released from CMC-Main while detectives continued to investigate. 

Following Demytre’s death on Friday, CMPD Homicide Unit detectives charged James Gregory Cleveland in connection with the child’s death. Cleveland is being held at the Mecklenburg County Jail without bond.

Police said Cleveland is a friend of Demytre’s mother and he is not related to the toddler.

If you have information about this incident, call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit Detective or call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

In Memory of Marcus Markee Davis Jr.

DSS reveals history of abuse following death of baby

Posted: Jul 13, 2011 10:24 AM EDTUpdated: Aug 12, 2011 10:25 AM EDT

By Jeff Rivenbark, Web Content Producer

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services confirmed on Monday a history of abuse in the home of a child who police say was fatally injured by his mother more than a week ago.

Shannon Shmir Merriman, 22, was arrested Wednesday, July 13, at Carolinas Medical Center where her 1-year-old son, Marcus Markee Davis Jr., was hospitalized. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department initially charged Merriman with felony Child Abuse.

When her baby died the next day, police issued a murder warrant against her.

According to the CMPD, the child was injured at Merriman’s apartment on High Meadow Lane on Sunday, July 10.

Neighbor Anaya Ellington said Merriman came to her apartment to call 911 around 2:30 p.m.

“She had the baby in her arms, she was was crying ‘My baby, my baby,'” Ellington recalled. “I heard her tell 911 he was playing in the kitchen and hit his head on the cabinet.”

On Monday, July 18, the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services released a statement saying they were first contacted in June 2010 regarding the welfare of Marcus Davis Jr.

DSS says there were allegations the child’s parents were involved in substance abuse and there were concerns about domestic violence and the child being neglected.

DSS claims it received a report in August 2010 alleging domestic violence between Marcus Davis Sr. and Merriman. The case was transferred for ongoing in-home child protective services.

In September 2010, DSS was informed the child “sustained an injury caused by non-accidental trauma”, or child abuse.

Marcus Davis Sr. was charged with felony child abuse and arrested. He later pleaded guilty to the associated criminal charges.

DSS claims it continued checking in on Merriman and her son until the case was closed in April 2011 after Merriman “completed services for domestic violence, addressed substance abuse concerns, and completed employment readiness training.”

In May 2011, DSS was notified about an allegation of neglect involving the child. DSS was told the father had returned to Merriman’s home. After repeated visits to the home, DSS said “there were no concerns noted about the care of Marcus, Jr.” The case was later closed by DSS in June 2011.

DSS said it received yet another report alleging abuse and neglect after the child was admitted to CMC on July 10.

When Merriman appeared in court on Friday, July 15, her mother stood up and told the judge her daughter was a good mother. She asked the judge to have mercy.

Merriman was assigned a public defender. Due to the severity of the charges, the judge said she would not be released on bond. She remains in custody at the Mecklenburg County Jail.

In Memory of Zione Washington

Man pleads guilty to abuse, killing of girlfriend’s baby

by Gary L. Wright / Charlotte Observer

Posted on March 12, 2011 at 8:53 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael Walker, accused of killing his girlfriend’s 19-month-old child, told the judge Friday he deserves his punishment.

“I just want to say I’m sorry,” Walker, his wrists in handcuffs and his legs shackled, said moments before being sentenced. “I can’t bring him back. I’ve got to live with this. I’m embarrassed.”

Then he added: “I’m getting what I deserve.”

Superior Court Judge Bob Bell sentenced Walker to a minimum of 28 years and a maximum of 36 years in prison.

Walker, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and felony child abuse in connection with the April 2010 killing of Zione Washington. He admitted that the abuse of Shamika Washington’s son was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel. That admission exposed him to more prison time.

Walker also pleaded guilty to felony child abuse of Shamika Washington’s 21/2-year-old son, Michael.

Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Gabrielle Macon told the judge that Shamika Washington had gone out about 2 a.m. April 12 to buy a pack of cigarettes. When she got back to the apartment, on Teal Point Drive off North Sharon Amity Road, she took a 15-minute shower. She then entered the bedroom and noticed Zione lying on his back. Vomit was coming from his nose, his lips were blue and he was not breathing.

Washington began CPR and told her boyfriend to call 911.

As Medic emergency personnel approached the apartment about 3 a.m., Walker came toward them with Zione in his arms. The child was transported to Presbyterian Hospital. Both Medic and hospital staff saw what appeared to be bruising on Zione, Macon said. Zione never regained a pulse or began breathing and was pronounced dead at 3:25 a.m.

Macon told the judge that Walker confessed to beating Zione. The prosecutor said that Walker, when confronted with photographs of the child’s injuries, told detectives that Zione had started crying after Washington left the apartment.

Walker recalled telling Zione to go back to sleep but got frustrated and hit him with a plastic bowling pin and on the chest several times with an open hand and closed fist, Macon said.

He said he then pulled the covers over Zione and went back to watching TV.

Macon told the judge that Zione had bruises on his face, chest, abdomen and forehead. Detectives found three plastic bowling pins in the bedroom closet, the prosecutor said. One of them was crushed.

Shamika Washington wasn’t at the sentencing of her son’s killer. Macon told the judge that Zione’s mother had moved to Georgia and authorities had been unable to contact her.

Defense attorney Susan Weigand told the judge that Walker was intoxicated and had been smoking marijuana on the night of Zione’s killing. She said Walker told police that Zione’s mother had nothing to do with her child’s death.

“Mr. Walker is a very tormented soul,” Weigand said. “He is extremely sorry.”

In Memory of Nakyiah Chapman and Na’jhae Parker

DSS got call on Chapmans in September

by Lisa Hammersly | Charlotte Observer

Posted on April 1, 2010 at 2:20 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C.– Mecklenburg’s Department of Social Services received a complaint in September regarding the Chapman family — where four members died in a recent murder-suicide spree — but decided not to open a case on the family.

The agency said Thursday that workers weren’t able to take the case and provide protective services because the complaint “did not meet the legal definition of abuse, neglect or dependency,” according to an agency spokesman.

Authorities believe Kenneth Jermaine Chapman, 33, suffocated his wife, 35-year-old Nateesha Ward Chapman, more than two weeks ago in a Charlotte apartment where the family formerly lived.

Within a day of her killing, police say Chapman also killed two children: his wife’s daughter, 13-year-old Na’Jhae Parker, and the couple’s own daughter, 1-year-old Nakyiah Jael Chapman. Chapman fatally shot himself late Monday when police arrived to investigate a missing person report. Two other children survived.

Following the murders, DSS filed a petition with Mecklenburg County Juvenile Court and obtained protective custody of the surviving children, ages 10 and 2.

DSS officials didn’t respond immediately to questions about what the September complaint entailed and whether the agency has reviewed the screening process since the crimes.

In Memory of Josiah and Gabriel Hawthorne

DSS letter shows contact with mother charged in deaths

CHARLOTTE — The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services released a letter Friday outlining the timeline of their involvement with Orgal Opata.

The 26-year-old is being held under a $1 million bond. She’s charged with two counts of murder and felony child abuse after her 1- and 2-year-old sons died in a house fire Sunday. Two of her other children survived and police say she left the four children home alone.

In Friday’s letter, DSS officials say social workers were first notified in June 2008 that Orpata’s children were left unattended. They recommended services for Orpata and closed that case in early August 2008.

Then, last October, DSS was again notified that Orpata’s children were found at home alone. Officials said they referred Orpata’s case to Family Intervention Protective Services and assigned a social worker to make regular contact.

DSS said Orpata cooperated with community-based service providers and indicated the children were receiving appropriate supervision.

On Friday afternoon, Orpata’s case involving the child neglect charges from last year was continued until late April.

Friday night, dozens of people came together for a vigil to remember Opata’s two infants who were killed in a fire last week. (Watch video)

In Memory of Ellijah Burger

Toddler beaten, killed at motel

by By ANN SHERIDAN / NewsChannel 36 

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 1 at 4:22 PM

Arrest in toddler’s murder

A man who was watching a toddler at a west Charlotte motel beat the 23-month-old to death, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A father who was watching his 23-month-old son at a west Charlotte motel beat the toddler to death, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. The man is now facing murder charges.

Detectives say Andre Earl Hampton was watching Ellijah Burger, who is his son, while the boy’s mother was at work.

“I saw the mom when they brought him out. She was screaming and crying, ‘Oh my God, not my baby,'” said Elizabeth Dickerson, a resident at the AARCS Residence Suites Hotel on South Tryon Street.

