Category: Child Abuse Stories

Eli Johnson lived with his mom Tye N. Shafer Johnson and her boyfriend Eddie E. Valdez. Eli’s mom knew abuse was going on in the home but never did anything to prevent it. After all, if she tried to stop her man he might leave right? If he left who would keep her bed warm or pay the bills?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on mama, she did after all say that they had “talked” about how “rough” he was and told him she didn’t really like it much.

Before I go into the exact event that killed little Eli on that September day in 2009 I want to mention one of the departments that I’ve found to be involved in this family’s life. Oklahoma Department of Human Services. They came into contact with Tye and her children for the first time on November 6, 2008. 9 months before Eli was tortured and beaten to death, and maybe sexually abused. Those charges were never founded or admitted but how else do you explain pubic hair in a 3-year-olds underwear and on his genitals? I only found that mentioned in one document and it was never spoke of again.

When OKDHS received their first referral the complainant said Eli had multiple bruises on his bottom while in the care of his mother Tye. The person calling said the biological father took Eli to the hospital and the doctor told him to make a police report. The report was filed and pictures were taken.

It took 5 days for OKDHS to reach Tye and the kids because they were delaying contact with the agency. OKDHS interviewed Tye, the children’s father, the paternal grandmother and 3 witnesses and also observed the kids.

Eli had bruises that were nearly gone by this time on his behind, upper back and around his eye. They also stated in their report that the doctor noted seeing “what appears to be finger length projections extending onto the right buttock and another separate small yellow bruise over the right SI area” and a “small superficial laceration over the lateral left eyelid.”

After OKDHS finished their observation of the Johnson children they offered “Confirm-Services” and Tye agreed to accept help.

On December 11, 2008 OKDHS noted in their files that they had not received a referral to provide those services.

On January 7, 2009 there was a note that the caseworker was working with Tye on anger-management for the last 3 weeks and the 8th was the last contact they had with Tye until after Eli was dead.

That note from the 8th stated that they recommended the father not to allow the kids to go back to the mother until she complete preventive services. OKDHS told her that she would have supervised visitation until she completed some of the preventative services, after that she would regain her regular custody schedule. Tye agreed and signed the voluntary services agreement.

On December 11th there was another note in OKDHS files that stated there was communications with the district attorney’s office, the current safety plan needed to be amended to comply with the court order granting visitation between Tye and the kids. The note also said Tye hadn’t started any preventative services to regain normal custody.

The amended saftey plan allowed Eli and Candra to be with their mom during the day if an adult was in their presence, at night they went to their father’s. The kids mother and biological father agreed to the mother’s boyfriend, Eddie or his sister supervising the mother’s visits.

Tye told OKDHS she abused Eli, not Eddie.

Evelyn Johnson, the kids great-granddaughter told reporters that OKDHS gave the kids back to Tye after she took anger-management classes.

The next OKDHS complaint came after Eli was already dead.

Eli was 3-years-old on September 16, 2009 when he was brought into Itegris Southwest Medical Center. Baby Eli was covered in bruises on his arms, legs, upper stomach, face, forehead, and genitals and he had cuts and sores on his lips. Eli was pronounced dead within 20 minutes.

Eddie and Tye both were taken to the police station were Eddie told investigators that he beat Eli after becoming “enraged” at him for pottying in his pants and because Eli would not listen to him. He continuously punched Eli in the stomach with full force.

Eddie Valdez

After punching Eli in the stomach he lost all control and began attacking him all over his body. He then sat him on the toilet and told him he’d better use the bathroom. Eddie then left the bathroom for a little bit leaving Eli to sit there, to let him think about his hideous behavior. 3-year-olds should not be having accidents and Eddie expected Eli to get that through his head.

When Eddie returned he was furious, little Eli was on the bathroom floor “playing”, not sitting on the toilet where he’d commanded him earlier. Eddie saw red and lost control again. In a police report he told an investigator that he “blacked out” and no longer had control over himself. He has no idea how many times he hit 3-year-old Eli Johnson. Eddie says he did not “come to” until he saw Eli’s head in the toilet.

Afterwards, Eddie imposed a time-out on Eli by forcing him to stand on his toes with his hands behind his back but Eli could not do this because he was too weak from his beatings so Eddie put him on a kitchen table and made him do it there. Eddie must have thought he would have more leverage there.

Eli’s choice was to stand on his toes, hands behind his back or fall on his face 4 feet to the ground. Eli fell, numerous times. This infuriated Eddie more, Eli was faking and Eddie wasn’t in the mood for a 3-year-olds games, Eddie picked him up by his arms, held him out and dropped him at least twice but it could have been more.

During Tye’s interview with investigators she says that she heard her man giving her baby boy a “spanking” for having an accident in his pants but she had taken a Lortab (prescription pain pill) and was chillin’ on the couch while her son was, in her words, “screaming and crying more than usual.” She then decided she would go and see what was up and that’s when she saw bumps, lumps and bruises all over Eli, especially his little head. She told Eddie that he was going to far. Tye said she loved Eddie and thought he would change.

They resumed their day as a loving couple. Eddie’s brother Robert Valdez was there the whole time, he chose to go about his routine to. There were other kids in the home to.

Eli began throwing up everywhere and wasn’t being his happy, normal self. This went on for 5 hours, Eli was becoming weaker, couldn’t walk, couldn’t eat, he wasn’t Eli anymore but Eddie and Tye both admittedly say they didn’t think to take him to the hospital or call 911. That would have been to much trouble and they couldn’t have that.

Finally, Eli collapses and Eddie and Tye realized they had no choice so they drove him to Integris Southwest Medical Center around 5:40PM. We know what happened next.

Eli’s younger sister Candra (Kandra depending on where you see it) Johnson was 2-years-old at the time. Eddie said on September 15, 2009 Candra was being a terror and not minding him. Eddie has a hard time getting toddlers to mind and controlling his temper. The officers found Candra and she was also covered in bruises, she was alive though, thank God.

Eddie admitted to having an “anger problem” and to causing the murder of Eli and abusing Candra. What a great guy for accepting responsibility. I can see why Tye loves him so much.

Previous to this incident Eddie beat Eli’s feet with a plastic baseball bat so bad that they were swollen and black because he had another potty-training accident. Tye took him to the hospital several days later and left Eddie for a very short period of time but went crawling back to him.

Tye was sentenced to life in prison by a Oklahoma county jury in May after being found guilty of first-degree murder, child neglect and enabling child abuse.

Eli’s maternal grandmother said Eddie had “mental control” over her and she should not be charged with Tye’s murder. “I do think that she needs to do time because she failed to protect him,” Kimberly Shepard explained.

Tye gave birth while in prison to a baby girl, she was placed for adoption and is with her new family.

Candra was placed in protective custody, allegedly with a family member and Tye’s parental rights have been terminated.

The OKDHS’s last statement was;

“The OKDHS overall finding was Confirm-Court Intervention Requested, with a determination of shocking and heinous, which included a recommendation by the OKDHS for termination of the biological mother’s parental rights to the younger sibling.”

Too little, to late.

There were 7 other children removed from the home that same day, they belonged to Eddie and his brother Robert Valdez. Robert Valdez took a plea deal for neglect and was sentenced to 1 year in jail, he had to testify against Eddie and Tye.

Eddie Valdez pleaded guilty in March to first-degree murder and 2 counts of child abuse. He agreed to serve a life term without the possibility of parole.

This link goes to the Oklahoma OSCN case summary site

Alycia Mesiti and her older brother did not have an easy life, it was anything but that. According to records there was constant domestic violence in the home. After their mom and dad split up it got much, much worse.

Roberta Allen Mesiti, the kids mother was said to have been fighting depression, had a previous suicide attempt and fought with Alycia and her brother. Roberta told reporters that she fled to battered womens shelters numerous times and even went to Canada once because her ex-husband was abusive.

Mark’s past included being convicted of bank fraud and drunken driving as well as domestic violence. He also landed himself in prison after failing to attend drug and alcohol classes and before that he was ordered into anger-management courses.

An 8 year custody battle ensued between Roberta and Mark. During this battle for custody the kids stayed with family most of the time. Roberta was not able to afford an attorney, Mark was. In November of 2005 Mark was awarded custody of Alycia and her brother despite his criminal record and abusive past and Roberta was deemed as an unfit parent. The 3 of them along with Mark’s girlfriend, Shelly Walker-Welborn moved to Cere’s once custody was awarded.

Alycia was enrolled in August of 2006 to begin school at Central Valley High School but never started, instead she was reported as a run-a-way to police on August 16th by Shelly. Shelly told police Alycia went to stay with friends in San Jose on the 11th. They also said she called back on the 13th and said she was going camping with another (unnamed) friend.

Roberta Allen, the teens mother called the Ceres police and said she didn’t believe her daughter ran away and she pleaded with them to reclassify Alycia as a missing person. Roberta said police quit taking her calls and told her “she would come home”.

During the time the teenagers lived with their father and Shelly, their court appointed attorney, Jonnie Herring wrote in her report to a Santa Clara county judge that she was “deeply concerned” about the kids safety, specifically Alycia’s. Cere’s police made several welfare checks to the Mesiti home and child welfare workers received multiple complaints about the family.

Four months later Mark and Shelly moved to Los Angeles. The case went cold until 2009.

Sgt. James Robbins was the new investigations supervisor for Ceres police and he opened the case back up and held new interviewes. They took a cadaver dog out to the home the Mesiti’s formerly lived in and there was a hit on the property. Alycia was found in a 6 foot grave by the patio on March 25, 2009.

Three days later when they went to Mark and Shelly’s to arrest them they also found a meth lab in their home with Shelly’s 12-year old daughter, she was put in protective custody. Reports have not said where Mark and Roberta’s son was. Charges were dropped against Shelly when she agreed to testify against Mark.

Mark was convicted March 18 of manufacturing methamphetamine; on May 12, 2011, he was sentenced to five years in state prison. It took 2 years to bring Mark under custody because he was using “delaying tactics” and had gone through four different attorneys.

Mark was picked up by police at the prison and brought back to Ceres to face charges on murder. On June 3, 2011, he appeared at the Stanislaus County Superior Court for sexually abusing Alycia, killing her and burying her in the backyard. Mark is being charged with first-degree murder. Special circumstances have been added to his charges, indicating he is accused of committing murder before or during rape, sodomy, oral copulation or rape by an instrument, according to an amended criminal complaint (attached below).

Mark Mesiti is eligible for the death penalty but prosecutor Annette Rees told Judge John Freeland that it was still undecided if they would seek it. He’s being held without bail and has pleaded not guilty.

He also faces 44 counts of sexually abusing his daughter, including rape, committing lewd acts upon a child, sexual penetration with a foreign object, sodomy, oral copulation and using a minor to pose or model sexual conduct.

The complaint claims most of these sexual acts were committed while she was drugged so she could not resist.

Police believe the sexual abuse occurred from July 2005 through May 2006.

Shelly is considered a person of interest in Alycia’s murder but has not been charged with anything as of late.

A lot is still not being said, such as how Alycia was murdered, where her brother was at and why Shelly has not been charged with anything. What we do know right now is that this monster was raping his own child for a prolonged period of time and he drugged her so she couldn’t fight back. After he murdered her he or someone attempted to clean up a “large stain” in the bedroom where they once lived, she was buried in the backyard and then they moved just a few months later.

What has also been determined in Alycia’s case is that in 2005 a court appointed mental health worker found Roberta Allen to be mentally unstable. Apparently the judge thought it better to award custody to a violent offender and criminal than a woman who was depressed without a criminal history or violent past.

Gregory Joseph Ulrich, Alycia Mesiti, Mark edward Mesiti, Roberta Allen, Shelly Walker Welborn, missing ceres teen,

Gregory Joseph Ulrich

This sadly was not the first time Alycia was sexually abused, before her “father” started hurting her, she was molested by another man by the name of Gregory Joseph Ulrich. Gregory was only sentenced to 1 year in jail after he was convicted of molestation and was also a friend of Mark’s. He was released a few days before Alycia went missing.

Mark’s pretrial hearing starts on August 1, 2011. I’ll update as soon as I know more.

Poems that Alycia’s mom wrote while she was missing.

I tried to exercise my anxiety through writing, which therapists say is so healing – it isn’t really (not for me, enough) especially when the fears become (and then become known ) so known as true, as you always knew them to be – but I’m glad I have these, and it was hard for me but it was the only way I could hope my children could hear me as I couldn’t hear them.

