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Tag Archives: Marcus Markee Davis Jr.

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.


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