“She came out screaming. It gives me chills all over,” she said.

Jawone Carr watched as Medic tried to save Burger. “I’d seen paramedics come out with the little guy in their arms. He was limp, like he was passed out or something,” he said.”He had whips all over his body.”

People who live at the AARCS Residence Suites say Burger and his family were new to the area.Still many already knew the mom and can’t get the image out of their minds.

“What she was going through, I can’t imagine. I don’t want to imagine it,” said resident David Taylor.

CMPD says they responded to a call from the hotel around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.Medic tried to save Burger by administering CPR, but he was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.

Detectives say Hampton willingly went to police headquarters where he was questioned. He was later charged with murder.

His first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

Police say there were other children in the room at the time of the crime.Those children are safe and in police custody, according to investigators on the scene.

Hampton’s record shows he was arrested last April on a misdemeanor assault charge.

“I don’t believe it. He wouldn’t hurt anybody,” said a woman who lives near one of the homes Hampton’s mother owns. “He’s not the type to do something like that. He was quiet and he really cared for those kids.”

(NewsChannel 36 reporter Richard DeVayne contributed to this report.)

In Memory of Tiffany Ranae and Aaliyah Faye Wright

Baby born to murdered Charlotte teen dies

Posted: Sep 14, 2009 7:30 AM EDTUpdated: Oct 31, 2009 4:03 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – The baby of a 15-year-old teen who was murdered last week passed away this weekend nearly one week after her mother’s tragic death.

Also, Monday WBTV learned that the suspect in the alleged rape of the murdered teen had been appointed the teen’s temporary guardian by the courts earlier this year.

Tiffany Ranae Wright was shot and killed on Monday, Sept. 14., while waiting for her school bus along Mallard Park Drive in north Charlotte.  

Wright died at Carolinas Medical Center and doctors were able to deliver her unborn child.  The premature infant was about four weeks old when born, but died after nearly one week.

The baby, named Aaliyan Faye Wright, died Sunday morning.  A hospital spokesperson was unable to comment this weekend on the exact cause of death.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department says detectives are consulting with the medical examiner and the district attorney to determine if the suspect in the case should be charged with the child’s death. 

Tiffany Wright’s funeral had been scheduled for Tuesday, but has been delayed. The Department of Social Services is now handling the arrangements, according to Stanley Mills with Grier Funeral services. 

Wright’s adopted brother and temporary guardian, Royce Mitchell, 36, turned himself into police one week ago just hours after her death.  Police charged him for allegedly raping Wright earlier this year and they are still calling him a person of interest in connection with her murder. 

According to court documents obtained Monday by WBTV, Wright’s adoptive mother, Alma Wright, died on January 25, 2009.  The courts gave Alma Wright’s biological son, Royce Mitchell, temporary guardianship of Tiffany Wright.  She went to live with him and his wife, Andria.

The courts said Mitchell would remain Tiffany Wright’s temporary guardian until home study could be conducted by the Department of Social Services to determine if he should have permanent custody. 

Last week, Tiffany Wright’s paternal grandmother, Shirley Boston, publicly blamed the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for not protecting her granddaughter from Mitchell.

The CMPD said they had been investigating the rape allegation against him for nearly two months, but they did not file charges against him until after Wright’s death due to a backlog of sexual assault cases.  He was charged with statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a child. Authorities also said they were looking into whether Mitchell was the father of Wright’s baby. 

WBTV also spoke to a woman from Shelby,North Carolina who petitioned the court for custody of Wright.

“I wanted her to come and stay with me because I wanted to give her the tools she needed to be successful, her desire was to be an attorney,” said Cruceta Jeffeirs. ” I’m still not comprehending , grasping why would somebody want to harm her or hurt her, I don’t get that.”

Last week, the City of Charlotte released a statement concerning Mitchell’s employment status.  He was hired as a member of the Charlotte Department of Transportation’s street maintenance crew in 2007.  A spokeswoman for the city said Mitchell was terminated for “falsifying his employment application.” 

Spokeswoman Kim McMillan said the city checked his records for criminal offenses at the local and state level.  Some of his federal records were reviewed but not all of them, she said.  

“To ensure a more comprehensive review of all applicants, the City will expand background checks to include a search of federal offenses throughout the country,” McMillan said.  

On Tuesday, Mitchell appeared in court and he said nothing as the judge read the charges filed against him.  Mitchell appeared over closed-circuit TV and did not appear to show any emotion according to WBTV Reporter Dedrick Russell who was present in the courtroom. 

This isn’t Mitchell’s first encounter with the law.  According to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, Andria Mitchell filed a domestic violence order of protection against him on May 6, 2008.  She alleges that he threw her out of their bed, punched her in the face leaving her with a black eye, bruised jaw bone and a headache.  In 2006, he was acquitted in a 1998 drug-related murder in Buffalo, New York.

Wright was an 11th grade student at Hawthorne High School which offers a variety of programs including one designed for students who are pregnant.  Additional counselors were at the school last week providing assistance to students and staff. 

The school held a joint memorial service on Thursday for her and Ja’ron McGill.  McGill died a few months ago in a separate and unrelated gun violence incident.  Following the service, students and staff went outside to release purple balloons in memory of the two students. 

If you have any information about this shooting, call 704-332-TIPS or call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. 

How system failed 15-year-old gunned down at bus stop

By Christopher D. Kirkpatrick | Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tiffany Wright stood alone in the dark, waiting for her school bus.

It was just before 6 a.m., and her foster grandmother had walked back home to get Tiffany’s water bottle.

Tiffany, 15, was eight months pregnant but determined to stay on track in school. She wanted to be a lawyer. And after just a few weeks at Hawthorne High, she had impressed teachers as smart and ambitious, despite a difficult childhood.

At 5:51, Tiffany sent a text.

“Wheres the bus?”

One stop away, replied her friend, already on the bus.

At 5:55, as the bus lumbered toward Tiffany’s stop, people began calling police to report gunshots.

A school bus dispatcher radioed Tiffany’s bus driver: Change course – something’s happening ahead.

Tiffany lay dead in the road, shot in the head, that morning, Monday, Sept. 14. Her baby girl was delivered at the hospital and lived a week, but died Sunday.

Nobody’s charged in the killings, but police call Tiffany’s adoptive brother, Royce Mitchell, a “person of interest.”

In the months before she died, local agencies took steps aimed at stabilizing her home life and keeping her safe. But her story exposes failures in the system that was supposed to protect her.

Among the missteps:

•In February, a Mecklenburg court clerk appointed Mitchell as Tiffany’s temporary guardian — even though he was a felon who served time in federal prison. He was also tried in 2006 for murder, but found not guilty. And last year, he was accused of domestic violence, though the case was dismissed.

•In July, social workers told police that Mitchell, 36, might have committed statutory rape with Tiffany, but police didn’t question him about it for seven weeks, and didn’t charge him with the rape until after Tiffany was killed.

•This month, Mecklenburg social services failed to cut off communication between Tiffany, who was in foster care, and Mitchell, said a source close to the investigation.

On the day of Tiffany’s killing, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police jailed Mitchell for statutory rape and indecent liberties with a child, naming Tiffany as the victim.

Police defend their work, saying they followed the industry’s best practices – which takes time. Police didn’t feel a need to rush, they say, because they believed Tiffany was secure, hidden in a foster home with no threat to her safety.

Police say it’s hard to prove statutory rape: Of the 262 reports of statutory rape police received over three years, only 16 percent – 42 cases – were accepted by prosecutors.

Experts say statutory rape cases are complicated because they involve victims ages 13, 14 or 15 who often consider themselves voluntary participants in sex with someone at least six years older. So victims can be reluctant to help police.

But child advocates say in cases like Tiffany’s, police should act more aggressively. An immediate arrest sends a signal to a suspect and can persuade them to stay away from victims.

“The cases may be difficult to win, but they’re not difficult to charge,” says Brett Loftis of Charlotte’s Council for Children’s Rights.

UNCC criminologist Paul Friday says: “Often, nothing is done in these kinds of cases because they’re based on improper assumptions about the rationality of someone that age. But the minors are often unaware of disease, birth control and they can be exploited by someone.”

Adopted by foster mother

Tiffany first entered the child welfare system as a toddler in Buffalo, N.Y., when her mother lost custody.

She was adopted at 4 by her foster mother, Alma Wright, an older woman with eight grown children, who was excited about raising another child.

One of Wright’s grown sons was Royce Mitchell, a star quarterback in high school who’d gone on to play for a semi-pro team in Buffalo. But Mitchell also was indicted in 1999 as part of a drug trafficking ring and went to federal prison.