My Love

Where are you?
How are you?
Questions made to the moon.
Do you remember we share it?
To look and listen so we may be close.
I knew we would part.
But I never expected the silence,
The solemnity.
No words or warmth from you.
Hope dies with each day
Where are you?
How are you?
Who loves you now?


Secret raindrops willed to be known.
Fall with wings upon us silently.
Glisten with sureness of being.
Beguile with ardent beauty.
Nourish what has yet to be sown.
Young one you equal such portrayal.
Endeavor with vibrancy and verve.
Relax into your very own skin.
Bring beauty to chaos.
Embrace and hold warmly life.
Exude beauty in true form.
Remain truly alive – an artful act.

My Love. My Morning Dew.

Marissa Anne Burnette-Davis, josh cheek, Cecilia Leigh Burnette, bedford virginiaCecilia Leigh Burnette and Adam Davis were the parents to an adorable baby girl by the name of Marissa Anne Burnette-Davis. She was born on December 10, 2007. Cecilia and Adam split up before the baby was born.

On Sept. 2, 2008 a 911 call was placed by Cecilia’s boyfriend, Joshua A. Cheek after she quit breathing. When paramedics arrived they took 8-month-old Marissa to Bedford Memorial hospital. She was then transferred by ambulance to Roanoke Memorial and was pronounced dead days later on Sept. 8, 2008 at Roanoke Memorial after she was removed from life support and declared brain dead.

The manner of Marissa’s death was listed as a homicide. The cause of her death was blunt force trauma to the head.

It wasn’t until 2 years later that enough evidence was collected to arrest and charge Marissa’s mother Cecilia for second-degree murder and felony child abuse. Bond was set at $15, 000 cash or $30,000 secured with real estate. She’s also looking at charges for felony distribution of hydrocodone.

Bedford Chief of Police, Jim Day said in an interview that the reason it took so long to pin the charges on Cecilia was because of the “complicated nature of Marissa’s death.” He also said that the investigator’s had to interview witnesses several different times and that several of them weren’t cooperative.

Sheriff Day reported, “This is still under investigation,” and “We are still talking to people and I don’t want to compromise the investigation. … We are still trying to tie up loose ends.”

Kevin Young, an investigator who interviewed Cecelia said that she told him that she shook the baby several times in a rocking motion back and forth. She also said Marissa was “shaking from cold chills.” These cold chills were actually seizures.

At one point she blamed Josh for hurting the baby and said that he even told her while they were at the hospital he was worried about going to prison.

Cecilia changed her story every time the investigator caught her in a lie, she said that the baby was with her grandmother and then another time she said she was with a friend. She was supposed to be living with her grandmother per an agreement on Marissa’s custody agreement with Adam but she actually lived with her boyfriend.

On March 15, 2011 Cecilia’s trial began and defense concentrated on convincing the jury that her ex-boyfriend was actually the one that beat Marissa and eventually caused her death. Joshua was the last one to spend time with Marissa and he was alone with her when she quit breathing.

Dr. Donald Kees, a Carilion Clinic pediatric specialist who treated Marissa Burnette testified that her brain injuries, diagnostic tests and other symptoms suggested that someone shook her. He said Marissa’s eyes were fixed and dilated.

Her brain had been shaken back and forth causing it to violently strike her skull from front to back. Dr. Kees did not say that that was how the baby died though, he only said it was one of numerous injuries.

The medical examiner testified that Marissa had severe bleeding of the brain and eyes.

Tomi Turner, a caseworker from CPS testified that a complaint was filed on August 7, 2008 and she visited the baby at the sitters. She then met with Cecilia in her office and was told that the bruise on Marissa’s face was from her hitting herself in the face with nail clippers. She said the other bruise that was on her arm was from an allergic reaction from a popsicle.

The same caseworker did a home visit but it was at the grandmothers home so nothing looked out of place. Cecilia called Tomi on September 2nd and told her not to bother stopping by for the scheduled visit because Marissa was “sick.”

The baby sitter, Brenda Lacy, testified that the baby was always clean and well fed when her daddy brought her over but that was not the case when her mom brought her. Cecilia told her that her bruises were from food allergies.

A neighbor testified that she never saw the mom carrying her child, it was always Josh taking care of her.

Stephanie Coughlan, Josh Cheek’s probation officer, said Josh was always excited about having the baby, she thought Marissa was his biological child. He even showed off her room and Stephanie said the mom never acknowledged the child while she was around and if she gave her a compliment she ignored it.

Cecilia was cold towards the baby but adored her pets.

Josh’s mother took the stand and said that him and Cecilia got together while she was pregnant and he always treated the baby as if she was his.

His mom was the one that told Josh to get an attorney because he was told that he may face murder charges. Mrs. Cheek also said she thought Marissa’s mom was good to her.

Cecilia lied several times to investigators, doctors, a child protective services caseworker and others about the circumstances surrounding the baby’s murder.

While on the stand she said that her baby suffered from 4-5 “accidents” that caused her death.

Marissa Anne Burnette-Davis, josh cheek, Cecilia Leigh Burnette, bedford virginiaShe claims to have lied because she feared losing custody to Marissa’a father, especially because of Cheek’s felony criminal record. His record consisted of getting money by false pretenses and a misdemeanor for marijuana possession.

Cecilia also said that she did not believe that Josh Cheek would hurt her daughter but she did not trust his younger brother Trevor and he had visited their home the day before. That claim was never verified or discussed further. She then turned around and accused Josh of hitting Marissa’s head on the tub and it being his fault because he was the last one with her.

She also admitted to lying about taking a narcotic before a police-administered lie-detector test. She says she took them to calm her anxiety. This may be the reason she has pending drug charges.

Josh testified that he thought Cecilia may have been causing the bruises and scratches on the baby but wasn’t sure. When Marissa was 4 months old her mom threw her at Josh.

On September 2nd, she came home with the baby and asked him to bathe her while she left to fill a prescription and Marissa didn’t seem like herself, it was as if she had whiplash. When he got her out of the tub he put her into her swing and she began seizing. Josh called Cecilia and she said not to worry. His reply was “You didn’t see what I saw.”

She still was not concerned and didn’t show back up for another 45 minutes after Josh had already called 911.

While on the stand Josh was asked why he went to the hospital and he said “I loved Marissa like she was mine.”, he said he only got a lawyer after 2 officers told him they were “coming to get you for first-degree murder”.

Josh also said he stayed with Cecilia for 3 or 4 months after Marissa’s death and she never said what she thought happened to the baby but he never threw, shook or harmed Marissa.

He also said that the baby did not hit her head when he was bathing her and he did not remember showing anyone a video of Marissa’s eyes rolling in the back of her head nor does he even remember her eyes rolling.

Josh’s testimony had several “I don’t knows” or I don’t remember” as answers to the defense attorneys questions.

Attorney Randy Krantz testified that he removed himself from the case because they were very distant relatives but didn’t  know each other or attend the same family reunions. He also said he was not given any type of plea deal or immunity in exchange for his testimony like the defense attorney was trying to suggest.

Dr. Kees and Dr. Foster testified that the baby’s injuries were not accidental and that she showed no signs of external injury that would have indicated she hit her head.

Witnesses including Josh and Adam said that Cecilia left the hospital while Marissa was still hooked up to life support machines.

Cecilia’s father Adam took the stand and was on the verge of tears when he spoke of his daughter. He said, “When I walked through the doors, my daughter was laying on the table,” he said. “She was hooked up to a bunch of machines and she looked a different color.”

He also said that he did not feel good about Marissa living with Cheek but there was nothing he could do about it.

Marissa Anne Burnette-Davis, josh cheek, Cecilia Leigh Burnette, bedford virginiaOn March 17th Cecilia was found not guilty on charges of second degree murder. The jury recommended a sentence of 8 years and a fine of $75,000 for being guilty of felony child abuse and neglect causing serious bodily injury.

She will be officially sentenced on May 26.

Josh Cheek has not been charged with anything and there are no plans to charge him.

Marissa was a beautiful 8-month-old little girl that was full of life and energy until her mother Cecilia stole it away from her. Yes, she was murdered, not neglected and her serious injury led to her death so why the hell isn’t anyone being charged for her murder? Capital murder couldn’t be charged because there was no evidence of intent, what about involuntary manslaughter? Perhaps it was because everyone involved in the case including the defendant’s witnesses kept changing their stories. It took the jurors 90 minutes to decide Cecilia’s fate.

1 year for each month that Marissa had lived is what her life amounted to.

Update: May 26, 2011

I knew this was coming but reading it again disgusts me and leaves me speechless. Cecelia was sentenced today.

Bedford resident Cecilia Burnette, 27, was sentenced today in Bedford Circuit Court to eight years in prison and fined $75,000 after being convicted in March of felony child abuse related to the death of her 8-month-old daughter in 2008.

Judge James Updike’s sentencing matched that recommended by a jury after Burnette was found not guilty March 17 of second-degree murder but convicted of the abuse charge related to the death of Marissa Davis in September 2008.

State medical examiners determined Davis died of the kind of “abusive head trauma” suffered when children are violently shaken by an adult.

No direct evidence tied Burnette to inflicting the injuries on Sept. 2, 2008, that ultimately caused the death of her infant daughter, Marissa Davis. But Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Doucette emphasized that Burnette’s changing accounts of the events and circumstances of that day pointed to her as the infant’s killer.

Tanner Lee Webb

Tanner Lee Webb

Tanner Lee Webb came into this world on October 13, 2003 and was described by his mother Destinee Ashton Spann-Miller to have been a very happy, out-going and loving child that could bring a smile to anyone’s face no matter how hard of a day they were having. Tanner’s father, Brian Charles Webb was described by Tanner’s mother as being in and out of Tanner’s life. I was not able to find much information about Brian other than on a video that Tanner’s grandma made and it said that daddy had to go away for a while. I’ll leave it at that because I don’t know what was meant by that statement.

Tanner’s grandmother Shelly says that Tanner lived in only 2 homes, either with her or his maternal great aunt and uncles’ home. It was obvious that he was Nana’s boy by the way she wrote about him. The family provided everything for Destinee, Brian and Tanner since they were only 15 and 16 when Tanner was born. Both parents were said to have loved and cared for Tanner, they were just young and didn’t know how to do everything that needed to be done as parents.

Tanner’s mother Destinee married Russell Allen Miller in September of 2007. Destinee and Russell kept Tanner away from his father and the paternal side of the family for the last 4 months of his life. They weren’t even aware she had married until later and they didn’t know about the abuse either. There was not a parenting plan in place so Destinee was able to keep Tanner until they went to court for custody.

He was murdered before custody was ever set.

On October 21, 2006, Destinee fed Tanner breakfast and then left for work around 11 like any other day. This wasn’t any other day though, this day would be a day of hell on earth for 3-year-old Tanner.

Russell called 911 and reported that Tanner was not breathing and he needed assistance at his home. His exact words on the 911 recording was “Me and my son were playing,” “I was swinging him, and he hit his head on the couch, and he won’t wake up. … I don’t want y’all to think the wrong idea because he looks like crap. He looks like he got beat.”

If you go to 2:45 minutes in this video you can hear the 911 call that Russell made.

He told them he was swinging Tanner around in circles while he held him by his shirt and pants and he accidentally hit his head on the couch. Tanner had 2 black eyes and a swollen forehead due to him hitting his head on the couch. He also said “I guess that’s where he hit his head,”

In the background at Russell’s home Tanner could be heard making “gurgling sounds” in between long periods of silence while Russell tried to perform CPR.

When paramedics arrived on the scene they realized that Tanner’s injuries were more serious than they first anticipated and called for life flight. He was then flown to Children’s hospital where he passed away around 6PM.

In a testimony later it was said that there was no way that Tanner received his injuries by accidentally hitting his head on the couch. This child was covered in bruises.

Russell Allen Miller was arrested the next day and pleaded guilty in a Denton County district court to first degree injury to a child on August 31st 2007. His hands were considered a deadly weapon but they also said he used “something else” but never said what that was.

He agreed to a plea deal in September 2007 and accepted 50 years in prison and is eligible for parole after serving 25 years. He was never charged with Tanner’s murder.

DA Jamie Beck was quoted as saying “She [Destinee] did not want the case to go to trial, That would have been difficult for her. We got a quick resolution.”

Shelly Hastings, Tanner’s grandmother was extremely upset because she did not agree with the plea deal. She wanted Russell to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. She believes he should have been charged with Capitol murder and sexual assault charges.

The law allows a capital murder charge in the death of a child under 6. If convicted it carries a sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty can be used. Prosecutor’s don’t go for a capital murder charge in child abuse cases like these because when they do they also have to prove that murder was the intent of the abuser “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That’s near impossible to prove.

