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Tag Archives: illegal activities by DSS workers

Rutherford County DSS worker, Andrea Denning, was caught on tape asleep in a DSS government vehicle,  wearing her DSS worker I.D.


In the video, Ms. Denning who is a Social Worker III, can clearly be seen sound asleep, mouth agape, while children play in the yard right outside her drivers side window.

While news reports state that it is unclear whether Ms. Denning was on the clock or not, the fact that she is in a government vehicle, wearing her I.D. tag, parked in someones driveway/yard, asleep, clearly sets a poor example of how a DSS worker should behave.

Andrea Denning asleep with DSS I.D. clearly visible.

I mean seriously folks, are the children playing in the yard part of a DSS investigation?  Does the drive she is parked in belong to someone who is being investigated by DSS for abuse, neglect, or dependency?  I do not believe whether Ms. Denning was on the clock or not matters in this situation.  Fire her and find someone who can stay awake and ensure the protection of children.

Furthermore, Ms. Denning is obviously on the clock, she is out in the County…in a government owned vehicle, wearing her government I.D. tag…PARKED IN SOMEONES DRIVEWAY!!!

…but by all means, please check Ms. Denning’s  DSS 4263 form  that is required to be filled out daily and turned in weekly and records every service and activity performed, for payment purposes and is absolutely, necessary for federal reimbursement.  Not only is this document required, it must be certified by the worker!  …see if she claimed to be working while this video was being filmed! 

Ms. Denning has been place on administrative leave, probably paid leave, while this is been investigated.


Video of DSS worker caught sleeping on the job.


7 On Your Side news article:

DSS Worker Snoozes on the Job

Published: May 31, 2012
Updated: May 31, 2012 – 6:21 PM


A YouTube video shows a department of social services worker in Rutherford County, NC, taking a snooze in a county vehicle, though it’s unclear whether the woman was on the clock.

The Daily Courier in Forest City first reported the story last week and posted the video to YouTube. The 43-second video can be seen by clicking here.

In the video, worker Andrea Denning can be seen kicked back in the driver’s seat, with sunglasses on, and snoring. She’s parked in the yard of a mobile home where kids are running around outside.

Rutherford County officials are now investigating.

“Obviously the first thought is, you know, this is not what you want to see in any county employee, but you also don’t know all the facts around the case,” said the county’s manager Carl Classen.

Classen couldn’t confirm if Denning was at the house on a work-related call or not, but it’s clear she’s in a county vehicle, he said.

“Obviously in the video there are children present, and so that speaks for itself,” Classen said, “but we can’t speak any farther than that other than there were children present.”

Classen said the newspaper provided his office a copy of the video, and because of that, his office, along with the county’s DSS director, have launched an investigation.

Classen says Denning was placed on investigatory leave Friday.  She has been with the agency since 2003, and according to her public record she’s never been subject to any prior disciplinary action.


In America the United States Supreme Court has found and held that all parents have the right to the care, custody, control, and companionship of their children unless they are proven unfit.  “the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children–is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” Troxel vs Granville 530 US 57 (2000)

Furthermore, North Carolina’s own courts have found, “`[i]n order to justify depriving a parent of the custody of a child in favor of third persons there must be substantial reasons or, as various courts have put it, the reasons must be real, cogent, weighty, strong, powerful, serious, or grave.’ 67 C.J.S. Parent and Child § 12, page 651.” James v. Pretlow, supra. Nor is the fact that a parent or parents seeking to retain custody of their child, or to obtain custody of their child, may not be as able financially to take care of the child as the party seeking to defeat their custody sufficient to justify the court’s depriving the parents of custody and awarding it to some third person. 2 Nelson, Divorce & Annulment, § 15.15, p. 245 (2d ed. rev. 1961).

As a result of the “deep and meaningful relationship” existing between parent and child, the preliminary determination required by the relevant constitutional provisions “must not be lightly undertaken” and “must be supported by clear and convincing evidence.” Id. At 53, 550 S.E.2d at 503 (citing Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 747-48, 71 L. Ed. 2d 599, 603, 102 S. Ct. 1388, 1391-92 (1982)).