While he was in prison, authorities also charged Mitchell with an earlier murder, but a jury found him not guilty.

In 2004, Alma and Tiffany left Buffalo for North Carolina, settling near Kings Mountain. Tiffany made friends easily at school and church. She ran track at Bessemer City High School.

In 2007, Mitchell was released from prison and followed his mother to North Carolina.

But last fall, Alma Wright got sick. Friends at church helped out with Tiffany, inviting her for dinners and weekends. Tiffany spent time with Mitchell and his wife, too.

Alma Wright died Jan. 25, and Tiffany moved in with the Mitchells in Charlotte.

On Jan. 30, Royce Mitchell asked a Mecklenburg court to appoint him and his wife as Tiffany’s guardians.

On his application, he wrote: “We are seeking guardianship because we were requested to do so by Mrs. Alma Wright before she died.”

He wanted to transfer Tiffany to West Mecklenburg High School.

The court set a hearing for Feb. 5 and appointed a child advocate to study the situation and look after Tiffany’s best interests in court.

There’s no transcript of what happened in court, and the clerk who handled Tiffany’s case declined to discuss his decision.

Frederick Benson, a Mecklenburg assistant clerk of superior court, appointed Mitchell the temporary guardian of Tiffany’s welfare.

It’s unclear if Benson, a lawyer, knew about Mitchell’s criminal background. Court clerks are not required to perform background checks in guardianship cases, says Clerk of Superior Court Martha Curran. It’s up to each clerk to decide what checks are necessary, and they often rely on court-appointed child advocates to advise them in such cases.

Tiffany’s advocate, lawyer Martha Efird, declined to discuss her actions in the case.

It was in the weeks surrounding the Feb. 5 court hearing that Tiffany got pregnant, if hospital estimates are accurate.

But friends say Tiffany, who started at West Mecklenburg High in February, wouldn’t realize for four or five months that she was pregnant.

On Feb. 27, clerk of court Benson ordered DSS to conduct a “home study” of the Mitchell household. Officials won’t release their findings.

But Mitchell didn’t keep custody long, according to several of Tiffany’s friends in King’s Mountain.

In late March, Mitchell left Tiffany at a group home called With Friends in Gastonia, according to Marlene Jefferies and Cruceta Jeffeirs, two adult family friends who watched Tiffany grow up.

The group home wouldn’t confirm that. But the friends say the home reported to social services that Tiffany was abandoned. And she was soon back in foster care.

On March 31, Jeffeirs, a Shelby pastor, wrote a letter to Benson seeking custody of Tiffany: “My desire is to see Tiffany accomplish all the goals that she has set for herself and I believe she can do that in a stable environment with lots of guidance and love.”

DSS officials in Gaston and Mecklenburg won’t discuss Tiffany’s case or answer questions about what steps they took to protect her.

But friends and family say Tiffany was eventually placed in the care of foster parent Susan Barber, in a townhome off Mallard Creek Road in Derita.

By July, it was clear Tiffany was pregnant, friends say.

Barber tried to shield Tiffany from talking to those she believed might be bad influences, according to Tiffany’s cousin Brittany Page. But a source close to the investigation said Tiffany and Mitchell continued communicating.

Despite repeated attempts, Barber could not be reached.

As the school year approached, Tiffany prepared to change schools again, this time to Hawthorne High in Charlotte, which offers a special program for pregnant students.

Delayed investigation

On July 27, social workers reported to police that Royce Mitchell might have committed statutory rape with Tiffany.

It took eight days for a detective to look at the case, and three days more for it to be officially assigned to Teresa Johnson, a detective with CMPD’s youth crime and domestic violence unit.

Another 12 days passed before Johnson interviewed Tiffany.

It’s unclear when detective Johnson discovered Mitchell’s background, but it wasn’t enough to ramp up the investigation. Investigators say they believed Tiffany was safe in a foster home and faced no threats from Mitchell.

Police say their performance in the case followed procedure and met standards.

Police interview alleged victims immediately if the crime has occurred within the previous 72 hours, so they can gather evidence that may remain. But in cases like Tiffany’s – where months had elapsed since the alleged offense – police try to arrange just one interview when children and teen victims of abuse are involved.

Police acknowledge that strategy takes time but minimizes trauma and reduces the chances that young victims might be led into inaccurate testimony by repeated questioning.

Police also let such victims decide when they want to be interviewed at the county’s child-victim center called Pat’s Place. There, specially trained interviewers talk to victims, while social workers, psychologists, police and others watch from another room.

Tiffany chose an Aug. 19 interview. She didn’t say much during the formal interview. But later that day, Johnson won her trust and obtained enough information to move forward with the investigation.

No response from Mitchell

The next day, Aug. 20, the detective made her first call to Mitchell to ask him about the charge, she says. Johnson left a message and gave him a few days to call back.

When Mitchell didn’t respond, she made calls over the next two weeks to social workers and a federal probation officer to ask Mitchell to come talk to police.

Police say they didn’t immediately arrest him because they believed they could get better information if he talked voluntarily.

On Sept. 9, a federal probation official told Johnson that Mitchell was not coming in.

On Sept. 10, a team of social workers, police and other agencies held a standard follow-up meeting to discuss how to proceed in Tiffany’s case.

On Friday, Sept. 11, detective Johnson phoned Mitchell’s wife and left a message. She asked her to call back to discuss Tiffany, Johnson says, but didn’t give details of the rape allegation.

That Monday, Tiffany was shot and killed.

As emergency vehicles rolled to the scene, Tiffany’s school bus was diverted from its normal route. But the students could see flashing lights. Tiffany’s friends on the bus, Cimone Black and Tamia Corpening, began to worry.

“I kept texting her phone…,” Cimone said. Then she started calling, but all she got was voice mail.

The bus continued on to Hawthorne. For Tamia, the hourlong ride was excruciating.

Nobody said a word.

Staff writers Liz Chandler and Ely Portillo and researcher Maria David contributed.

In Memory of Canell “C.J. Durant

Father Arrested In Child’s Death, Neighbors Stunned

 Updated: 7:25 a.m. Friday, April 1, 2011 | Posted: 1:46 p.m. Thursday, March 31, 2011


The father of a 4-month-old boy, 33-year-old Christopher Durant, was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the infant’s death.Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said officers went to a home on Ventura Way on Tuesday to assist in a medical call. Emergency responders found the infant, who was unresponsive, police said.One neighbor said he talked to Durant on Tuesday night.

“He says, ‘my baby just passed away.’ I was like ‘for real?’ He was crying, holding his head down,” said that neighbor.

The child was taken to Presbyterian Hospital. Staff members there told police he showed signs of physical abuse, CMPD officials said.

At that point, detectives with the Homicide and Family Services Unit began an investigation, processing the home for evidence and interviewing the infant’s parents.

On Tuesday evening, hospital staff members notified police that the infant had died.

Police said the preliminary investigation and the findings of the medical examiner gave them enough evidence to obtain a murder warrant for Durant.

Neighbors said Durant also has a 6-year-old son and appeared to be an attentive father.

“Every time I saw him, he was either up at the bus stop, making sure his kids got off the bus or I seen him walking around with them strapped to his back,” said neighbor Randy King.

King was shocked he saw the police report alleging physical abuse.

“I wouldn’t say he seemed like a parent who was abusive, or had an uneven temperament or anything like that. He seemed like he was taking care of his kids,” said King.

Neighbors said they had seen police in the apartment for the last two days and thought a criminal charge would be coming.

Durant was arrested once before for assaulting a woman two years ago.

Child death disclosure hindered by Bureaucratic circumventing, ignorance? Part 3

Part 3: Bureaucratic circumventing; avoiding disclosure by statutory maneuvering?

Is mandatory disclosure, being avoided by Bureaucratic circumventing?

Is Child fatality disclosure hindered by Bureaucratic circumventing and ignorance?

Part 3 of a 4 part investigative report

Read Part 1, Read Part 2

Bureaucratic circumventing

Circumventing is defined as:

  1. Find a way around (an obstacle).
  2. Overcome (a difficulty), typically in a clever and surreptitious way.

According to ACF in their Policy Interpertation Questions and Answers section, the only legally allowed reason to refuse disclosure in child fatality and near fatality cases is if that disclosure would jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding.