In a injury to a child case the prosecutor only has to prove that they abused the child so it’s a much easier case and the likeliness of getting a sentence is much higher than in a capitol murder case. If he would have been found not guilty on capitol murder charges there would have been no do-overs so I can see why they tried the case the way they did as much as I don’t like it.

I don’t know if that was ever explained to Ms. Hastings or maybe she was of the opinion that there was enough evidence for the murder charge. They also chose not to pursue the sexual assault charge because there was not enough evidence to convict him.

Ms. Hastings was also upset that Destinee was the only one in the family allowed the speak at Russel’s hearing, she  believes that Destinee knew abuse was going on prior to his death and she should be charged to. She told media that she would not let Tanner’s mother walk away with his murder “unscathed” and she will file a civil suit if she has to.

Prosecutor’s say there was no evidence to charge Destinee with criminal charges. “We looked, and we were willing to go there if the evidence pointed us there, but there’s nothing,” Ms. Beck said.

Ms. Hastings says there absolutely was proof of Destinee’s knowledge because she took her son to a friend, Tanna Patton’s home and showed her Tanner’s hand print bruises and said Russell put them there. She left Russell for a week before she married him and then foolishly and selfishly went back to him.

Tanner’s autopsy revealed wounds to his genitalia. As a matter of fact Tanner’s autopsy revealed 43 external injuries to his little body. He had bruises from his heel all the way up to his face as well as burns that were not explained. He also had wounds that were consistent with sexual abuse.

His cause of death was actually blunt force trauma to the head and he had multiple head hemmorhages.

“He’s an absolute danger,” Ms. Hastings said while speaking of Russell Miller. “To do what he did to that little baby’s body … If he ever gets out on the street again, no one is going to be safe.”

Ms. Hastings said, “Everything Russell has for the rest of his life – parole hearing, court date, whatever it is – we will all be there,” Ms. Hastings said. “I will see to it, if I have my way, he will serve every one of those 50 years.”

I read that Ms. Hastings was trying to open a center called Tanner’s place, she also had a blog on word press but it has not been active since 2008 so I’ve not been able to locate anymore information. Unfortunately, this took place in another small Texas town and I was not able to find many articles on little Tanner or the court case so I only had a couple articles to base my information off of and no court documents. There are several youtube videos of Tanner though.

Russell’s TDCJ information is listed here and in case that link does not work I’ll copy in his info to.

SID Number: 06388907

TDCJ Number: 01462366


Race: W

Sex: M

Age: 27

Maximum Sentence Date: 2056-10-25

Current Facility: CONNALLY

Projected Release Date: 2056-10-25

Parole Eligibility Date: 2031-10-26

Offense History: 

Offense Date 2006-10-21


Sentence Date 2007-08-31


Case No.  F-2006-2101-A

Sentence (Y-MM-DD) 50-00-00

Tanner’s story by his grandma Shelly Hastings

This video was made by Tanner’s mother

Sean Michael Sowards

Sean Michael Sowards

Sean Michael Sowards was born on September 23, 2004 to Crystal Conklin and Michael Sowards of Warren, Michigan, who had been together for 8 years. Baby Sean was Michael and Crystal’s first-born son, they also had a little girl, Angelique “Angel” who was a year older.

In 2003, the girl tested positive for weed in her system, DHS provided services to the family.

In 2005 DHS received a report that Crystal was beating on Sean, they said she would wake the baby up just to beat on him. DHS was told “She doesn’t want him and only kept him because the father wanted him,”

Elizabeth Herd, Sean’s paternal grandma also called DHS;

“My concerns were Sean was being injured in his home,” she said. “I told them my 4-month-old grandson was being spanked by his mother because he wouldn’t stop crying.” She said she was told that “unless he is seriously injured or dead, they would not investigate.” and “They said parents have a right to discipline their children, and it was none of my business,” she said.

In 2006 Elizabeth was told by Crystal that her grandson had an eye infection, it was after this that she was kept away from Sean. Elizabeth also reported that she saw bruises and cuts on Sean but was always told that Angel did it.

Sean Michael and Angel Sowards

Sean Michael Sowards and sister

Michael came home from work on the evening of June 11, 2007 and saw his son in desperate need of medical attention. Sean was laying in bed unconscious in his own vomit. He picked his son up and rushed him to the emergency room at St. John Oakland General Hospital where it was learned that he had extensive head and brain trauma among many other injuries that were new and old.

When Sean arrived at the hospital he was unresponsive, covered in bruises and cuts from head-to-toe, he had a cut on his forehead that should have received stitches but was already healing, his toenails on his big toes were torn away, replaced with blood, he was essentially blind from from his eyes being burnt from most likely nail polish remover being poured on them, he had a broken finger, bite-marks and was underweight.

Sean was then transferred to St. John Hospital in Detroit for emergency surgery. Although the doctors did a heroic job and worked on baby Sean in surgery to relieve the fluid on his brain he still died 2 days later on June 13th. It was at this point his tragic nightmare-ish life story began to unfold in the news.

Crystal and Michael both were arrested on the 13th. On the 14th, after investigators spoke with Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office they released Michael from jail. Crystal was charged with felony murder and child abuse.

The couples 3-year-old daughter Angel was placed into the custody of Macomb County Child Protective Services. She was never abused, Sean was the only target of his mothers hatred.

Crystal was 7 ½ months pregnant and complained of labor pains so she was taken to the hospital. She returned to her cell as soon as they discovered there was nothing wrong with her.

During Crystal’s arraignment she cried uncontrollably and Judge Walter Jakubowcski Jr. told her he wasn’t impressed with her theatrics and said she was a danger to all children and he hoped God would save her soul before setting her bond at $500,000 cash.

Crystal and Michael told Krystal Magnan, a DHS worker;

” that he (Sean) was clumsy and he would bump into walls a lot, and (his sister) was physically aggressive toward him. She also said DHS investigated 2 complaints but they were not serious and were closed. “She didn’t really give me answers,” Magnan said. “She piggy-backed on what the dad said, what Mr. Sowards said.”

These excuses would be used many times by Crystal when talking about Sean’s injuries.

On April 18th Dr. Marcus DeGraw of St. John Hospital in Detroit testified against Crystal saying that;

“There was a repetitive infliction of pain for discipline, almost a torture scenario,” “He was abused … repetitively throughout his existence.”

Dr. Degraw treated Sean in the hospital and said he died of blunt force trauma to the head, a single blow “causing immediate symptoms.” He said the type of injury Sean had is what you would see in a high speed accident or falling from a window several floors high.

He said that Sean was undernourished and half the weight a child should be at for his age. During his testimony he said;

“To me, it was neglect, a restriction of food,” DeGraw said. “You would have to work extremely hard to make a child not gain weight like that.” You can feed a child 5 meals a week and he will still gain weight.”

Forensic nurse, Marnie Van Dam said in court that Sean had over 3 dozen bruises from head-to-toe and was covered in cuts and abrasions. His big toe toenails were ripped off, Sean’s eyelids were red and swollen and his corneas were cloudy. His bruises were in various stages of healing, proving that his abuse was recurring.

Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz agreed that Sean died of non-accidental blunt-force trauma to the head.

Assistant Macomb prosecutor Therese Tobin told reporters”He was battered head to toe,” “He was basically blind” from being shaking or hit on the head.

Photos of Sean’s battered and beaten little body were shown to jurors, pictures of his bed room were also included. There was blood covering the closet walls, the door, his sheets and the carpets. There was also blood on his clothes on the utility room floor and in the washer were more clothes with blood and the stench of vomit according to Officer Marlene Niedermeier.

Mathew Conklin, Crystal’s uncle testified that she treated Angel a lot different than Sean. He said he once warned her about it when Sean tried to climb up in her lap saying “Mommy, mommy” and she grabbed him by his forehead and pushed him back forcefully. Mathew said the boy hit his head hard enough it bounced off of the coffee table “like a ball.”

He said when Sean started crying;

“Angel looked at me and started screaming. She (Crystal Conklin) put her attention to Angel. She picked up Angel and said, ‘Poor Angel.'” “Angel got all the positive attention and positive interaction,” he said. “It seemed Sean was always dished off to the side.”

Mathew stated that Crystal and Michael stayed with him for weeks at a time due to their financial situation.

He also said while being sworn in and questioned by Prosecutor Therese Tobin that he believed Sean had not developed correctly for his age because of how he was treated by his mother. Crystal complained frequently that the baby cried all the time and never slept through the night.

“She was very upset at his crying,” he said. “She once said that something was wrong with him and then said she thought he was doing it on purpose.”

Mathew also testified that “Sean’s face was always covered with blankets” and she tried to keep him in his playpen down in the dark, wet basement or out in the garage so she didn’t have to deal with him.

Mathew also saw bruises and cuts on the boy but was given the same excuse as everyone else.

When Mathew was cross-examined by defense attorney Ronald Goldstein he said his niece did come to his home while Sean was in the hospital and she was upset and nervous. She told him that Sean had a seizure.

When Michael Sowards’ initially took the stand he said that he had not seen his girlfriend hit their son. He retorted and later testified that he did see her hit him. He said the reason he lied in the beginning was;

“at the time I couldn’t believe she could do that to my son. I didn’t believe what was happening. It was a nightmare. I didn’t think someone who I cared about so much could do that to my son. I believed she was excessive at times, but I didn’t believe she was capable.”

Michael also acknowledged his role by saying he didn’t do enough to stop the abuse of his son.

Cpl. Chad Richardson also testified and said that he interviewed Crystal twice. She told him that Sean vomited and she put him in his bed. She checked on him later and said “Seany, Seany” and he would not wake up. That was when she noticed that he had vomited a couple more times.

In the 2nd interview she said her and Sean were in the bathroom and he “slipped and fell, and she couldn’t catch him in time,” but that she never laid a hand on the child other than for discipline. Cpl. Richardson told the court “She said he was acting like a ping pong ball bouncing against the walls in the hallway,”

“We had her in custody for seven hours and she did not ask once about her son,”

Michael at Sean's funeral

Michael at Sean's funeral

Kathleen Conklin said she visited her sister the weekend before Sean’s death and his legs were both in one pants leg to restrict him from moving. It was normal for Crystal to wrap him in 2 blankets and either put him in a car seat or high chair so he wasn’t able to move around. She said she didn’t feel like her sister loved Sean “there was always so much anger towards him.”

When the prosecutor asked Kathleen how she thought her sister, Crystal felt about Angel she said, “She loved Angel. Angel was allowed to be a kid. She allowed her to play.”

Crystal suddenly had her own version of the story that Michael was the one that abused and murdered Sean except she had not mentioned one word about it until she took the stand that very day.

Attorney Tobin said in closing arguments;

“Michael Sowards failed his son. He admitted that to you,” Tobin told the jury. “He will answer for that later.” She also asked the jurors to consider both testimonies, Michael’s and Crystal’s.

Sean's marker

Sean's marker

“Sean’s last week was spent almost blind. He would put his hand over his eye for some comfort, for some assistance. He was a 2-year-old walking around the house. He was trying to find his own way with this own hands,” Tobin said. “If your child couldn’t see, do you let him feel his way around the house or do you get him in a car, or get him in an ambulance and get him to a doctor? The reason [Conklin] didn’t is the dirty little secret. Sean was abused.”

“For some reason, Crystal Conklin did not treat her son the way she treated her daughter. Why is that? I don’t know,” Tobin said. “What we know are the ramifications of those feelings. What we know is that there was a bruised and battered Sean for whatever reason”

Michael cried through much of the court proceedings and said “The only thing that matters, is justice for my son,”

Crystal Conklin was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She was also given 9-15 years for the first degree child abuse charge and it will run concurrently.

On July 10th Michael Sean Sowards was sentenced to 9 months in jail and five years probation for second degree child abuse for failing to be aware of, stop or report the abuse.

Michael read the following letter in court;

Your Honor, Mrs. Tobin,

Everyone has regrets and choices in their life that they wish they could change or do over, do differently. I know I do! I just want to say, I love my children! I love them with all my heart! They were the most precious gift in my life and anyone who knows me knows how much I loved them. I made extremely bad decisions. I stayed in a very bad relationship in the hope that I could fix things, I could make everyone happy, or make everything ok as long as I never gave up trying. My judgment, my entire thinking process was clouded by years of verbal, mental, physical abuse and manipulation by a very ill woman. But never in my worst nightmares did I even think that all of this could ever happen. Like the saying, “Hind site is always 20/20”. Now that I have had time to reflect and have been away from Crystal for some time. I realize now more than ever how beat down mentally I was. But I kept thinking to myself, I had a baby on the way, plus Angel and Sean and all I wanted was for us to be a family. And the harder I tried the worse Crystal would be. Of course I wish I had left her, but she made that almost impossible. Your honor I failed my son, my children. But I always loved them and I never hurt them. I tried my best with what I knew and what I thought at the time was possible. But always that wasn’t enough. Losing my son, my daughter, my babies has crushed me! I can’t imagine any kind of pain worse than that of losing your children. I would give my life in a heartbeat for the chance to change things, to leave Crystal and protect my son. That’s my regret.