Parental rights may only be terminated if the specific criteria in GS 7B-1111 are met, being a resident of another country and poverty are not legal reasons for terminating parental rights, in fact 7B-1111 specifically states that poverty cannot be used as a reason for terminating parental rights, so DSS’ claim that the children are better off with their foster parents because the father does not have running water in Mexico is in error…running water is not a requirement of parenting.  So were our ancestors unfit because they did not have running water?  My grandparents did not have running water, or an indoor bathroom  until 1984, yet I was always clean, well fed, and loved and so was their house and clothes.

Amish people do not have running water, so should the state rush in and remove their child and call them unfit, based solely on that?

I would also like to mention that Mexico does have an issue with running water, it is not just this father’s home, but millions of Mexican residents that lack running water, through no fault of their own, so should America go in a take all Mexican children from their homes? Running water does not determine whether you are a good parent, who adequately provides care to your children and should not be used in this case to deny, by all accounts, a healthy, loving parent child relationship.  If DSS can take these children from this father for this reason, they can take a child for any reason without justification.

The grounds for terminating parental rights in North Carolina are:

§ 7B‑1111.  Grounds for terminating parental rights.

(a)        The court may terminate the parental rights upon a finding of one or more of the following:

(1)        The parent has abused or neglected the juvenile. The juvenile shall be deemed to be abused or neglected if the court finds the juvenile to be an abused juvenile within the meaning of G.S. 7B‑101 or a neglected juvenile within the meaning of G.S. 7B‑101. (There has been absolutely no abuse or neglect alleged against this father!)

(2)        The parent has willfully left the juvenile in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months without showing to the satisfaction of the court that reasonable progress under the circumstances has been made in correcting those conditions which led to the removal of the juvenile. Provided, however, that no parental rights shall be terminated for the sole reason that the parents are unable to care for the juvenile on account of their poverty. (This father has not willfully left his children in foster care or a placement outside the home, in fact he has fought to have his children place with him, he was deported and unwillingly separated from his children and wife.)

(3)        The juvenile has been placed in the custody of a county department of social services, a licensed child‑placing agency, a child‑caring institution, or a foster home, and the parent, for a continuous period of six months next preceding the filing of the petition or motion, has willfully failed for such period to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care for the juvenile although physically and financially able to do so. (There is no evidence that this father has willfully failed to pay a reasonable portion of his children’s care)

(4)        One parent has been awarded custody of the juvenile by judicial decree or has custody by agreement of the parents, and the other parent whose parental rights are sought to be terminated has for a period of one year or more next preceding the filing of the petition or motion willfully failed without justification to pay for the care, support, and education of the juvenile, as required by said decree or custody agreement. (Does not apply in this case)

(5)        The father of a juvenile born out of wedlock has not, prior to the filing of a petition or motion to terminate parental rights: (Does not apply to this case since the parents are, according to the article, legally married.)

a.         Established paternity judicially or by affidavit which has been filed in a central registry maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services; provided, the court shall inquire of the Department of Health and Human Services as to whether such an affidavit has been so filed and shall incorporate into the case record the Department’s certified reply; or

b.         Legitimated the juvenile pursuant to provisions of G.S. 49‑10 or filed a petition for this specific purpose; or

c.         Legitimated the juvenile by marriage to the mother of the juvenile; or

d.         Provided substantial financial support or consistent care with respect to the juvenile and mother.