Read more

In Memory of Connor and Cameron Maxwell

Connor Maxwell

Cameron Maxwell

William Maxwell Loved His Family Then He Killed Them, Say N.C. Police

November 3, 2009 1:12 PM

By Neil Katz

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (CBS/AP) People who knew William Maxwell say that the 47-year-old real estate developer and active church member loved his family more than anything.

But police say that didn’t stop him from shooting to death his wife and two children then himself Monday night in a gruesome murder-suicide that has shaken an upscale Fayetteville, N.C. community, one hour south of Raleigh.

Authorities did not hint at a motive.

Police said Tuesday that Maxwell killed wife his wife, Kathryn, and their children, 17-year-old Connor and 15-year-old Cameron, before turning a gun on himself.

“Billy, if you knew him, loved his family. Everybody knew that. That’s what makes this so tragic,” said John Cook, pastor of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, where every member of the family was active. “Obviously something tragic was going on for this to happen.”

Friends and neighbors say the Maxwells were a friendly family who kept a meticulous yard and were active in their church and their children’s religious high school.

“They were just wonderful people, active in their church,” said neighbor Kay Edwards, who has lived next door since 1994, when she moved back into the home where she grew up and where her 94-year-old mother still lives. “They were just good neighbors.”

Edwards said she would often see family members walking their small dog through the quiet, leafy neighborhood.

“We’re just all in shock,” she said Tuesday. “You could not image this happening.”

William Maxwell was a builder and land developer who built residential subdivisions in Cumberland and Harnett counties, said John McKinney of Fayetteville, who described himself as Maxwell’s business partner and friend for more than a decade.

“He was a devout Christian and I really loved his family,” McKinney said.

William Maxwell followed his father into the residential real estate business and also owned a couple of local car washes, while his wife Kathryn was a stay-at-home mother who taught Sunday school at Snyder Memorial, McKinney and Cook said.

Years ago, Kathryn, 43, taught in Fayetteville’s public schools, said neighbor and state Sen. Tony Rand, whose wife worked with her.

Connor Maxwell performed in a dance troupe and sang in the big Christmas celebration at the family’s church, which has about 1,800 members, Cook said.

She was a senior while brother Cameron attended 9th grade at Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville. The school is affiliated with Village Baptist Church. “We’re obviously very saddened by this tragic event and we’re really concentrating right now on just meeting the needs of the students and staff at the school,” said Lou Nelon, the church administrator. “Those kids were very well loved and respected. They were very well known here in town,” Nelon said.

In a neighborhood with well-manicured lawns where many houses sit on hill tops, a steady stream of cars drove by the house on Tuesday, slowing for drivers to gape at the crime scene.

Evelyn Diaz, a Maxwell neighbor for about a year, said she remembered the father and son working on the meticulously-kept lawn. One woman who said her husband coached basketball at Village Christian Academy with Maxwell came Tuesday to lay a bunch of yellow daisies on the lawn.

Suzie Martell, a neighbor and a student at Fayetteville Technical Community College, came by the house to snap some pictures with her cell phone. “The family was great. The husband obviously prospered in his field,” said Martell.

Fayetteville is about 50 miles southwest of Raleigh and home to the Army’s sprawling Fort Bragg.

In Memory of Makayla and Kaylob Dean Peek

Kaylob Dean Peek

When the autopsy said SIDS, investigation stopped


GASTONIA — The 911 caller described a terrifying scene: A man in a convenience store parking lot was choking an infant.

Moments earlier, the man hit the baby’s mother, the caller said. By one account, he had struck the woman in the face and the baby fell from her arms to the ground.

Now, the man held 1-month-old Makayla Peek in the air by her throat as bystanders begged him to stop, the caller said. After five to 10 seconds, he put her down and stormed off on foot.

Later that night, Makayla’s mother, who was sleeping with the child, awoke to find her dead.

Two years later, she lost another baby. She again was sleeping with her child, this time a son.

Today, no one has been charged in either case, an example of how even the mention of SIDS in an autopsy can complicate criminal investigations.

The cases were among several North Carolina infant deaths reviewed by the Observer in which law enforcement said the SIDS label discouraged them from seeking charges.

Crimes are difficult to prosecute when the possibility of SIDS is mentioned in an autopsy because it describes a natural death.

What happened to Makayla remains a mystery. Was she fatally injured in the parking lot? Did her mother, who witnesses said was drunk or high that day, unintentionally suffocate her as they slept? Or did something else kill Makayla, possibly SIDS?

Belmont police opened an investigation, suspecting homicide. When a baby is choked and then dies, “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out,” Chief David James said.

An emergency room doctor told police Makayla suffered a skull fracture, likely from being shaken, dropped or a hit on the head.

But a Gaston County medical examiner ruled the cause of death undetermined. An autopsy report says the medical examiner did not find a skull fracture and wrote the death was “consistent with SIDS.”

Police questioned Makayla’s mother and her mother’s then-boyfriend, but, after 14 months, closed the case.

Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell declined to file charges, saying the autopsy findings left him with no medical evidence.

The second baby, 2-week-old Kaylob Dean Peek, died March 5, 2009, after sleeping in bed with his mother.

A second unexpected infant death puts law enforcement authorities on the alert for reckless behavior or potential homicide.

Just like in Makayla’s case, authorities did not pursue charges after Kaylob’s cause of death was ruled undetermined but “consistent with SIDS.”

Drug history

Accounts show Makayla’s short life was surrounded by turmoil.

In the hours before Makayla died, Joanie Hopkins and her boyfriend, Jason Michael Wilson, appeared under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to police reports and records from the Gaston County Department of Social Services.

One woman said Hopkins acted drugged and her eyes were rolling to the back of her head. Another person said Wilson drank and took pills that day.

The behavior did not shock people who knew them. Two weeks after Makayla was born, someone called DSS to report Hopkins and Wilson had used drugs in the baby’s presence.

About the same time, friends worried about the baby’s safety because Hopkins “would be so high Makayla would fall out of the car seat,” said Margaret Thompson, Hopkins’ mother.

DSS and court records say there were allegations of domestic violence between Hopkins and Wilson.

At least two other Gaston County women have sought protective orders against Wilson, according to court records. In August, one woman claimed that Wilson threatened her and her 1-year-old daughter. She said Wilson told her, “You deserve to have me kill you and your family.”

By the throat

About 9 p.m. on June 5, 2007, the couple rode to the Kingsway convenience store in Gastonia, with Makayla in the car, a police report says.

An argument ensued.

A woman inside the store heard the commotion and went outside to see what happened. She told police she saw a man hit a woman before a bystander pulled him away. She asked not to be identified in this story for safety reasons.

The woman said she went back inside the building, but she heard screams again. When she looked outside this time, she said she saw a man “holding a baby by its throat, its feet dangled in the air.”

Another person told police Wilson came to her home later that night and gave an account of what happened in the parking lot. She said Wilson told her that he hit Hopkins in the face and “she dropped the baby on the cement.”

911 call

Hopkins told police she drove Makayla from the store to her home, arriving about 10 p.m. She said she fed Makayla a bottle, burped her and went to sleep with the infant on her chest.

About 2:30 a.m., Wilson knocked on Hopkins’ door. When Hopkins came to the door with Makayla in her arms, both Wilson and Hopkins said they noticed Makayla wasn’t breathing. They called 911.

The operator instructed the couple to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but “all that seemed to be happening was Jason and Joanie arguing in the background,” a report said.

Hopkins told the 911 operator differing accounts of what happened, police said. At first, she said the baby fell off the bed. She later said she was sleeping with the baby on the couch and she must have rolled over on her.

Emergency responders arrived and attempted to revive Makayla, but one rescuer said she showed signs she had been dead for an extended period of time.

‘She died of SIDS’

Hopkins said she couldn’t remember exactly what happened the night Makayla died.

When a police officer arrived, she repeatedly said “I did not drop her again.” In a later police interview, she said she “knew that Jason killed her baby, she just doesn’t know how he did it.”

Hopkins, 30, declined comment for this story.

Wilson, 29, denies that he choked Makayla or hit Hopkins at the Kingsway store.

Wilson told police he was trying to leave her car when Hopkins began screaming and confronting him. Wilson said he pushed her away and left.

Contacted by the Observer, Wilson yelled and threatened a reporter. “She died of SIDS,” he said.

His father, Eddie Wilson, said his family has tried to move past the tragedy. Eddie Wilson said Jason Wilson was trying to help Makayla the night she died. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Asked about the allegations his son was seen choking the infant, he said, “If that were true, wouldn’t he be charged?”