He has also given up parental rights to Angelique and Brianna so that they may have a better life.

Sean's family is very active in child abuse awareness and activism.

Sean's family is very active in child abuse awareness and activism.

Crystal’s whole defense was that she was a “battered woman” that was scared to death of her boyfriend Michael. She attempted to blame Michael for Sean’s murder and abuse and said that she could not tell or Michael would retaliate on her.

Crystal lied from the moment she was arrested and she is probably lying as you are reading this article. She changed her story so many times and had absolutely no evidence to back up her story. Her own family knew she was rotten and once they were sworn in they had no choice but to tell the truth about how despicable she was because they didn’t want to be held in contempt.

Crystal even tried to blame her son’s death on her own child, Angel. Can you imagine the damage that would do to a child if she were to ever find out that her own mother blamed her for that.

In what scenario is it ever ok to spank a 4-month-old for crying? I don’t understand what reasoning DHS used when they said there was no reason to investigate the claim of abuse because “parents have a right to discipline their children” Elizabeth Herd, Sean’s grandmother said there were 10-12 complaints filed with DHS that went unnoticed.

As mentioned before Crystal attempted to claim the “battered partner syndrome” however no one believed her. In fact, it was believed that Michael was actually physically, mentally and emotionally abused by Crystal and perhaps was to weak to leave Crystal and protect his son from her.

This in no way excuses the fact that Michael had the responsibility to protect his son from being abused. He was the adult and Sean was the helpless child.

With that being said, there are not nearly enough resources for men that are abused. Men are supposed to be strong, be the protectors and the head of the household. Main stream society doesn’t accept weakness’s in men. It’s estimated that out of 100 domestic violence situations 40 of those involve men as the victim. It’s said that even those numbers may be a lot higher because a lot of men won’t come forward because of the stigma attached.

It’s hard to get women to report abuse even after all the programs that are offered, when is the last time you saw a commercial for a men’s shelter or abuse hotline for DV? If you see a man with a bruised face what’s your first reaction? I think it’s pretty obvious we have a lot of work to do in this area.

Please visit Seans Voice at

Elizabeth and Danny Herd are very active in their community and work to prevent child abuse. Thank you for making a difference in so many children’s lives. Through you, Sean’s memory will always live on.


Elizabeth Herd Sowards





Sarah Angelina Chavez

Sarah Angelina Chavez

Sarah Angelina Chavez lived a life of hell in her short 2 years of life. She was born on December 5, 2002. Her mother Sophia Chavez was addicted to vicodin, she began taking it for a medical problem and continued abusing them throughout her pregnancy with Sarah. She then delivered a stillborn in the toilet of her home on News Years in 2005 and called 911.


It was at this point that case workers were alerted that Sarah was staying with her great-aunt and they tracked her down in some apartments. When they finally found Sarah she had 2 black eyes and a cut to her nose. Frances Abundis, Sarah’s great-aunt said “Sarah was running and she went right into the fire engine truck,” she said. “They were playing, and I remember you know, she got up and she had a scratch.”


Sarah was taken into custody by CPS. This was not the first time Sarah had an encounter with children’s services. The first time was when she was born addicted to vicodin and a case was opened but never followed up on due to the case workers mistake.


She was given a second chance at life and love when she was placed in the home of Diane Hardy-Garcia and Corri Planck, a loving foster couple who were prepared to love and give her a happy home and stable environment. They wanted to adopt a child and had gone through all the grueling paperwork and classes to finally qualify.


Diane says when she went to pick Sarah up and saw her for the first time


“she had chocolate all over her face, and she had a candy cane in her mouth, and I brought her a little teddy bear and she jumped in my arms,” she said. “It was love at first sight, I think, for both of us.”


Corri called Sarah “so charming, and so friendly and engaging with other people.”


At Sarah’s new home she had everything she could dream of, her own bedroom, new toys, a bed and all the love and attention she could handle. Her favorite book was “Mary Poppins,” and she bonded instantly with the pet schnauzer, who would sleep outside Sarah’s door.


Diane and Corri also said that you could tell Sarah came from an “explosive environment” because at her tender age of 2 she already knew how to choke someone with both hands and she had terrible night terrors that would keep her up at night. She also knew how to use curse words.


It wasn’t long before they suspected that Sarah had been a victim of sexual abuse. They requested many times through the case worker that a medical assessment be done. No one ever set up a appointment for Sarah, the women were worried that no one ever listened to their concerns about Sarah and how she needed help and was not getting it.


The caseworker noted she got lost on the way to the clinic and never rescheduled the appointment.


During all of this Sarah was getting court-ordered weekly visits with her mother, who either didn’t bother to show up for the visits or showed up late. Sarah’s great-aunt/godmother Frances did show up though. She always said she didn’t want Sarah to grow up with someone that wasn’t family.


Diane and Corri had no idea that Sarah’s family was fighting to get her back at Children’s Court. Sophia Chavez, Sarah’s so called mother was especially mad because her daughter was living with a lesbian couple.


Sophia sure the hell wasn’t going to clean up for Sarah’s sake so she couldn’t get custody. Her daughter wasn’t that important.


Sarah's foster parents

Sarah's foster parents

God forbid, 2 women could love, spoil and cherish this child unconditionally, Sophia would rather her daughter be beat and raped than be with a couple lesbians. Yes, instead it was better to send her back to Frances and Armando Abundis.


Frances proudly told others,


“I was the godmother and when the mother’s not able to take that to be the mother, then the godmother steps in to take care of that child. And that’s why I fought to get Sarah,”


During the Children’s Court hearings Diane and Corri never got to speak and their complaints were never told to the judge by the caseworkers. Their earlier complaints of suspected sexual abuse proved to fall on deaf ears, no one listened, no one cared even though it was documented by case workers.


There was an error and the foster parents were never notified how to contact Josephanie Ackman, the attorney that represented Sarah. Josephanie also represented 165 other children at the same time, the lawyer never even met Sarah or her foster parents. Sarah was a case number not a child.


“Sarah’s lawyer was her only advocate in court. It was her only voice. And she was virtually silent,” Corri said. It was said that Josephanie barely ever spoke in court.


When the foster parents posed the question to Josephanie’s supervisor, Lisa Mandel, and asked why there was no contact about who the attorney was and why there was no contact they were told “I don’t know”. Lisa Mandel did say that “This case shakes us to the core,” and “It’s devastating.”


Despite the proof of abuse, the 2 black eyes when Sarah lived with her Aunt Frances and Uncle Armando the court placed her back into their care. The court was never told about the allegations of sexual abuse.


A criminal background was never bothered with nor was there ever a home inspection done before Sarah went back to her family. They could have been sending this child into a crack den for all they knew.


What changed in the 5 months to suddenly make the caseworkers and the judge believe this child was going to be taken care of now? NOTHING!


Who ordered this child back to her tormentors? Joan Marie Carney, a part-time, once suspended attorney who referee’s at the Children’s Courthouse. Joan made up her mind that Sarah was going back to her family before she ever knew anything about her. She told the court she was “tired of excuses for why this child hasn’t been released.” When anyone did try to explain the case she said the “and the mother can see her to” she also told Frances “OK, you’re going to pick the baby up,” and when the attorney’s told Joan that the paperwork was not done nor was the home inspection done she said “because I said so.”


For the first time, Diane and Corri heard from Sarah’s lawyer, it was to tell them that they were being ordered to put the little girl back into the “explosive home” she came from, the very home she was having night terrors about.


“I answered the phone, and I immediately started to cry, and I was, like, ‘How is that possible?'” Dianne said. “That is the person accused of abusing her.”


They were given 1 hour to pack Sarah up and send her to hell that morning on April 25th. Even a year later both women break down and cry when talking about Sarah and the day she left.


“We had an hour to start packing up. She started putting her things back in the drawer, saying, ‘No!'” Corri said. “She cried and we were trying not to cry so much in front of her. It was the most helpless, terrible feeling. We had no confidence that she was going to a safe place. It was like she … she knew. We were crazy about this kid, and she was amazing, amazing child. It was heartbreaking.”


“Corri was really clear,” Dianne said. “She always said, ‘We’re going to read that Sarah was killed one day.’ And I just couldn’t even allow myself to think that.”


When Sarah arrived at her Aunt Frances’ home she was welcomed by her 5-year-old cousin Armando Jr, nicknamed AJ. The court also allowed Sophia to visit her daughter as much as she wanted but she hardly ever showed up to see her.


“It was hard the withdrawals and everything,” said Sophia, who admits it affected her daughter. “She always told me, ‘Mommy, don’t lie. You’re going to come right?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to come.”


The caseworker never documented anything regarding Sophia not showing up for visits or how Sarah was being treated in her new home.


Jontuluanne Butler, Sarah’s caseworker noted that on her September 28th visit she looked “so tired” and wanted to know where her mommy was. She had by that time quit talking in complete sentences and could barely put two words together. Her world was falling apart and her mom has stopped coming to see her.


Frances would later tell “Primetime” in an interview that Armando quit working and began to act very differently. She says she never reported his behavior to the case worker or to the courts though.


She also admitted to selling drugs and neighbors said Armando sat outside drinking beer like it was kool-aid. One neighbor said that Armando treated Sarah badly and said “Sarah did not listen” and wondered “if it was really worth all the trouble of taking her into their home.”


Frances said she didn’t know how bad Armando’s behavior was towards the kids until much later. “My son was afraid of his father. There was hitting going on when I wasn’t home. My son said that I used to protect him,” she said.



Frances later told police that little AJ heard Armando behind a closed door with Sarah and she was screaming her lungs out.


On October 10th Frances came home and said “Sarah was in the room, um, standing there, just standing there. And I remember seeing her arm was twisted in,” when she asked her husband what happened he told her that she fell down.


Sarah’s arm was so horrendously broken above her elbow there was boneS sticking out causing her upper arm to be disconnected from the rest and just falling at her side because she wasn’t able to move it.


Frances lived close enough for her to pick that baby up and walk to the ER but instead she chose to drive to her own mothers house and then go to a Mexican healer called a sobadora. She wanted the “healer” that had no medical training to “heal” Sarah.


“I told the lady, the sobadora, I was scared that I didn’t have an answer what happened to Sarah and that they were going to take Sarah away from me,” Frances said.


Frances finally took her niece to the hospital and after waiting for 4 hours, doctor’s looked her over and recommended various tests. She then decided she was going to leave. Frances signed that child out of the hospital against doctor’s orders and they wrote on her paperwork that Sarah could have “other injuries” or might “lose limb or life.”


The paperwork from the hospital also showed Frances refused a CT scan, blood tests and urine tests. She tried to say the hospital never told her that the tests were important. The hospital failed to call CPS when they left.


Frances said the next morning when she went to wake little Sarah up,


“She was just kind of like stiff. And I kept on pushing her and I started shaking her and I slapped her,” Frances said. “And I got her and I told her, ‘Sarah, wake up, please wake up. Sarah, wake up, please wake up.’ And she wouldn’t wake up.”


When 911 was called and the baby was taken to the hospital she was pronounces dead. Her injuries were caused by the hands of an adult, not by a fall like Armando stated earlier the previous day.


Armando and Frances Abundis were arrested and charged with murder, child abuse and related charges of neglect on October 11, 2005. Both have pleaded not guilty. According to court records, Frances was also charged for two pounds of marijuana found in their home.


Their son AJ is now in the same broken system that Sarah was in. AJ told police that his “dad hit Sarah and she hit him back” and “Sarah cried because of her arm, because the bone was pointing out.” He also said his dad would punch Sarah with his fist.


Dianne and Corri, Sarah’s former foster parents believe “She removed her against medical advice from the hospital the night before,” Corri said. “She had another chance to try to, not protect her, but to let her be protected. And she didn’t do it.”


Dianne added,


“Even if Francis didn’t deliver the blow, she certainly contributed to her death.” “Sarah was let down by the medical system, by the legal system, and by the child welfare system. And her family. Everybody that should have protected this child let her down,” she said.