(6)        That the parent is incapable of providing for the proper care and supervision of the juvenile, such that the juvenile is a dependent juvenile within the meaning of G.S. 7B‑101, and that there is a reasonable probability that such incapability will continue for the foreseeable future. Incapability under this subdivision may be the result of substance abuse, mental retardation, mental illness, organic brain syndrome, or any other cause or condition that renders the parent unable or unavailable to parent the juvenile and the parent lacks an appropriate alternative child care arrangement. (The reasons these children were removed from their mother were out of this fathers control, since he was no longer in the home or able to re-enter this country because of deportation, in order to care for his children.  It should also be noted that these conditions did not exist when this father resided in the home, with his children) 

(7)        The parent has willfully abandoned the juvenile for at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the petition or motion, or the parent has voluntarily abandoned an infant pursuant to G.S. 7B‑500 for at least 60 consecutive days immediately preceding the filing of the petition or motion. (This father has not willfully abandoned his children)

(8)        The parent has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent or other child residing in the home; has aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child, another child of the parent, or other child residing in the home; has committed a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child, another child of the parent, or other child residing in the home; or has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of the other parent of the child. The petitioner has the burden of proving any of these offenses in the termination of parental rights hearing by (i) proving the elements of the offense or (ii) offering proof that a court of competent jurisdiction has convicted the parent of the offense, whether or not the conviction was by way of a jury verdict or any kind of plea. If the parent has committed the murder or voluntary manslaughter of the other parent of the child, the court shall consider whether the murder or voluntary manslaughter was committed in self‑defense or in the defense of others, or whether there was substantial evidence of other justification. (Does not apply in this case)

(9)        The parental rights of the parent with respect to another child of the parent have been terminated involuntarily by a court of competent jurisdiction and the parent lacks the ability or willingness to establish a safe home. (I would say this father wants to establish and is capable of establishing a safe home for his children, but is being prevented from doing so by the state of North Carolina and DSS.)

(10)      Where the juvenile has been relinquished to a county department of social services or a licensed child‑placing agency for the purpose of adoption or placed with a prospective adoptive parent for adoption; the consent or relinquishment to adoption by the parent has become irrevocable except upon a showing of fraud, duress, or other circumstance as set forth in G.S. 48‑3‑609 or G.S. 48‑3‑707; termination of parental rights is a condition precedent to adoption in the jurisdiction where the adoption proceeding is to be filed; and the parent does not contest the termination of parental rights.

(b)        The burden in such proceedings shall be upon the petitioner or movant to prove the facts justifying such termination by clear and convincing evidence. (1977, c. 879, s. 8; 1979, c. 669, s. 2; 1979, 2nd Sess., c. 1088, s. 2; c. 1206, s. 2; 1983, c. 89, s. 2; c. 512; 1985, c. 758, ss. 2, 3; c. 784; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 941, s. 1; 1997‑390, ss. 1, 2; 1997‑443, s. 11A.118(a); 1998‑202, s. 6; 1998‑229, ss. 11, 28; 1999‑456, s. 60; 2000‑183, s. 11; 2001‑208, s. 6; 2001‑291, s. 3; 2001‑487, s. 101; 2003‑140, s. 3; 2005‑146, s. 1; 2007‑151, s. 1; 2007‑484, s. 26(a).)

A look at North Carolina law, and North Carolina and United States legal opinions easily answers this question, so why then is DSS still fighting to illegally detain these children and keep them from their father?  I believe this is another demonstration of the uncontrolled and unchecked power of DSS.  A prime example of DSS’ total disregard for the laws of this state and country.  What this case basically comes down to is the illegal taking of Senor Montes’ children, not out of fear that he will hurt them, but because DSS believes that these children will be better off with someone else because their father lives in Mexico and doesn’t have running water.  DSS believes these children are better off being raised by strangers, then by a father who loves them so much, that even after being deported…he has still found a way to fight for custody of his children.  Just because DSS disagrees with the living conditions of a foreign country, or their way of life, does not make that way of life wrong.

Deported Migrant Fights for Custody of His 3 Children

SPARTA, North Carolina – A North Carolina court postponed a decision in the case of an immigrant deported to Mexico who is fighting for the custody of his three U.S.-born children.

District Court Judge Michael Duncan heard for eight hours the arguments as to whether Felipe Montes, who lived in Sparta for nine years, is capable of bringing up his children in Mexico or whether it would be better to put them up for adoption.

The judge heard Thursday from the state Division of Social Services and set another hearing for May 29, when Montes’ attorney, Donna Shumate, will have the chance to argue the importance of reuniting the family.