Case closed

The district attorney’s office would not pursue charges. Belmont police closed the case Oct. 30, 2008, more than a year after Makayla died.

James, the department’s chief, said the medical examiner’s findings derailed the investigation. He said he complained about the findings to Dr. John Butts, the state’s chief medical examiner.

Butts said he does not recall receiving the complaint.

James said he is upset because a Gaston Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor said preliminary X-rays showed Makayla had suffered a skull fracture.

A radiologist’s review said “there was a suggestion of a depressed skull fracture” and asked for more studies, but they were never done, the autopsy report says.

The autopsy performed by Dr. Peter Wittenberg in Gaston County found no skull fracture.

Wittenberg referred questions to Butts, who is responsible for overseeing medical examiners statewide.

In an interview with the Observer, Butts dismissed the possibility Makayla suffered a skull fracture, saying the hospital must have interpreted the X-rays wrong. He said he sees no reason to review the X-ray.

An autopsy is far more accurate than an X-ray, he said. “In an autopsy you hold the bone in your hands,” Butts said. “An X-ray, you are looking at shadows.”

Butts added that during an autopsy, “if there’s a fracture, you can’t miss it.”

He said the medical examiner wrote that Makayla’s death was “consistent with SIDS” because the autopsy revealed no explanation for the death. Butts said it was classified undetermined based on the circumstances surrounding the death.

The ruling means the autopsy did not find evidence linking the baby’s death to the alleged choking, Butts said.

“If you cannot connect the two, how can you get up in court and testify this child is [dead] because someone maltreated them a few hours before, but somehow didn’t produce any marks?” he asked. “Your position is indefensible.”

But Chris Hendricks, a Gaston EMS operations supervisor, sat on an expert panel that reviewed the case and issued a report detailing how police, doctors, DSS and others performed their roles.

“There are too many questions for it just to be a SIDS case,” Hendricks said.

The panel found that “all resources available to the local Medical Examiner were not thoroughly utilized.” They said “local law enforcement did not communicate all relevant scene/investigative findings to the local Medical Examiner.”

The report also said Hopkins had been warned about the danger of bed-sharing the infants, which has been identified as a risk for suffocation.

No prosecution

Bell, the Gaston County district attorney, said there is not enough evidence to convict anyone in Makayla’s death. He said he had anticipated the autopsy would show different results.

Bell said he considered filing lesser charges against Wilson, but decided he was not going to “put the mother through the suffering,” he said.

Thompson, Makayla’s grandmother, said she has tried to work with police but investigators tell her they share her frustration with Bell’s stance.

She said an officer from the Gaston County Police told her that he met with Bell and Gaston County DSS to present evidence that shows connections between the deaths of the two babies.

Few details are publicly available in the death of the second baby, Kaylob.

An autopsy said Hopkins fed him in the middle of the night. “The mother took the infant to bed with her. In the morning, mother found the infant cold and dead,” the report says.

Gaston County Police Sgt. Steve Dover said police found no indication of foul play, but the investigating officer “didn’t like the determination of SIDS. It bothered him that it was the second child” who died.

A report from the expert panel that reviews such cases is not yet available, a state spokeswoman said.

Bell said he reviewed the cases with police but authorities found no evidence of a link.

The medical examiner’s ruling influenced his decision not to pursue charges in both cases, Bell said. “The doctor says it’s consistent with SIDS, so we have no evidence to show it wasn’t SIDS,” he said. “You can’t prosecute on what you suspect.”

A grandmother’s grief

Thompson said she doesn’t believe her grandchildren died from natural causes. What sticks in her mind is the mention of SIDS in the autopsies.

“Two little babies dying with SIDS is almost impossible,” she said.

On a recent day, Thompson visited Evergreen cemetery in Belmont, where Makayla and Kaylob are buried in adjacent graves. Grass obscures the tiny 7-inch-wide grave markers bearing their names, dates of birth and dates of death.

Thompson said she wanted to purchase tombstones for her grandchildren but was told she would need consent from Hopkins. She said Hopkins rarely speaks to her.

The grandmother recounted the events surrounding Makayla’s death and one of her last conversations with her daughter. Tears streamed down her face as she recalled how Makayla seldom cried.

“I don’t want to sound redundant,” Thompson said, “but I am just amazed they didn’t file charges.”

In Memory of Austen Blake Minter II and Serenity Tyvon Minter

Police seek answers as family mourns mom, kids slain in murder-suicide

Monday, Jul 12 2010, 8:40 am

Destiny Minter may be the only one who knows why her mother’s boyfriend opened fire on his family before taking his own life.

Police say the 7-year-old who survived a gunshot to the face and is recovering in a Charlotte hospital is detectives’ best hope for understanding what led to Friday’s murder-suicide. Two adults and two children were found dead in a home at 1303 Dean Drive north of Dallas.

Capt. Joe Ramey of the Gaston County Police Department said investigators plan to interview the girl when her condition improves.

“We’re mostly concerned with her health and well-being, so we’ll heed the advice of doctors as to when would be an appropriate time,” Ramey said. “We may never know the exact reason for why this occurred, but we’ll try to get the best information available and put together as much information as we have.”

Austen Blake Minter, 25, shot and killed his girlfriend, Tracy Lee Hedgepath, 24, and two of their children, 6-year-old Austen Blake Minter II and 3-year-old Serenity Tyvon Minter, according to police. He also allegedly shot Destiny Minter, who was still alive when her grandparents got to the home to check on Hedgepath after she didn’t report to work.

“The young girl was able to come to the door,” Ramey said.

Destiny was in the home surrounded by her dead mother and siblings for several hours before her grandparents arrived, but may have been incapacitated or unconscious for part of the time, according to police.

Detectives say Hedgepath was about three months pregnant with her and Minter’s fourth child.

“There’s no rhyme or reason for an individual to commit these types of acts, shooting anyone, much less shooting children so young,” Ramey said.

Violent history

Police say Austen Minter had a history of domestic violence complaints. Arrest records show he was charged twice in 2008 with violating a domestic violence protective order and had also been charged with domestic criminal trespassing and assault on a female.

Ramey said Hedgepath had applied for a domestic violence protective order in 2008, but she had never completed the process to have the order enforced.

She and Minter were living together at the time of the fatal shooting, but had an on-again, off-again relationship, Ramey said. Minter had moved out of the Dean Drive home a few months ago, but had recently moved back in.

“There are always opportunities for individuals to try to get away from situations such as these,” Ramey said. “It boils down to people making the right choices and the perpetrator as well as the victims working out their differences or seeking out the help that is available. You can’t make people do these things. All you can do is offer.”

Hedgepath’s sisters said they feared Austen Minter and saw a recurring pattern of abuse.

“He was a horrible person — he always hit on her,” said sister Billie Verrier. “We feared for her life. We knew that one day, something was going to happen. He wouldn’t stay away from her.”

The 25-year-old had threatened to shoot his girlfriend before and had been in violent altercations with his own family members, according to Hedgepath’s family. Police confirmed that Austen Minter was shot during a gunfight with his stepfather, but weren’t immediately able to provide details of that incident.

“He was a monster, that’s all I’ve got to say about him,” said Kellie Harris, another of Hedgepath’s sisters. “He was abusive to his own family. He wasn’t a man, he was a monster.”

A hardworking mom

Relatives and neighbors said Tracy Hedgepath worked tirelessly to provide for her children and cherished the time she spent playing with them.

“She was a wonderful mother, and they were wonderful kids,” said Harris. “She worked every day of her life, and she raised those kids on her own.”

Hedgepath was the youngest of eight children and had six sisters and a brother. She graduated from North Gaston High School in 2003. Verrier said she worked at Kmart in Gastonia for nearly seven years.

“She worked every day for her babies,” Verrier said. “She was a very loving sister. She’d be there for you in a minute if you needed.”

Police say Destiny Minter is expected to survive her injuries, but doctors have yet to determine how much treatment she’ll need and what permanent damage she’ll suffer. Social workers will determine who will take care of the girl, Ramey said.

Verrier said she or her mother plan to take Destiny in. She said the girl’s grandparents and aunts will tell her about her mother’s kind and loving nature as she grows older.

“We’ll say that her mom was a wonderful person and that she loved her and so did her sister and brother,” Verrier said. “Her mother would want her to be strong. All we can do is comfort her and let her know that she’s loved — not just by us, but by her mom, too.”

Fatal shooting

Police say Austen Minter shot his girlfriend and their four children in the kitchen area of the tidy ranch home. Detectives found a .380-caliber handgun with five rounds fired, Ramey said Saturday. The police captain said he’d wait for autopsy reports before discussing where the four deceased had been shot.