At the preliminary hearing in December 2005 Frances said she never told the hospital she was Sarah’s mom but nurses disagree saying she did. Why does this matter? Because if Frances would have said that she was not the mother it would have been a huge risk and staff would have likely gotten CPS involved.


Frances’ lawyer Alex Kessel said that they would prove that Frances is innocent because the video tape at the hospital showed Sarah moving around, this would mean that Frances had no idea that Sarah was in danger of losing her life. He also said the doctor’s had not found any internal injuries at that point.


Several witnesses testified that Frances was concerned for the baby’s safety at the ER. When the doctor put a splint on her arm but couldn’t find a vein to take blood Sarah started getting tired and fussy so Frances left against doctors orders.


Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. David Whiteman testified that Sarah’s “manner of death was homicide at the hands of another person. The cause was multiple traumatic injuries. There were a number of external bruises on the skin, on the legs, and evidence of a healing of the right humorus and one joint of her left fourth finger. And there was injury to her abdomen, a portion of her small intestine had been completely severed.”


He also said other injuries included retroperitoneal hemorrhaging; and hemorrhaging around the pancreas or injury to the pancreas, hemorrhaging around both kidneys and both adrenal glands, hemorrhaging to the liver, some lacerations to the liver, lacerations to the diaphragm, bruising to her lungs and spleen and torn ligaments.


The coroner also determined that there was a strong possibility that she was sexually abused.


He said the sepsis from peritonitis was the main reason Sarah died. This infection causes your body to go into shock and then die.


“The infection can cause fever. But she could be so much in shock, she may not have the energy to have a fever.” Additionally, the pain could be so severe, “deep breaths may aggravate the pain so the child may not cry.”


During testimony it was said that if someone would have hit Sarah in the stomach with a baseball bat it still wouldn’t have cause the type of injuries she suffered. Her injuries were caused from a upper-cut punch.


All of the medical staff that was called to the stand plead the 5th for fear they would be sued because they knew they were mandatory reporters and failed Sarah as did everyone else.


State regulators sanctioned the hospital for several errors, one of them being failure to find the internal injuries that caused Sarah’s death. They also said staff should have recognized the “signs of child abuse”.


There were also 9 caseworkers that were blamed for failing Sarah.


Armando went through 5 attorney’s and held the trial up for as long as possible. One attorney had a health problem delaying proceedings for a month.


Armando Abundis Sr. was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, assault on a child causing death, and child abuse likely to produce great bodily harm.


His charges were lowered to a lesser penalty because the jury did not believe that he “intended” to murder Sarah although they did agree that he did intend to harm her. They agreed “his awareness was lacking.”


Up until July of 2008 Armando was walking around as a free man awaiting sentencing.


Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz sentenced Armando to 25 years to life in prison. She said his “viciousness, cruelty and lack of caring” is why she was denying probation for him. YES, this is what his attorney was suggesting for this scumbag.


When his guilty charges were read his family were shaking their heads in disgust. Perhaps they are all alike. The family refused to make any comments.


Frances pleaded no contest and was released in November 2006, after being held for 14 months.


“It’s closure for us,” said a weeping Paulina Ortiz, Frances Abundis’ sister. “We’ve been through so much. We don’t have Sarah, but Sarah spoke through 12 people today.”


Frances Abundis told reporters during a jail house interview “I’m sitting here, for something I did not do. And he’s sitting over there not saying what happened,” also “The only thing I understand that if it was my mistake for leaving the hospital, I accept that,” she said. “But if I would have known that she had internal injuries. I wouldn’t have left.”


I wonder what Sarah thinks about her enabling Aunt Frances? Sarah probably loved her regardless of what she allowed to happen.

Calista SPringer

Calista SPringer

If you know anything about Calista Springer then you should also know she was in a home that she should have never been placed in. Calista was born May 22, 1991.


In 1997 Norma Swegles, Calista’s mother tried to get custody of her and she had always taken an active role in her life up until the age of 9 months when her father refused to let her see her mom. Norma told the court Calista was malnourished and was being abused. Anthony Springer denied these actions and the court believed him. He filed to have her parental rights permanently denied and the court ruled in his favor in May of 1997. Calista was given to her father and Marsha as an adopter at 6 years old. It was never said why Norma was not a fit parent. Anthony and Marsha had 2 more daughters a couple years later.


In 1999 Marsha, Calista’s step-mom who was legally blind from diabetes went to court and filed for a personal protection order against Anthony. She told the judge that he was threatening them and treated the girls badly. In Marsha’s own words she said;


“Tony never has a kind word to say to the girls and has never told them that he loves them. It’s just constant yelling to shut up, get out of my way and get out of my sight” “He doesn’t see any need for counseling for himself or our marriage” “My children and I need help getting out of this vicious cycle. It is only a matter of time before the children and myself become the physical targets in these rages. The fact that I am blind, having very limited sight in one eye I feel without a protection order in place Tony will do great bodily harm to me or my children”


Calista SPringer

Calista Springer with her sisters

In the 4 page letter that she wrote she described a life of misery for herself and the children, she said Anthony was always angry and full of rage. She states he went from job to job never staying very long. She also said he was more interested in spending his money on his hobby rather than his children. He also suffered Bipolar disorder, ADD and depression and he never took his medication.


Marsha also said that Anthony had been violent on many different occasions, she said one time he ripped the phone out of the wall during an argument and another time he put his fist through the window. He would also force her to have sex when she didn’t want to. He collected road-kill, boiled the meat off their bones and then put their skeletons back together. She said he became obsessed with this and it was all he would talk about.


The order of protection was granted on June 28th 1999 but was dropped 2 months later.


Calista began telling her friends, teachers and anyone else that would listen to her that she was being beat and chained to her bed. She told them horrors of being forced to use a bucket to use the restroom in and eating glue. Calista would go days without bathing and was made to wear dirty clothes.


People tried for years to help her, they would feed, bath and even gave her clothes. There were 15 reports of abuse. Sue Gest wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph in 2004 saying “Someone needs to help her. Does she need to die before anyone listens.”


Mr. Upton contacted MI. DHS and was told that she was being cared for.


Calista was eventually pulled out of school and began homeschooling. It was said that she had a eating disorder called PICA that caused her to eat non-food items.


Calista Springer

Calista Springer

CPS was involved with the family and had warned the family not to tie her to the bed. CPS even said it would be a tragedy if there were ever a fire and Calista couldn’t save herself. Anthony and Marsha chose to not listen though and put a dog’s choke collar around Calista’s wast and zip ties on her to tie her down. They said they had “no choice” and it was for her and their “safety”.


Anthony Springer’s own mother, Suzanne Langdon, who had been estranged from him for some tome called and reported her son to CPS and was told;


“During her first three years, we had a lot because Tony was going to Western Michigan University. It was about 10 years ago that we saw marks on and we reported it to CPS. We were told to stay out of it, that it was none of our business”


The woman who wrote that letter was the parent to one of Calista’s friends. Her daughter showed her letters FROM Calista where she described herself being tied up, chained and forced to use the bathroom in a bucket. The letter the mom received back from DHS stated:


“This notice is being sent to you to inform you that your complaint of child abuse or neglect has not been accepted for investigation. The reason is: The allegation was essentially the same instance as an allegation previously reported and investigated”Children’s Protective Services Supervisor Cindy Bare


Calista Springer

Springer home

On February 27, 2008 everyone’s nightmare came to life. According to Marsha she was vacuuming in the living room that morning when she smelled smoke, she says she turned the vacuum cleaner off but then resumed cleaning a moment later. She smelled smoke again and turned if off and went to the kitchen, upon returning she saw smoke so she grabbed the fire extinguisher but couldn’t get the pin out. By then the fire was out of control and all she could do was get out and save her self. The dog made it to. Calista was still in her upstairs bedroom and did not make it out.


Anthony stood outside his home that evening in shock and told reporters “She liked to draw, paint, color…” said Springer, his voice trailing off. They were already in the process of moving out of that home because they had lost it to the bank. He also said the family would now most likely move out of town because of the bad memories.


Of course this was before investigators found out that Calista was chained to her bed upstairs and helpless.


The police did not find a fire extinguisher and a neighbor said Marsha told them that she went in the kitchen for a pitcher of water to put the fire out and the vacuum exploded in her face. Marsha also was suffering from burns to her hands and face.


Trooper Trever Slater found the girl in bed with a dog collar around her waist and tied to the bed with plastic ties. “She wasn’t even given sheets, blanket or a pillow.” He said. Reports would later show she died of smoke inhalation. The fire never made it to her.


Anthony and Marsha’s other 2 girl’s were removed from the home and placed with family members as fosters.


A hearing was held and the Michigan Department of Human Services decided it was in the best interest of the girls, then 12 and 14, to put them back into the custody of their parents. The judge did not agree and left them as a ward of the state but did allow the Springer to have visits with them.


In August 2008, Marsha Springer pleaded no contest to charges of abuse and child neglect. The charge was separate from the charges she was facing from Calista’s death.


Anthony denied all charges that he abused or neglected his daughter at all. Police said that he was not home at the time of the fire. Police aren’t sure if he knew that Calista was tied to the bed upstairs or how long she had been there. He told the court that Calista was a special needs child and she would take off in the middle of the night. She was only tied up for a short time for her own safety and because an alarm that had been used to monitor Calista, was broken.


In September of 2008, Anthony submitted papers to the court that stated there was no abuse or neglect when his daughter died in the fire. He said that in 1997 it had been determine that his daughter would never have impulse control or be able to use good judgment. He also used a report to show that CPS approved of him restraining Calista in her room so she could not hurt herself or others. That report allegedly claimed she would destroy everything in her room and put nails and razor blades in her mouth.


He also said he never expected Calista to do anything with her life and the best he hoped for was for her to live in an adult facility.


In December of 2008, Anthony and Marsha Springer were charged with manslaughter and first-degree child abuse.


In January of 2009, Prosecutor John McDonough, who took office in January 1, 2008 said that he reviewed the the case and was changing the charges to felony murder and torture. If they are found guilty, they could both face life in prison. The original charges were filed by Prosecutor Doug Fisher and the original charge of first degree child abuse will stand. He reported;


“I think we just had different opinions on some of the evidence. Myself and the three assistant prosecutors, as well as Detective Scott agree on the charges that we brought yesterday afternoon”


Calista Springer Memorial

Calista Springer Memorial

A letter sent from Chris Kadulski, director of DHS, in response to U.S Rep. Fred Upton, said that the department had been involved with the family since 1995 and that Calista suffered from a disease known as Pica, which caused it’s victims to crave and eat things other than normal foods;


“Most of the complaints we receive center around Calista’s behavior caused by her disease and her parents’ efforts to control her. It is our belief that Calista is cared for adequately by her parents; however, if we receive any new allegations of abuse and/or neglect, we will conduct an investigation”


These were just some of the complaints from people who tried to help Calista;


  • Calista was forced to stand or sit in a square marked by tape in the living room; if she didn’t, she was forced to place her nose on a piece of tape on a wall, sometimes having to stand on her tiptoes to reach it.
  • She ate dinner sitting on the floor and, when fed, was given small portions. One friend said she was treated “lower than the animals.”
  • Calista was rarely allowed outside of her home. When she was outdoors, she was often required to sit on her front porch with her head between her knees — sometimes for more than an hour — while her sisters and other children played nearby.


There were over 80 witnesses that would testify in Marsha and Anthony’s trial.


Prosecutor holding the chain used to chain up Calista, it still had the twist tie on it.

Defense Attorney Victor Bland told jurors that Calista’s parents loved her but she was troubled and wandered the streets at night, had been known to eat razor blades and pens. He said they were only trying to keep her safe. He also said she was violent towards others.


Teachers testified that Calista was a pretty normal girl, who could read and write and had very minor problems.


A former DHS supervisor testified that the 2004 investigation was closed and no action was taken regarding the complaints of Calista being chained up. The supervisor now says they regret that decision and it was a failure on her part.


A police detective described the home schooling as a possible “ruse” to keep Calista “out of the public eye.”


The Medical Examiner said Calista had 6-8 Benadryl’s in her system, Anthony admitted to giving them to her to “make her sleep”.


Norma Swegles and daughter Jaclyn

Norma Swegles and daughter Jaclyn

Malinda Stauffer, Calista’s friend who attended school with her testified “She would tell me about her stepmother tying her to her bed and not feeding her and abusing her,” She also read 2 letters written by Calista;


“I gave my stepmother a good long complaint on how she treats me differently,” Stauffer said as she read from one of Calista’s letters, which was written in red crayon. “… I get hooked up to my bed with plastic-tie twister. I have to put the chain under my blanket. … She is putting me deeper into my grave, and when she puts me to bed I feel blue and start crying.”