“This is a complicated, difficult case, but we expect to win. I’ve had the support of other attorneys in different parts of the country, and we’ll prepare for our hearing,” Shumate said.

Felipe Montes’ nightmare began on a day in October 2010 that started out like any other. He made breakfast for his wife and children and got the kids ready for daycare. (Isn’t this man entitled to citizenship since he is married to a U.S. Citizen?)

Montes, 33, was the sole provider for the family and the children’s primary caregiver, as his wife – a U.S. citizen – suffers from an unspecified disabling mental illness.

Unable to get a driver’s license because he was undocumented, Montes had been arrested several times for driving without a license, but continued to drive so he could work.

When he went to court to pay his fines, two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were waiting for him.

They handcuffed him and transferred him to a detention center in Georgia, from where he was deported to Mexico on Dec. 3, 2010, as his wife was expecting the couple’s third child.

Soon after Felipe’s deportation, his wife, Marie Montes, lost custody of their children due to economic difficulties and a decline in her health.

Marie, 31, told Efe that she expects to join her husband in Mexico once the judge returns custody of the children to Felipe.

“He’s an excellent father,” she said, and noted that Montes is “desperate” to see his kids because “he loves them with all his heart and so do I.”

The woman told Efe that the DSS has not let her speak with or see her children and that has caused her stress and insomnia.

“I did what I could during the three months that I had the kids. I want them sent to him. I have health problems with my kidneys and I take medicine, but I repeat, I’m not a drug addict like say I am,” the mother said.

Montes is not an isolated case, according to the Applied Research report “Shattered Families,” which shows that more than 5,000 children of deported or detained immigrant parents are currently in foster homes.

DSS says the Montes children would be better off with their current foster families than with their dad in Mexico, because there is no running water where he lives. (no parental rights shall be terminated for the sole reason that the parents are unable to care for the juvenile on account of their poverty.  North Carolina General Statute 7B-1111 (a)(2))

The Mexican Consulate in Raleigh has been encouraging Montes and will offer the necessary assistance to reunite the father with his children if the court rules in his favor. 
Being an illegal immigrant or a legal citizen of another county does not remove a parents rights to the care, custody and control of their children, nor does it make a parent unfit.  In fact there is nothing in the North Carolina General Statutes that lists illegal immigrant or foreign citizen as a finding of abuse, neglect, or dependency.  See North Carolina General Statute 7B-101.  Definitions
I would go so far as to call the Allegheny Department of Social Services handling of this case discriminatory based on race and national origin.  To deprive a parent of their children and children of their parent based on conditions that a parent has no control over, but are in fact a way of life in his country is discrimination.

Durham DSS under investigation after critical audit

DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the operations of the county’s Department of Social Services office to determine whether any criminal offenses have occurred, County Manager Mike Ruffin said Wednesday.

The investigation follows a county audit of the DSS office that found Walmart gift cards normally used to provide emergency food or clothing to children in foster care and other DSS clients were being used to pay for office parties and reward agency workers.

“The audit findings are disturbing,” Stan Holt, board chairman of Durham County DSS, said in a statement. “We expect sound procedures to be in place that ensure public funds are handled appropriately and with integrity. The weakness of internal controls in a public organization breaches the public trust.”

Ruffin and Holt declined to comment on the criminal investigation.

County auditors found that DSS officials purchased almost $206,000 in Walmart gift cards between January 2007 and last November, but the agency didn’t keep track of them or how they were used. One employee, for example, was found with more than $9,000 in gift cards in January, and files in the office contained folders filled with random receipts, notes about DSS programs, more gift cards and even $12 in cash, according to the audit.

Almost $7,100 in gift cards were used on training sessions, staff meetings, a Christmas charity program and to entice clients to participate in surveys, according to the audit. As much as $975 in gift cards was given to employees during a 2010 staff holiday party at the home of former DSS Director Geri Robinson, the audit states.