Hedgepath’s parents made a 911 call after arriving at the Dean Drive house around 7:30 p.m. Friday. The young woman’s co-workers had called to notify her parents that she hadn’t come to work.

Ramey said police didn’t find a suicide note. Investigators were searching for those who had seen the family recently and may have been aware of any disputes.

“We don’t have any indication of what brought about the events of yesterday,” Ramey said. “That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of. We’re looking for people who might have a better insight into how their relationship was recently.”

Ramey said police would order toxicology tests to determine whether Austen Minter was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Police were also reviewing Austen Minter’s criminal history and records of calls to service to the house.

“It’s a very tragic and unfortunate situation for both families involved and for the neighborhood,” Ramey said. “It’s just a difficult situation for everyone who’s involved.”

While sorrow and grief engulf the Hedgepath family, the slain woman’s sisters take comfort in knowing that she’s forever free from the painful cycle of domestic violence.

“She’s with God now — her and the babies both,” Verrier said. “They don’t have to suffer no more.”

Gazette Interactive Editor Kevin Ellis contributed to this story. You can reach Corey Friedman at 704-869-1828.


Austen Minter, who police say shot his girlfriend and their three children before turning the gun on himself Friday, has a history of domestic violence and gun charges. The 25-year-old has never been to prison, but had been given probation for a misdemeanor charge of assault by pointing a gun in August 2009, according to the N.C. Department of Correction.

Following are charges Minter has faced in Gaston County. A complete criminal record check was not available in time for this story.

April 23, 2007 — Domestic criminal trespassing and discharging a firearm into an occupied property. He posted the $25,000 bond.

March 22, 2008 — Violation of a domestic violence protection order and driving charges (invalid plates and driving without a license). Posted $1,000 unsecured and $500 secured bonds.

May 28, 2008 — Violation of a domestic violence protection order and failure to comply. Posted $25,200 bond and $200 for the failure to comply.

Dec. 4, 2008 — Resisting a public officer and assaulting a female. Posted $5,000 bond.

Feb. 11, 2009 — Assault with a deadly weapon, intent to kill, assault by pointing a gun, discharging a firearm within city limits. Original $50,000 bond was reduced to $15,000 on Feb. 18, then posted.

SOURCE: Gaston County Sheriff’s Office

Information compiled by Victoria Kurzweg/The Gazette

 Is Child fatality disclosure hindered by Bureaucratic circumventing and ignorance?

Part 2 of a 4 part investigative report

Read Part 1

Part 2: Is DSS failure to reply to disclosure requests, breaking the law?

Twenty-six county DSS offices were contacted seeking disclosure about child abuse, neglect and maltreatment fatalities from 2008 to present.

Overall, most counties replied quickly, although there were some issues.

Email addresses for each counties DSS director was obtained from the North Carolina Department of Social Services, Local County Directory, so it could be assumed that these email addresses were correct.

Yet, in two of these disclosure requests, it took 3 to 4 emails in order to obtain a response.

Read more

In Memory of Khisha Lachelle Freeman

Death penalty sought in child’s murder case

Published 8:00am Friday, February 19, 2010

WINDSOR, N.C.—The state will seek the death penalty against a local man who stands accused of murdering his 13-month-old-daughter.

The case against 26-year-old Jermaine O’Brien Freeman, formerly of Conway who later moved to Bertie County, has been declared “capital” — meaning state prosecutors have officially informed the court they will seek the death penalty.

Prior to that ruling, the Northampton County Grand Jury returned true bills of indictment against Freeman, who was charged with first degree murder on Dec. 23 for the Dec. 19 death of his daughter, Khisha Lachelle Freeman.

Following the Grand Jury’s ruling, local District Attorney Valerie M. Asbell conducted a Rule 24 hearing where she declared the case as capital and informed the court she would seek the death penalty.

When asked about the nature of a Rule 24 hearing, Asbell said that was one where the District Attorney informs the judge there are aggravating factors for which the death penalty could be sought in a particular case.

Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant agreed, ruling that the case could be tried as a death penalty case.

Tonza Ruffin is representing Freeman. No trial date has been scheduled.

Freeman became the leading suspect in the murder following an investigation by Conway Police Chief Billy Duke.

In an earlier interview by this newspaper, Duke said that at 1:20 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20 he was alerted by Northampton County Central Dispatch who advised him about the child who had been brought by her mother, Tenisha Boyd, at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie. Duke said the attending physician performed tests on the child in which the results had indicated foul play.

“When I got there the child had been pronounced dead,” he said.

Duke said with the assistance of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, he was able to interview both Boyd and Freeman.

The child’s body was transported to Pitt Memorial Hospital for an autopsy.

“Those preliminary results indicated the child had died of blunt force trauma (in the head area),” he said.

Duke said he conducted two more follow up interviews with the mother from which Freeman was developed as a suspect.

Duke said he was able to collect evidence which he transported to the State Bureau of Investigation lab in Raleigh.

After speaking with Asbell, Duke drew warrants for Freeman’s arrest.

Upon being served those warrants on Dec. 23, Freeman was behind bars at Bertie Martin Regional Jail on an outstanding warrant (failure to appear in court) with a bond of $5,000. He is now held without bond on the charges of murder and felony child abuse inflicting serious injury.

According to the North Carolina Department of Corrections Web site, Freeman has a list of convictions, including misdemeanor charges for common law forgery and common law uttering and resisting an officer. He was also convicted in Gates County with felony assault inflicting serious body injury in 2008. The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald has been able to confirm that the Gates County case involved a minor child.

In Memory of Kali Bekia Martin

Mom mourns her daughter’s violent death

SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2009 

(Updated Tuesday, April 14 – 8:14 am)
Staff Writer

TROY — Like a lot of little girls, Kali Martin carried her beloved baby doll “Bob” — short for Barbara — with her always.

When she carelessly left bald-headed Bob out in the rain and the doll was crushed by her uncle’s car, the little girl knew she hadn’t been a very good mama.

“She said, ‘Mama, I’m calling social services. I’m calling the police,’ ” Kali’s mother Shannon Martin recalled. “ ‘I left Bob out.’ ”

Four-year-old Kali’s life came to a violent end March 18, and police say it was at the hands of her caretakers, Tonya Dobson Williams and Williams’ fiance, Anthony Ravon Duncan.

Williams and Duncan have been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Kali’s death.

Her 30-year-old mother, imprisoned on drug charges, was helpless to prevent Kali’s death by blunt-force trauma.

Interviewed Saturday in a steamy room at the medium-security Southern Correctional Institution in Troy, Martin said Kali was an old soul. And Martin expressed anger toward the people she trusted to care for three of her children.

“Kali was in their care, and they are responsible for my child,” she said. “I want them to suffer the same way they made Kali suffer.”

Martin grew up in the mountains of Dobson and moved to Greensboro last year with three of her four children, Kali, Alasha, 7, and Zion, 2.

The family lived with her cousin Williams, Duncan and Duncan’s three children, Martin said.

Little Kali liked to mother her little brother Zion and had tastes beyond her years, Martin said.

“She loved babies. She loved home-cooked meals,” her mother said. “There was not a morning that baby did not say, ‘I want my breakfast and I want coffee.’”

When Martin went to prison last year for drug trafficking, she gave temporary custody of the three children to Williams.

Martin said she had known Williams her whole life. And she had seen Duncan take care of the children by playing with them and feeding them.

“I really trusted them,” she said.

Although Martin said she was aware of drug and alcohol use in the house, she said she could not say whether there was a history of violence or physical abuse.

But Martin said Saturday that police investigators told her that Kali had both old and recent bruises on her body when she died, and that a blunt-force trauma to the head killed her daughter.

Martin said she is eager to get out of prison and take back custody of her two youngest children — now in the care of social services — and her eldest child, who lives with her parents.

“I hope they’re not traumatized,” she said.

Martin said she is ready to be a better mother to them. “I’m just stronger and wiser than I’ve ever been,” she said. “God changed me.”

Prison officials took Martin to see her daughter one last time before the funeral.

“I tried to take her out of the casket. I tried to wake her up. She didn’t wake up,” she said. “I still don’t want her in that casket. But she’s gone.”

This case out of Oklahoma is very disturbing.  Here we have a child,  8 month old Jacob “Jake” Hedger, who died in a baby sitters care, by injuries that it has been said, had to have occured within a relativity short time frame…one to two hours before, yet DHS removed the Hedger’s 5 year old son and not the baby sitters.