“I remember that at school she was usually happy, but she would tell stuff,” said Katy Meyer, who went to 5th and 6th grade with Calista. “She said that she was chained to her bed.”


There were 8 of Calista’s friends in all that took the stand in her defense that told stories of her torture.


Marsha and Antony Springer murder trial

Marsha and Antony Springer murder trial

Deb Stauffer and Beth Ganger, Calista’s friends mothers also called CPS when they were told about the abuse by Calista. “She said that her parents chain her up at night,” Beth Ganger testified.


She said she filed 2 reports over the abuse of Calista.


Beth said her daughter brought her home one day and Calista told her about the abuse, the school principle was coming to pick her up and take her back to her house;


“She was frantically trying to express what was happening in the home, and she was in a full panic when she knew (the principal) was coming to pick her up.”


Norma Swegle holding twistie tie

Norma Swegle holding twistie tie

She was showing the mother all of her bruises and telling her that she wasn’t being fed. Beth offered to put a banana in her backpack but Calista said no because she couldn’t hide the peel. She said she could take the apple because she could eat the core and her parents wouldn’t know she had it.


Deb Stauffer said she had letters from Calista and she called CPS and spoke to the counselor at the school. “I reported it to the school,” Stauffer said. “Nobody seemed to care so I kept (the letters).”


Anthony denied that the letters for help were written by his daughter saying “She couldn’t spell a word like ‘complain,” “She couldn’t write in cursive and the word ‘stepmother’ never came up in our family.”


John McDonough holding up the dog chain that was found around calista's waist

John McDonough holding up the dog chain that was found around calista's waist

Ms. Kamphues, the counselor at the school said she was shown a psychiatric report by the Springer’s that showed Calista was a liar and a thief. She said while she worked for the school Calista would steal small items and would return them when asked. She just wanted attention and when she got it she would “smile from ear to ear.”


Other school employees testified that Calista told them during the 2004-05 school year that she was being chained to her bed at night.


Special Ed teacher Diane Balyeat told the jury she made a report with CPS after talking with Calista, she also said the school counselor told her “social services was already involved”.


Paraprofessional Marilyn Lafler testified “They had their hair brushed, and their clothes were clean,” Lafler said of Calista’s siblings. “If you put them side by side, I would have thought they were from different families.”


Everyone that testified including state child welfare employees said Calista had some behavioral issues, like stealing small items, but otherwise tried hard in school and had friends. She once told her counselor and friends she just wished she had a new family and more friends.


Calista’s younger sister Courtney testified saying, She would rip apart the pillows and make holes in the mattress and chewed on the wood,” She also said Calista was only chained to the bed twice before the fire.


How can this be when there were so many witnesses stating otherwise?


Babara Sawyer, Marsha Springer’s sister, said Calista’s issues began at the young age of 13 months.


“At thirteen months, she couldn’t smile, she couldn’t play,” said Sawyer. “To me she was deadly,” said Sawyer. “I was afraid of Calista.”


REALLY? I just finished watching a memorial video of a happy Calista that had pictures of her SMILING. She doesn’t look scary to me……How could that be?

Marsha said on the morning of the fire, the 2 girls and Anthony left for the day, and she was left in the house alone with Calista and she wanted to vacuum the floors. She put Calista in her bed, chained her in, and told her she would be back in 15 minutes.


Calista’s step-mom admitted to chaining her at night and during the day when she was cleaning the house.


Anthony accused prosecutors for tearing his family apart and saying that the agencies were only using his family as a “scapegoat” for a broken system. Some of his last words were;


“What we did may have been wrong and I still question that every day, We were at fault for her dying in the fire … but it was not all just on our own. This community is afraid to look itself in the mirror because it’s afraid to see that it failed to help our family,” he added. “In return, it’s more than happy to evict us so that it can sleep with a clear conscience at night. Society and the system that we have now are perhaps at fault as much as we are.” “I didn’t know you disliked me so much,” “I didn’t know I was so far down on your scale.” Those words were directed to his mother and all agencies in Michigan.


Marsha on the other hand did not blame anyone as she spoke to the judge;


“Calista was my daughter and it was an accident,” she said. “My other two girls (and) my husband have been going through hell since my daughter has been dead … I will carry this with me for the rest of my life and I am very sorry, your honor.”


The Springer’s attorney’s last statement to the judge was;


“I think they made mistakes maybe in how they tried to deal with this situation but the situation with Calista was real and it had to be dealt with in some way, We can argue if there were better ways … There probably was. I think the overwhelming issue is, the community knew about this, (the Michigan Department of Human Services) knew about this and certainly the schools knew about this. Do they have to take some responsibility for what has been a very unfortunate result? Yes.”


Suzanne Langdon grandma

Suzanne Langdon, Calista's grandma

Mrs. Langdon read the following victim impact statement, she believes it’s what Calista would say;


“My soul is free, I will never have chains put on me again. Whenever someone stops at my memorial site, I am there. I am here today, I helped seat the jury in Kalamazoo and brought them back here for the verdict. I wanted you two to be near where such hideous things were done to me. I do not hate you. I love you and forgive you, but I deplore what you did to me. I am free and I am loved and I want all of you to know I am happy, I even chase balloons across the heavens. Do not cry for me but do all you can to help children that are in need.”


Ms. Langdon signed Calista’s name to the hand-written letter.


On February 22, 2010 Marsha and Anthony Springer were found guilty of child abuse and torture but not of murder.


On April 16, 2010 St. Joseph County Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman told the Springers;


“There’s plenty of blame to go around for everybody,” “I think it’s fair to say the state of Michigan failed you and your family, clearly. Those charged to protect her did not do their jobs.”


“We’re here today not because of something they did though, but because they didn’t protect her from you.”


He then sentenced Anthony to 10 years for child abuse and 25-50 years for torture.


Marsha was sentenced to 8-15 years for child abuse and 19 years for torture.


Judge Paul Stutesman said he gave Anthony more time because it was his idea to tie Calista up and he was the one that actually implemented it. He felt that Marsha was just doing what she was told. Unfortunately their sentences will run concurrently.


I think what it boils down to is, Anthony and Marsha Springer either did not know how to deal with Calista’s disability, if there was one, nor did they care to find a credible solution to help with caring for her. They took the easy way out, chaining her down so she was immobile so they didn’t have to “bother” with her.


What I did find very surprising is that in Michigan (and maybe other states to) there is NO law that prohibits chaining a child or confining them according to the Office of The Children’s Ombudsmen.


“If you’re using physical restraints, such as locks on a child’s bedroom door, or certainly any type of wrapping of a child, or confining of a child, or bolting down a child, that does need to be only on the advice of the child’s doctor, pediatrician, therapist, somebody that is saying that is an appropriate response,” Bladen said.


The above does not apply to foster parents, it is only for regular parents they say.


I’ve seen no proof that Calista had a disability, I have seen many articles where her parents said she had PDD, PICA, behavioral problems and mild mental retardation. Well, which one is it? Or are they claiming she has ALL of these disabilities? Why does every witness testify and say there was nothing wrong with Calista?


Obviously there was no “intent” to murder Calista, therefore murder charges wouldn’t be applicable in this case. I do think they should have been charged with at least involuntary manslaughter though. The Springer’s both knew they were risking Calista’s life by keeping her chained up, even the CPS worker warned them 2 years earlier to not chain her up “in case of a fire”.


A plaque is now at the location where Calista used to live.

There is also a group on Facebook called “In Honor of Calista Springer” please join and support their efforts of keeping Calista’s memory alive.


There was at least one person who felt sorry for the Springer’s

A plaque marks the location of the house fire where Calista Springer died

A plaque marks the location of the house fire where Calista Springer died

Jessica Tata Houston Texas Nigerian

Jessica Tata

Jessica Tata. That name is on the lips of thousands of people right now, especially Houstonians and Nigerians. How can one person be so evil? Is Jessica Tata evil or did she make a tragic mistake that would claim the lives of innocents whose parents trusted her with their children’s lives? What could possibly posses a woman to do what she has done? Did the young woman run out of fear? There are a lot of whys in this tragic case. Unfortunately there are no answers and nothing has changed since the day of this horrific tragedy.

When I was asked to write this story it immediately took me back to another tragic event in Houston not so long ago when I lived in the area. LaVera Moore, the mother to 18-month-old twins MaKayla and Shakayla Carroll. LaVera left the girls while they were sleeping in the living-room, thinking they were safe and walked up to the corner store to buy cigarettes. In the 15 minutes she was gone her home caught on fire, she left the stove top burners on to heat the house. When she came back the house was engulfed in flames.All she could do was stand and watch in horror as her babies burned to death in her home. Lavera pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide. Deciding to walk to the store that night will haunt her for the rest of her life.

LaVera didn’t try to sidestep her responsibility or run from the crime she committed. She was negligent and she knew it.

MaKayla and Shakayla Carroll

MaKayla and Shakayla Carroll

When it comes to things like this do we send the perpetrator to prison and treat them as a common abuser? Or, do we call it a tragic accident and agree that the mother will pay a far greater debt by knowing that she did this her self and not punish her any further? These questions came up in this hearing and it was decided that she would be would be sentenced to 7 years deferred adjudication.

22-year-old Jessica operated a home day care center in Houston, Texas called Jackie’s Child Care. She had 7 pre-school kids in her care on this day.

Everyone trusted Jessica saying “She said she would teach sign language and taught Spanish, praise and worship. I liked that,” Another parent said she volunteered with the child care ministry at Braeswood Assembly of God during services and they felt like their child was in good hands.

“She came back praying over her food. She said Jessica taught her that. I didn’t,” Betty Kojah said.

Jessica offered a loving home 24 hours a day, 6 days a week and she took a proactive approach with the children. She constantly interacted with them and provided healthy meals at an affordable price. Everyone trusted her. If you would have met her you would have to. She was the ideal person a parent would want to hire to watch their children.


The trust all these parents had for Jessica Tata quickly turned into anger, confusion and deep pain on February 24, 2011.

A camera caught Jessica on tape at Target at 1:09 pm. and driving away at 1:24 pm. The first 911 call about a fire was made at 1:29 pm Houston Fire Department arrived at approximately 1:42. The fire was put out almost immediately.

Houston Fire and Arson Investigation Division sent investigators to the scene around 3:00 pm The Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal was also dispatched to the area. The investigators split up, some went to look for witnesses while others took on the task of figuring out what caused the fire that was contained in the kitchen. There was another team of investigators that had the duty of finding out the names of all these babies and who their parents were so they could be notified and sent to the correct hospital.

It was learned that there were 7 children in all that were in the home when the fire broke out. 4 of those children died at the hospital and 3 were in critical condition with severe trauma. HFD Command Staff members were trying to get Jessica Tata to confirm who each child was by viewing photos.

4 out of the 7 children lost their lives. Doctors weren’t able to save 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson, 20-month-old Elizabeth Kojah, 20-month-old Kendyll Stradford or 18-month-old Elias Castillo.

Shomari’s 2-year-old sister, MaKayla, is one of two children still hospitalized at Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston. Both are now in stable condition and are showing signs of improvement.

When asked for a statement Jessica said she left a pot of oil on the stove and went to the bathroom. She says when she came back out, there was thick smoke in the kitchen. She then claimed she was injured and needed medical attention so she was not able to speak with investigators any longer. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital and her brother told investigators that she would make a statement after treatment.

jessica.tata-houston-child-care-fire-flees-to-nigeriaLater when she was able to speak she claimed she suddenly had amnesia and said ‘I can’t talk to you. I don’t even know who you are. I have amnesia.'” .

Neighbors told investigators they saw her pull up in the drive way and go into the home. It was just seconds later that she was heard screaming and smoke was coming from the front door of the home.

“Both witnesses stated they saw no adults or employees of the daycare inside the home other than (Tata). It appeared to them that (Tata) was the only adult at the daycare,” according to the arrest affidavit.

Jessica Tata’s neighbor Sandra Sawyer told officers that she tried to calm her (Jessica) by telling her everything would be ok because the fire department arrived so quickly therefore there would not be much damage to the home.

jessica.tata-houston-child-care-fire-flees-to-nigeriaJessica responded with, “Oh no, the fire was going for a long time.” Sandra also asked if another woman may have been in the home and she was told by Jessica, “Oh no, I was the only one there today.”

Neighbors John Chestnut and Geoffrey Deshano told investigators that they also saw Jessica pull up into the driveway moments before she came out screaming the house was on fire.

“I came to the side of the house in the backyard and smashed one of the windows open, and I could see a kid having his hands out,” Deshano said. “I tried to grab him, but the smoke got into my face and my mouth and I couldn’t breathe or see anything, and so I had to pull back.”