The Durham County Board of Commissioners fired Robinson last summer. She recently filed suit seeking to regain her job, as well as unspecified damages, and her attorney called the criminal investigation “a witch hunt.”

Attorney Jack Nichols said Robinson paid the money back for the cards given to employees and maintained that the agency was using gift cards for office purposes, including buying food for meetings, before Robinson was hired.

“It’s almost like they are fishing for reasons to justify her termination,” Nichols said.

He charged that Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser, who sits on the DSS board, targeted Robinson “because she did not respond to his political direction.” In her lawsuit, Robinson alleges that Bowser pressured her to hire certain people and treat people differently based on race.

“Some of the stuff that Bowser did, I think, is pretty egregious,” Nichols said.

Bowser said the lawsuit is an attempt to smear him in an election year.

“It’s just smoke that she has blown and her attorney has blown, and it’s all going to be cleared up at the courthouse,” he said.

He added that the audit’s findings are only a small part of the problem he saw with DSS under Robinson.

“I was surprised at the fact that the audit didn’t dig as deep as I thought it should have,” he said.

The auditors tracked purchases linked to some of the gift cards and were able to substantiate that many were used appropriately.

Holt told WRAL News that he finds some comfort in those findings and said he wants to ensure that gift cards can still be used to help DSS clients in certain circumstances.

“I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” he said.

Interim DSS Director Gail Perry said in a statement included in the 26-page audit report that the agency has implemented better financial controls to account for gift card usage.

Aside from the gift cards, the audit also questioned the DSS office’s use of temporary workers and contractors and the reimbursement of Robinson’s moving expenses in 2009 without getting competitive bids.

This isn’t the first time a DSS office in North Carolina has had an issue with gift cards or misappropriation of funds.  See the links below for some other cases.






NC DSS worker pleads guilty to fraud

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.”

In an interview with NBC 17 on Thursday, Johnston County Sheriff, Steve Bizzell spoke out about what he sees as the willful failure of the Johnston County DSS, on-call social workers, to respond to calls from the Sheriff’s department to help children in need.

According to Sheriff Bizzell, this “total disregard for public safety” has been occurring for over a year.

“As Sheriff, I’m going to do my job.  Enough’s enough, I’m sick of it, its disgusting and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore.”

“If the Johnston County Social Workers on call are not going to meet the needs of the Johnston County children, I’m going to be on the steps of the Governor’s mansion finding out who is going to be.”, stated Bizzell.



In less than a month two Gaston County DSS workers have been charged with DWI and subsequently terminated from their jobs at the Gaston County Department of Social Services.

The latest Gaston DSS worker to lose her job over drinking and driving is 34-year-old, Amanda Elizabeth Carrigan, of Gastonia who was charged on Thursday, October 27  at 9:11 a.m., after rear ending a Chevrolet on South Broad Street.  

According to the Gaston Gazette, Gastonia Police Officer, Lex Popovich reported in the citation “that when Carrigan spoke he could smell alcohol on her breath, “that she was unstable on her feet, and failed to do a one-leg stance.”

Continue reading on

Question>>>> Why hasn’t Smithen been charged for child endangerment for driving drunk with a child in the car?  Any other ordinary citizen would have been!



















A Buncombe County child is dead and the question MUST be asked, could this death have been prevented?

DSS received reports of abuse before death

4-year-old Cedric Francois died October 19, 2011 at Mission Hospital, after suffering brain hemorrhages, from blunt force trauma.  The Citizen-Times, reports that,

According to the warrant application, a detective at the hospital observed numerous injuries, including hemorrhages in both eyes, bruises on his face, buttocks and around his ankles, abrasions on his chest, forehead and under his left eye, a laceration on his right ear, a busted lower lip and a bite mark on his arm.

The warrant application further states that Buncombe County DSS received a report of abuse September 3, 2011, which alleged that the child was being abused by Michael Antonio Dixon, the man currently in custody for his death, that the child had visible signs of maltreatment, “marks and scars” from the abuse, the report also alleged that Dixon was selling drugs out of the home.

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