Jacob was at the baby sitters for 7 hours, common sense tells you that whatever happened to this child, happened there.  No charges have been filed, and the statutory disclosure, required by state and federal law has never been released in this case.  

Something is very wrong here, and amazingly, and I say amazing because normally in these case this doesn’t happen…but amazingly Rep. Jason Nelson and a task force is looking into this case to find out why the Hedger’s  son, Sam was removed and kept from them, yet the baby sitter’s (who happens to have a child roughly the same age) was not.

They are also looking into policy and law violations that may have been committed by DHS as well as a conflict of interest with the OSBI, who requested a copy of the autopsy,  because the baby sitters husband is an officer in that department.  One does have to wonder….

My heart goes out to the Hedger family, who not only tragically lost Jake, but lost precious time with their other son,  Sam, because of DHS.  The Hedger family’s grief and devastation was made even worse because of the removal and illegal keeping of Sam, by DHS.  The effect this removal had on this family is unimaginable, I am sure that grief and healing had to be put on hold, because this family had to focus on getting Sam back.  

In the story it even states that the day after Jake’s death, when the parents had visitation with Sam, these parents were told NOT to cry…not to grieve…..what a disgusting display of  the true lack of empathy and understanding DHS has for families.

 I hope with Rep. Nelson and the Task Force’s help, Jake, Sam and these parents get the justice they deserve and the closure they need, so they can move on from this horrible tragedy.  I know that the loss of Jake can never be over came, but hopefully this family can now grieve for him and begin the process of healing and cherishing the time they have with Sam, without undue government interference.


DHS report to D.A. LINK

First things first, OU Medical Center Hospital Social Worker Amy Baum and Dr. Stuemky both felt that the parents did this to the baby.

DHS interview with OU Medical Center Hospital Social Worker Amy Baum

A couple of things stand out to me, first the Detective who took the children into protective custody has the same last name as one of the other children who was present at the baby sitters home.  Are they related some how?  If they are, should she be working this case?  This does not seem like a common last name to me.

Detective Misty Leitch

Seth Leitch on of the children present at the babysitters

Detective Assigned has same last name as one of the witnesses.

Edmond Police Department Indecent Report LINK

Statement of Traci Kramer (babysitter)

DHS Interview with Traci Kramer (these statements do not match)

There is also the suspicion that Traci Kramer called her OSBI husband before she called 911.  

“Suspicious to prosecutors is evidence suggesting Traci Kramer called her husband before calling 911, The Oklahoman has learned. Also, Traci Kramer did not notify Jake’s parents about their son’s emergency. They found out by happenstance.”

Furthermore Traci Kramer stated that while she was on the phone with 911, she used her home phone for someone to pick up her daughter Payton from school, but did not call Jake’s parents and inform them what was happening to him.  The excuse that was used for not notifying the parents was that the police told her not to, but what about before that?  The first impulse of any person babysitting a child, when that child gets hurt, would be to notify the parents.

  • Concerns about the day care have come up before. John Keene, 36, of Edmond, told The Oklahoman he stopped taking his daughter, then 1, there in 2005 after a series of troubling incidents including a cheek abrasion.
  • “It was one of those situations that just didn’t feel right,” Keene said. Read the rest of this article here

At 8:35 am Jacob was "happy go lucky"

DHS interview with Traci Kramer. How many naps?? I count 3. Did you know that people who have injured a child will put them down for a nap in the hopes their symptoms will go away?

Jake obviously had a severe head injury, I do not think symptoms would take 7 hours to manifest.  His skull was fractured in two places, according to the DHS report, (Left parietal fracture crossing suture line into occipital separate left parietal fracture) and he had severe swelling of the brain. ( Massive Cerebral Edema)

Mild traumatic brain injury LINK

The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) may include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping more than usual

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can include any of the signs and symptoms of mild injury, as well as the following symptoms that may appear within the first hours to days after a head injury:

  • Loss of consciousness from a few minutes to hours
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
  • Slurred speech
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of bladder control or bowel control
  • Persistent headache or headache that worsens
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears

Children’s symptoms
Infants and young children with brain injuries may lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and similar symptoms. In a child with traumatic brain injury, you may observe:

  • Change in nursing or eating habits
  • Persistent crying
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Inability to be consoled
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities
Some of the other disturbing statements I noticed in the DHS report.
Sam's Statement to DHS about baby sitter, "Ms. Traci"

Sam's Statement to DHS about baby sitter, "Ms. Traci"

Sam tells DHS that he feels safe with his Mom and Dad

Sam tells DHS he feels unsafe at baby sitters Ms. Traci's

Sam also reports to DHS that time out is the only form of discipline used by his parents

Why did she even ask that? Kids take baths together all the time!

Now to the article…

Oklahoma lawmaker, task force question DHS decision to remove boy from home


Published: November 27, 2011

A legislative task force plans to look into why DHS kept a 5-year-old boy away from his parents after his baby brother died, but did not act to remove the children of the baby’s sitter.

“It just didn’t make sense to me,” said Rep. Jason Nelson, who is head of the task force looking into policies at the state Department of Human Services.

The baby, Jacob “Jake” Ryan Hedger, stopped breathing after being at the baby sitter’s home for seven hours March 8. He died the next day. He was almost 9 months old. The death has been ruled a homicide.

Jacob “Jake” Ryan Hedger

His brother, Sam Hedger, spent more than two months away from his parents, Zane and Leah Hedger.

The baby sitter, Traci Kramer, 41, has four children, including two sons, then 8 and 9, records show. DHS did close her unlicensed home day care, but did not seek removal of her own children from her home.

Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said, “My reading of the policies and the law is that no other kid should have ever been removed. The baby sitter’s kids or the surviving brother should have not been removed.”

“It took so long to reunite the (Hedger) family that it’s really disturbing,” Nelson said. “This is a child that started to not do well in school. He was a great student. His mother is a teacher. It was really traumatic. What I’m told and understand is the injury most likely had to have occurred while at the baby sitter’s house … I’ve talked to other doctors about it, granted not forensic experts, but some emergency room doctors that have said that an injury like that would likely have had to have happened within an hour or two before she found him in that condition … None of the kids should have been removed. It’s disturbing why the one was removed.”

Sam, now 6, was taken to a shelter and then was allowed to stay with his aunt until he could return home for good. DHS workers acted to keep Sam from his parents even though a hospital social worker reported on March 9 that she and a doctor “do not think the parents did this to the baby,” according to a DHS report.

Sam’s aunt, Tammy Padgett, said being separated from his parents was traumatic from the start. She recalled Sam’s first visit with his parents at a DHS office after he was taken from his home.

“The DHS worker was late showing up, and so I’m there with him and it was the morning after Jake died and that morning I had had to tell him that his brother was dead,” she said.

“And they came up on the elevator, got off, and he ran into their arms crying,” she said. “Everybody was crying, and, then, it just dawned on me that I had signed paperwork that says I will not let them be present together without this supervisor present. So I had to yank him out of their arms and send them around the corner and everybody is bawling and waiting for this late worker to show up.

“Then the worker in … their visitation room got on to Leah because they were crying. She pulled her aside and she said, ‘This is supposed to not be teary. You’re not supposed to be crying. This is supposed to be a happy visit for him.’ And, Leah said, ‘His baby brother just died, you know, our baby just died. He’s got to process that grief.’ You know, just wacky stuff.”

Padgett said she once asked a DHS official why the baby sitter’s four children were not picked up. She said she was told: “We knew that if we picked both sets of children up, we would be 50 percent wrong.

Also traumatic for Sam was that he witnessed the baby sitter trying to revive his baby brother. Sam was at the home after spending the morning in kindergarten. He told investigators the baby sitter was worried because his brother wouldn’t wake up.

A DHS spokeswoman, Sheree Powell, said Sam was removed because of safety concerns. She said an assistant district attorney had to agree with the recommendation and a judge ordered the removal.

“We worked with the family until the concerns were resolved,” Powell said.

“Our hearts go out to the Hedgers for the tragic death of their son,” she said. “We understand their frustrations over the removal of their son.”

She did not directly address why the Kramer children were not removed. Instead, she said, “Ages and verbal abilities of children are factors in determining if safety concerns exist and whether or not children may be at risk of abuse or neglect.”

She said DHS will discuss the case with Nelson and two other legislators who had concerns.

Nelson questions whether DHS is inconsistent in its training of workers. He recalled talking this summer with a group of 15 to 18 DHS child welfare workers from across the state about how the intake process works.