Chestnut added that he crawled into the house in an attempt to rescue the children.

“I can’t see anything, it’s hot and I’m coughing and can’t breathe and all I hear are kids left and right saying, ‘Help me, help me!’ ” he recalled.

DA Pat Lykos announcing no mishandling of case on her end

DA Pat Lykos announcing no mishandling of case on her end

Investigator’s saw a bag in the front seat of Jessica’s van and it had groceries in it. At 5:00 pm they called the Chief ADA (Special Crimes) in an effort to get a search warrant for the van. Their intentions were to find a sales receipt so that they could identify the store and obtain store video. Investigators explained the facts about the case but the Chief ADA at Pat Lykos’ office stated there was no probable cause for a search warrant. The Chief Asst. District Attorney said maybe the caretaker left someone at the facility if she went to the store (it was already established that there were no others adults in the day care).

While investigators were conducting their investigation they found a bag with a drink and receipt in it, the time on the receipt read 1:18 pm, this was just minutes before the 911 call at 1:29 pm

Investigators contacted ADA again the next day at 2:16 pm believing they had enough probable cause from witnesses to believe that Jessica left the children alone and they wanted a warrant to arrest her. The ADA said she would discuss the investigators’ findings with another Chief ADA and would call them back later.

After their meeting, Chief ADA told investigators that no charges would be accepted and asked the investigators to interview Jessica and confirm if there were other employees present at the time of the fire.

That same day, February 25, 2011 the investigators and an HPD Homicide Detective tried to locate Jessica Tata so they could interview her.

When they found her she informed them that she hired an attorney and refused to speak in his absence.

Later they called Attorney Mike Monk, he said they did not hire him.”They came in to talk to me about possible criminal liability in the case,” said Monks, who had represented Tata’s family before.

At that time they chose to re-interview witnesses to clarify discrepancies. They also found out through the State of Texas, Jessica Tata was the only employee listed on their records.

Crimestoppers notified investigators and told them that it was possible that Jessica Tata may attempt to flee the country to her native country, Nigeria.

Once again, investigator’s called the Chief ADA of Special Crime and relayed the information they had been given but the ADA’s rationale was that Jessica was born in United States, and had been here a long time and did not consider the tip valid. ADA denied charges AGAIN.

This now the THIRD time the Houston ADA has refused to press charges on Jessica Tata. It came down to them not being able to get it through their thick heads that she left these children alone while she went out shopping.

ADA then requested the investigators to have interviews with all the parents to find out if there were employees that worked at the center. They were never able to interview any of them.



They also called Work Force and the State agency information (Family and Protective Services Child Care licensing) to verify that she was the only employee. Jessica’s daycare was a registered home day care not a commercial day care. No license was issued for a home day care, but there was a permit.

You can view Jessica’s child care record maintained by the Department of Family and Protective Services here

This time ADA contacted investigators on Friday February 25th at 4:30 pm, the same day, and told them the media was beginning to make a lot of noise. ADA wanted to know if there was any new information. Investigator’s told them no and could they now file charges against Jessica Tata. ADA said no again.

On Saturday, February 26th investigator’s went back out in the field and asked neighbors if they saw and employees working for Jessica. Every single person responded with a resounding no! They were also able to get statements from 2 of the 7 parents this time.



On Sunday, February 27th between 10:30-11:00 am Investigators gave all of the new information to the Chief ADA of Special Crimes at Pat Lykos’ office. Again, they denied to press charges and requested investigators to interview every parent to verify if the parents had ever seen another employee at the daycare facility.

Houston Texas day care fire kills 4 children operator flees country

Houston Texas day care fire kills 4 children operator flees country

Investigators were able to contact the remaining families, all of whom denied ever seeing any other employee.

Investigators contacted the Chief for the 6th time on the same day between 1:00 – 2:00 pm and charges were FINALLY accepted and filed.

While preparing the probable cause affidavit, investigators received information from an ICE agent that Jessica had boarded a flight from Dallas to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Lagos, Nigeria, on Saturday, February 26, 2011. The day before charges were filed.

Fire Department Assistant Chief Michelle McLeod would not confirm how they knew she was in Nigeria but they do know she is there. U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Alfredo Perez is requesting that authorities in Nigeria arrest Jessica Tata.

Elias Castillo

Elias Castillo

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos has officially gone on record saying, “I would urge the Tata family … that they have Ms. Tata return to Harris County and face justice,”

The Houston Fire Department believes that the DA’s office should have filed charges quicker but Lykos fired back saying that the investigators could have filed them their selves She also said;

“Suggestions that anyone in the district attorney’s office unreasonably delayed the filing of criminal charges against Miss Tata, or that she could have been arrested and held in custody during the pendency of this investigation — these allegations are outrageous,”

Below is the time-line of how the events occurred according to Pat Lykos, you will notice that they are not nearly as well noted as the investigator’s reports:

— Thursday, Feb. 24 — 1:39pm — A fire at Jackie’s Child Care was reported to 911

— Thursday, 5pm — Assistant District Attorney was telephoned regarding a proposed search warrant

— Friday, Feb. 25 — Investigator from the arson bureau called ADA about a conflict from witnesses as to whether the defendant was in the home at the time of the time and whether there was another adult in the home at the time of the fire. Investigator was advised more interviews were needed and to speak to Miss Tata.

— Sunday, Feb. 27 — Another phone call to ADA. He advised them to then present their evidence and file charges. ADA called intake and instructed them as to the proper charges.

— Sunday, 9pm — Fire department investigator arrived at intake and charges were filed. Probable cause was not found by the magistrate

— Monday, Feb. 28 — New probable cause affidavit was drafted and charges were filed and probable cause was found by the magistrate.

The Tata family spoke for the first time saying;

“Since the accident, my family has never been the same, and I don’t think we’ll be the same because it’s very horrible,” said Josie Tata, Jessica’s mother. “We feel very, very bad for what happened to the families,” said Ron Tata. “We love them and we pray for them every single day. We are opening up a benefit account.”

Tata family packing and leaving

Tata family packing and leaving

On March 1st reporters showed up un-announced to Jessica’s family’s home and they were putting suit cases and duffel bags into their SUV. They refused to answer any questions as they sped away.

On March 2nd there were crews working inside Jessica’s home fixing the damage.

Hmmmmm….are you thinking the same thing I am? The whole family picked up and moved to Nigeria and now they are selling their homes. Mr. Tata, Jessica’s father already spends the majority of his time in his homeland. He comes to America just a few months out of the year and own a business here.

U.S. Marshal’s Office have reported that they are aggressively “hunting” Tata down as a fugitive, they are conducting interviews with family and friends and as soon as she is located she will be extradited back to Texas. They said it could take days or weeks depending on the countries policy.

Jessica Tata is now on the top 15 most wanted fugitives and U.S. Marshall’s has offered a reward of up to $25,000.

Jessica is being charged with 7 counts of reckless injury to child that resulted in serious bodily injury and 3 counts of abandoning a child. On March 3rd the grand jury added 4 counts of manslaughter and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution to her charges. She will have a $500,000 bond if/when she is picked up. Jessica fled the country and went to her native Nigeria. Jessica is an America citizen that spent some time in Nigeria and has family there.

Elizabeth Kajoh

Elizabeth Kajoh

Betty Ukera was the mother of one of the victims, 20-month-old Elizabeth Kajoh, when she heard that Jessica fled the country her response was “There is nothing that I can say or do to (Tata) that would resurrect my daughter. I have forgiven her and will leave it up to the god of justice.”

She said she didn’t really know what to say, what is there to say? Ms. Ukera, I’m sure is still just going through the motions and still in the beginning stages of grieving. Why would she even be asked what she thought about Jessica leaving the country so soon? Leave this mother alone to grieve!

3-year-old Shomari Dickerson’s grandmother does not feel the same way as Ms. Ukera does about forgiveness. “I’m sorry, no there’s no forgiveness for anyone who makes an income watching children and has an audacity to leave them for one second, said Tracy Storms.

Shomari Dickerson's mom burying her baby

Shomari Dickerson's mom burying her baby,This should have never happened!

Shomari’s mother Tiffany Dickerson was furious with the investigation and told reporters “I don’t understand how that could possibly happen. You see the damage to the house. You see the kids…four passed away. How could you not just interview her and hear her side of the story at least. I’m at a loss for words, I don’t understand,” When asked about Jessica she said “She’s not woman enough to come and be accountable for her actions. She’s not woman enough to come and take what her punishment is. She has not a bit of remorse for the children,” Dickerson said.

Tiffany was working at the hospital that 2 of the children arrived at but she had no idea they were from the same day care she used. She found out when her older daughter’s teacher called and asked why no one had showed up to pick the child up at school.

Tiffany then called the day care when “A man’s voice answered and said, ‘I’m so sorry. There’s been a fire and all the children have been rushed to the hospital.’ I just dropped to the floor,” she said.

She rode over to the hospital by ambulance to see her daughter, she said she was sedated so she couldn’t move but she squeezed her finger. She then went to find her son Shomari, she got to the door and there were 3 chaplains and a host of doctors and nurses.

They closed the door to the room and told her that all of the children had been claimed except this little boy so they were sure she was his mom. The doctor told her “I’m sorry, he didn’t make it and he’s unrecognizable from the burns”. “I told everyone you might as well kill me too. I’m not going to make it.” Tiffany said.

This cases is being looked at very closely by everyone due to the horror of it but also because of how it is being handled. It has also forced people to take a closer look at regulations regarding home day cares. Jessica Tata has no education past high school and perhaps that’s not really important, however, she also lacks any formal training in child care.

In my opinion that poses a problem, I would not want someone unqualified to take care of children. Would you?

Although she had no training she was able to legally register as a child care provider in Texas. Being registered allowed Jessica to legally care for up to 12 children a day and qualify for thousands of dollars in child care subsidies.

If you missed it where I listed the link above, you can view Jessica’s child care record maintained by the Department of Family and Protective Services here

It appears that there are 2 groups specially made for Jessica Tata. They are Jessica Tata should be burned alive here and Against Jessica Tata here

I took a few moments to read some of the comments on there and someone, who I won’t name left their sentiments for Jessica and recommended her punishment

The commenter stated “I don’t think she should be burned alive I think she should be hung from a meat hook and then gutted alive. If she survives that then burn whats left of her.”

There were many other creative punishments as well from the members on those groups.

As a mother this seriously concerns me, in reality this could happen to anyone that puts their children in day care. There were no signs that this woman was going to be reckless and leave all these babies alone while she went shopping. Not only am I concerned but I am angry! Someone dropped the ball, whether it was Pat Lykos’ department (whom I already dislike for other reasons I won’t go into) or the Arson investigator’s it was one of them and because of them this woman was given a free pass to commit these heinous crimes.

Because of these agencies the families of these dead toddlers may never get justice. Not all countries agree to extradite criminals back to the countries they commit the crimes in. Many countries flat out refuse to get involved.

My question is how did this happen? How was she able to stand there the whole time all these fire fighters were putting out her fire watching and doing nothing, well, nothing but chatting it up with the neighbors while 7 toddlers were on fire? News stations did live coverage of this tragic fire, Jessica was seen on the street standing around. You can see her clearly in the pictures I have posted. Suddenly, when it came time to answer a few questions at the scene she decided she needed medical attention and wasn’t capable of speaking(!?). What medical attention could she possibly need when she was not in the home for more than a few seconds? She was sitting up on the gurney talking!!

After going to the hospital and being treated for her “medical emergency”, investigator’s again tried to speak with her. Oops now she has amnesia and doesn’t remember a single thing about the fire or all the children that she left to go up in flames along with the home. When investigator’s showed up at her home the next day she tells them to go away, she has an attorney and won’t speak without him.

That was the last time Jessica Tata was seen before she disappeared into the sunset. She would have never skipped the country if they would have suspended her passport, something else they failed to do. How did she get to Dallas to catch that flight? Where did all the money come from to help her get to Nigeria? We already know her father is a successful business owner, did the family aid her? Why did they all pack up and leave to? What’s REALLY going on here?

I’ll continue to update this story as I hear more about this case. Hopefully it won’t be long and Jessica will be returned to the U.S. I’m sorry to say but I don’t have a lot of faith in this case, I hope I’m wrong.

The Nigerian community in Houston is holding a vigil this Saturday the 12th at the Dream Banquet Hall to support the family and honor the children at 11225 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77099. It is open to anyone who wants to attend.

Probable Cause Affidavit

Federal Arrest Warrant

This website is a good resource for tips on choosing child care and how to check them out.