“Pretty soon the whole room had melted down with disagreement,” he said.



Read more:

Swain County father, Michael Shannon, has filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the civil rights of him, his daughter, and his father have been violated by key personnel in local and state government.

The lawsuit filed August 15, 2011 in the Swain County North Carolina Superior Court, names Michael Shannon, his father, Scott Shannon and his Daughter, Sierra Shannon as the Plaintiff’s and names the following as some of the Defendant’s.

  •  Michael Bonfoey, District Attorney, Swain County, North Carolina
  • Lanier Cansler,  Secretary of the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services. (click the link to find more stories of Lanier Cansler on this blog)
  • Patrick Betancourt,  Director of Child Protective Services, North Carolina. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Tammy Cagle, Director of the Swain County Department of Social Services (Tammy Cagle was fired for  insubordination and conduct unbecoming of a state employee detrimental to state service during an investigation into the death of 15 month old Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn)
  • Jerry Smith, Interim Director of the Swain County Department of Social Services
  • Justin Green, counsel to the Swain County Department of Social Services
  • Ellen Thomas-Pullen,  Child Welfare Services Consultant with the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services
  • Aaron Ammons, Officer of the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
  • Swain County Commissioners
  • Swain County Department of Social Services Board

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, accounts of government corruption so all encompassing that I believe an SBI investigation into this matter is desperately warranted.

This corruption includes, but is not limited to:

  • Failure to obey a custody order,
  • Failure to obey a judges order to pick up a child,
  • Wrongful arrest,
  • Malicious prosecution,
  • Placing a child in a dangerous environment
  • Allowing a child to be abused and neglected
  • Failure to obey statutory law
  • Failure to protect
  • Kidnapping
  • Child abduction
  • Perjury
  • illegal and unethical practices
The Swain County Department of Social Services has been the subject of an intense investigation into their involvement in the death of 15 month old, Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn.  Social Worker, Craig Smith, falsified his records after Aubrey’s death, so it would appear that he followed the laws and policies during an investigation into the suspected abuse of Aubrey.  According to The Citizen Times, When investigator’s informed Smith that they knew he was lying,
“Smith then told the investigators that he was instructed to falsify the records by his supervisor after Aubrey died to show that he followed up with a call to the hospital.

He said he was later called to a meeting with his supervisor, Candice Lassiter, other agency officials and DSS Director Tammy Cagle.

They questioned him about his investigation at the Powell home. Cagle, according to the court papers, told Smith “we have to get everything in order and everything straight.”

The director, Tammy Cagle who is listed as a defendant is Shannon’s lawsuit, was fired  for insubordination and conduct unbecoming of a state employee detrimental to state service, for her apparent involvement in the falsification of records in Aubrey’s case.

It is abundantly apparent that Swain County DSS has broken laws in the case of Aubrey Littlejohn and in an attempt to cover their asses they falsified records and lied.  It is also abundantly apparent to me that these people were completely comfortable in their illegal behavior, so comfortable in fact, that they even held a meeting and discussed how to get “everything in order and everything straight”, or what I refer to as “a document forging party”.

The chances that the Aubrey Littlejohn case is the first and only case in which the Swain County DSS has exhibited this type of illegal and unethical behavior in, is in my opinion, slim to none.  I believe, based on the Swain County DSS’s proven behavior, that the case of Michael, Scott and Sierra Shannon should be looked at by unbiased, appropriate law enforcement.

I have heard the 911 call placed by Scott Shannon when he was being assaulted by Shannon’s mother, I have read some of the court papers and I have talked with Scott Shannon…there is something really fishy occurring in their case, and I believe with the illegal practices that have been brought to light in Swain County, that the Attorney General and the SBI owe a duty to investigate not only the Shannon case, but any other case that has been handled by the Swain County DSS.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of the Swain County Department of Social Services Please contact me at

For more information about Sierra’s case, please visit Michael Shannon’s site at the link below.

Sierra Shannon, 4 years old

A Victim of Child Abuse by

The Swain County, North Carolina

Department of Social Services

in Bryson City, North Carolina

We desperately need your help to save Sierra from the bureaucrats and criminals in the department of Social Services in North Carolina. A civil case was filed in the Superior Court of Swain County North Carolina on August 15, 2011 on her behalf by her father, Michael Shannon and her grandfather, Scott Shannon. The details of the case are below, as well as a link to a copy of the Civil Complaint. If you read these items you will discover a horror story that is almost beyond belief. 28 people are being sued in this case, and all have some responsibility for the abuse that Sierra has suffered since August 5, 2010.

Please read these materials and then take action to do what you can to help save Sierra from continuing abuse by these criminals, uncaring bureaucrats, and others who have allowed her to be abused and illegally taken her from her loving father. I know there is a lot of material to go through, but unless you know the entire story and all of the facts, you can’t understand the full horror of what has been done to my family. If you consider yourself a caring person, please read all of it. The links in the text will open in a new browser window so that you can always conveniently return to this page.

Read more

“Calling for the heads of CPS”? Really 2 leaves a comment on my page–Really-2-leaves-a-comment-on-my-Examinercom-page

I received the comment below, from a person who obviously, doesn’t personally like me and clearly hates my outspoken manner of pointing out CPS corruption.

I am not sure who this person is, (although I have an idea) but whoever they are, they must be feeling a little insecure in their job. I thought I would take this comment and point out why I “call for the heads of CPS.”

North Carolina Child Protective Services illegal and unethical practices?–and-unethical-practices#

Do you know a child who has died during or after a DSS investigation in North Carolina?

Do you know a child who has died after reports of abuse where made to DSS? Did DSS ignore your report and fail to protect the child?

Do you know a child who has died in foster care or after being adopted from foster care due to child abuse or neglect?

Are you the family member of a child that died during or after DSS involvement?

Are you a family member of a child who has died as a result of DSS policy violations or inaction when it came to investigating reports of abuse?


To read more of this article please visit the above link…more importantly, if you have a complaint against North Carolina DSS, in any county…visit the above link and contact the reporter.

Sick Child in CPS Custody Dies

Updated: Monday, 23 Nov 2009, 5:45 PM CST

Published : Monday, 23 Nov 2009, 5:45 PM CST


Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON – All the little dresses and sweaters Chanel Hall bought for her only daughter will never be worn. All the toys will never be opened. Even a huge closet can’t hold all the “what if’s” that haunt the grieving mother.

“Of what things could have been and would have been for Jasmine,” Hall said.

Hall didn’t get much time with Jasmine. Soon after her medically fragile child was born, Children’s Protective Services took custody of her.

In an ironic twist of fate CPS takes Jamine away from her mother due to medical neglect, then Jasmine dies because her state appointed care giver is allegedly neglectful in her duties.

“It’s appalling, it’s more than ironic it’s shocking,” said Amira Jackmon, Hall’s niece and attorney.

“This wasn’t a mother who abused her child, neglected her child, this is a mother who had a disagreement with the hospital,” Jackmon said.

Jasmine was born premature which caused several medical problems.

“She had water on the brain and blood on the brain at one point,” Hall said.

The hospital contacted CPS because Hall wouldn’t consent to a tracheostomy for Jasmine.

“I never said no to the surgery,” Hall said. “I just asked for a second opinion and that was all.”

But Hall’s refusal to consent to the surgery quick enough to please the hospital prompted CPS to take custody of Jasmine. According to a lawsuit filed by Hall, CPS told the court Jasmine needed the surgery immediately.

“Or else there was a huge risk to Jasmine,” Jackmon said. “Then why did they wait two or three weeks to perform it?”

With a tracheal tube attached to her throat, CPS said Jasmine needed 24 hour medical care so she was placed in a foster home operated by a company called Lutheran Social Services of the South.

On July 16th Jasmine died and according to CPS documents her death could have been avoided. That document states the caregiver admitted she was documenting paperwork while the child was playing therefore she was unaware if the child pulled the tracheal tube out of her neck and she was unaware when the tracheal tube actually came out.

“Jasmine was suppose to be under 24 hour supervision, if she was doing paperwork she should have been in the same room as Jasmine,” Hall said.

CPS declined an on-camera interview or comment citing the lawsuit Hall has filed against them as well as Lutheran Social Services, which closed the foster home it operated here in Houston shortly after Jasmine’s death.

A spokesperson for Lutheran Social Services also declined comment.

“She was my last baby and my only daughter,” Hall said.

All she has now Hall said is a closet full of dresses with no little girl to wear them.


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