Get to know the laws in your state for child care here

If you have not joined our global event yet, we invite everyone to take part and make a difference. Our goal is to break the silence on all types of ABUSE, gain as many supporters as possible and take our cause to every news paper and media source we can reach out to.


We are not asking you to leave the comfort of your home and spend any of your hard earned money. We only ask for support in numbers by joining and agreeing that you are tired and sick of the abuse that is happening to our children everyday. We must take action, we must NOT turn our heads and look the other way any longer. The time is NOW to stand up and be counted!

You can join this event on Facebook, we will be contacting media and asking them to get involved as well.

The founders of the Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness event are:
Leah Worrell – Founder/Admin of Child Abuse Awareness And Prevention

Candy White –  Founder/Admin of Let speak out stop the abuse of women and children

Tiffany Dailey –  Founder/Admin Justice for Kyle Holland

Cullman –  Founder/Admin for Cullman Change

Linda Ford –  Special Guest/Admin of event – Grandmother to Amanda Runyon

Malysa Stone –  Founder/Admin Unforgotten Angels

Please invite everyone you know to take part in this event also.

Thank you,


Founder of Unforgotten Angels

Demitri Ion Robledo

Demitri Ion Robledo

Demitri Ion Robledo

Demitri Ion Robledo was the son of Yvette and David Robledo. He was born on August 6, 1999 addicted to methadone so he was already facing many challenges. I’m not sure how old he was in this most adorable picture but I do know how old he was when he was murdered on October 22, 2000 by a cold-hearted drug dealer that probably didn’t think he was worth anymore than a eight ball. He was 14-months-old when his life was stolen.

It’s sad really if you take a moment to think about it, this precious, innocent, pure baby boy is only remembered for how he died to most people because he never got the chance to live.

Demetri’s mother was arrested on August 7th for cocaine. His father David Robledo reluctantly dropped him off at Yvette’s friends house to be cared for while she was in jail. When David dropped his son off he also left him there with a new set of clothes, food and diapers.

There was never any mention of David doing drugs, selling drugs or knowing about Patrick and Teresa’s drug habits.

Demitri was in the care of Teresa Rodriguez, 20, who was 8 months pregnant and her drug-dealer/addict boyfriend, Patrick Santillano, 33. They also had a 2 year old that they shared together.

It took less than 3 months to steal Demitri’s precious life.

Several weeks after Yvette was released from jail she visited the garage apartment where her son was. She picked up drugs but left her child behind.

Later when Yvette and David Robledo went to pick up their son, Patrick told them he left with Teresa and would be back in a little while. Yvette and David as well as Demitri’s grandmother showed up 4 more times looking to pick the child up but they were then told that Teresa went to Lompoc to visit family with the baby. David bought a used car for the sole purpose of driving to Lompoc to get his son but he couldn’t find him.

On Oct. 22, Patrick told Teresa to take the boy out for some air. When she noticed he wasn’t breathing right, she escaped and took him to St. John’s Regional Medical Center ER. Later that night she went to another hospital to give birth.

Doctors found ulcerated lesions on his mouth, ears, wrists and ankles, as well as bruises and abrasions from head to toe.

She was arrested two days later. Teresa Rodriguez is charged with voluntary manslaughter and mayhem and is awaiting sentencing. As part of her plea, she agreed to testify against Patrick, the father of her two children and live-in boyfriend.

Patrick disappeared for several weeks but finally showed up at the police station in November 2000 and told officers that he knew nothing and did nothing. He was arrested also and charged with murder, torture, child abuse causing death, and aggravated mayhem.

The trial didn’t begin until 2003 and Teresa agreed to be the key witness in Patrick’s case in order to save herself.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Dee Corona said Patrick hid the baby because he was suffering from serious injuries and he was trying to avoid going to jail.

Atty. Dee Corona told jurors Patrick hit Demitri numerous times and tied up his hands and feet to keep him from touching his cuts and bruises. Demitri was starved, tortured, had a sock pushed into his mouth and then tied a cloth around his head to secure it.

Ventura County Assistant Medical Examiner Janice Frank testified that there was no fat on his bony frame and no food in his stomach or intestines. He weighed only 14 pounds.

His autopsy report also showed that he suffered a massive blow to his little head at least 3 days prior to his death and had a brain hemorrhage.

Toxicology reports suggest that the boy had ingested morphine days before his death.

She testified that the head injury, which “could have been caused by a blow or a fall, was not fatal. But in combination with neglect and other injuries inflicted over a period of time,” she said, “it likely resulted in the child’s death.”

“I think it was probably the last straw, so to speak,” she said. Frank officially ruled the cause of death to be battered child syndrome.

Patrick dislocated Demitri’s elbow 3 weeks prior to his death and never seeked treatment for it. Teresa said violence would begin for the most ridiculous reasons such as the baby crying. Gagging was to the keep the baby from crying so he could concentrate on shooting up.

Teresa testified to seeing Patrick lift the baby by his ankles and smack him on the legs while the baby was hanging upside down. He would use a belt to spank Demetri, or slap the child in the face, often while taunting the toddler with names like “sissy” or “crybaby.”

Teresa also told jurors that she was born to drug addicts, molested as a child and started doing drugs at 13. She also testified that she was beaten by her boyfriends and forced into prostitution. She was a full-blown heroin addict at 17 when she began seeing Patrick.

Patrick was nice to her in the beginning and tried to get her off drugs and got her to go back to school. Teresa said she tried to accept his advice but kept failing.

Under questioning by Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple, Rodriguez painted Patrick Santillano as an increasingly controlling and abusive drug dealer.

Teresa said he hit her at times, threatened to break her legs with a baseball bat, and threatened to dangle her by the ankles off Mugu Rock.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “He’s just really ugly when he’s mad.”

She also testified that she wanted to be baby Demitri’s godmother because she wanted to help his mom take care of him and she loved him.

Patrick’s Defense attorney Steven Powell told the court during opening statements that evidence will show that his client is innocent and that Teresa was the one that murdered Demitri. Mr. Powell also said “The defendant is being scapegoated.”

Patrick’s father Patricio Santillano who is 84 testified that his son came to Mexico in October and that his memory is not good but his son mentioned something about leaving his girlfriend behind “because she was in a mess about a baby who died on her.” He also said his son never said that he was in trouble and “They’re trying to railroad him,” he said. “He didn’t do nothing.”

Oxnard Officer Mark Barnes testified that he was told that Demitri’s wounds on his ears and mouth, and ligature bruises to his wrists and ankles were not wounds at all, they were rashes and he had been scratching them.

Officer Barnes also testified that Demitri was already dead when he saw him and he had visibly dark bruises ringing his ankles and wrists. The flesh on his ears and nose had been partially torn away, and his baby clothes were stained with blood. “It was obvious to me this was some sort of torment crime.”

Teresa said Demitri had scabies and rubbed his nose raw by picking at a wound that occurred weeks earlier when he had fallen. Officer Barnes testified that when he asked Rodriguez why she did not take the boy to a doctor earlier, she told him “she didn’t have the paperwork.”

At some point during their conversation, Dr. H. Allen Hooper, the treating ER physician, came in and told Teresa Rodriguez the boy was dead, Barnes said. “She was upset,” he said. “She was screaming.”

In another interview at the Oxnard police station, Teresa again attributed the wounds to Demitri’s scabies. She never said Patrick abused him.

There was one point when Teresa was testifying against Patrick and he began crying and laid his head on the table.

“Feel bad now, huh?” Teresa sneered from the witness stand.

“You’re a monster,” Patrick lashed back.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger called a recess and told her not to direct questions to him anymore. Patrick apologized for his outburst. “But I’m only human,” he added. “I’ve never been in this situation before.”

Teresa could not explain the reason for the abuse, but told jurors that Patrick disapproved of boys being shown affection.

Patrick’s former girlfriend and an ex-sister-in-law both took the stand and said he was abusive to women and children especially if he did not get “his fix.”

Alice Renae Sigala, who had three children with Patrick, described their relationship as rocky and told of a fight when she threatened to leave and he threatened to kill her. He punched Alice, who was eight months pregnant, and locked her and her three children in a bedroom, she said.

Alice said Patrick was never abusive to their first two children, but he treated Frances, her daughter from another relationship, differently, she said. One time, Patrick pulled her hair after she tried to get his attention, Sigala said. Alice told him, ‘She’s just a baby; she’s trying to show you something she did at school’.

Patrick had 8 children in all.

“It’s shameful,” Patrick said. “It’s monstrous, and it’s embarrassing sitting here in this position being blamed for something like that,” he said when asked why he looked down when asked direct questions about Demitri’s abuse.

Since Demetri’s death, his parents Yvette and David Robledo, have each been arrested AGAIN on drug and theft charges, DA Corona said. They, too, are expected to testify against Patrick.

On the day that Ms. Frank, the medical examiner testified, Patrick chose not to appear in court. His reason was “he feared the photographs would make him sick”. He was talking about Demitri’s autopsy photos.

On March 18, 2003 Judge Cloninger sentenced Patrick Santillano to 34 years to life. He didn’t show any expressions of sadness for the neglect and abuse that he inflicted upon Demitri. Instead he lashed out at his attorney and yelled “I can’t feel sorry for something I didn’t do, because I wasn’t there,”

Patrick’s attorney Steve Powell asked Judge Cloninger to grant Patrick a new trial. The judge refused and said he’ll be eligible for parole at age 66, and hopes he will never be set free.

Juror Dixie Dick had to seek counseling and visits Demitri’s grave. She said she’s still haunted by autopsy photos of the boy’s starved, bruised and mutilated body. “He touched all of us,” she said.

The jurors were so saddened by Demitri’s short life that they pooled their money together and bought him a headstone so his plot would not remain unmarked. It reads “Our baby. Demitri Ion Robledo. Forever in God’s Caring Hands.”

When it came time for Teresa’s sentencing her mother pleaded with the court, “Please be lenient on my daughter,” said Christina Rodriguez, also a heroin user. “She has gone through so much trauma already, without being sent to prison.”

Attorney Willard P. Wiksell argued that Teresa should only get 3 years in prison because she was a battered woman, trapped by Patricks’s abuse and unable to escape. Once she could do something, she did.

He said, “She did everything she could to bring about a successful prosecution,” he said. “The result of that was justice in this county.”

Judge Ken Riley agreed that without Teresa’s help they would not have been able to successfully prosecute Patrick however a 3 year sentence was not nearly enough due to how severe the crime was.

On March 26, 2003 Teresa Rodriguez received a 6 year sentence and was fined $500. She also must undergo drug counseling in prison. “I wish some of the people here today would have been closer to Miss Rodriguez, so that this baby didn’t have to die,” Riley said.

Teresa had already served 2 1/2 years while the case progressed, therefore she could be out as soon as September 2005, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple.

None of Demitri’s family members were present this time around.

“The jurors saw Teresa as the second victim in that household,” said DA Cheryl Temple, “But they also held her responsible because she should have stepped in.”

Anytime I write a story I always look up the offenders criminal history, mugshot and find out what prison they are in. I also sign up for a notification that emails me when there are any changes in status such as death or prison transfer. For some reason I was not able to locate any information on Patrick or Teresa. I’ll continue to look and if I find anything I’ll update the story.

Also, maybe I’m just being skeptical but I have a gut feeling that Teresa had a lot more to do with this than what she was found guilty of.

Danieal Kelly was brought into this world on January 3, 1992 and lived a very sad, short and painful life. Andrea Kelly was the mother of 9 children by 5 different men. She was pregnant with her 10th child when she was arrested. Danieal was her 3rd child and had Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy left Danieal defenseless and totally dependent on her mother for every basic need she required. Daniel Kelly was Danieal’s father, he and Kelly split up when Danieal was very young.

Danieal spent the first 4 years of her life with her mother, brother and other family members in a cramped row house with no working toilet. Her hair was matted and in knots and her teeth were rotted out. Her maternal grandmother was so concerned she asked Daniel to take custody so he did. He eventually moved both kids to Arizona where they all lived with his girlfriend. They eventually had 3 more children together.

In AZ. Danieal flourished in school, she learned to talk, feed herself and she was happy and outgoing. There were pictures of her riding a pony, at a party, and smiling with classmates in her special needs class. During these years, Danieal was thriving. A school report described her as an “active learner” and “one of the sweetest students ever enrolled in this program.”

When I first started researching Danieal’s stay with her father I thought she was being cared for. Some news articles painted a picture of a dedicated father who only wanted the best for his children. This was not the case at all, he beat them with extension cords, left them at home alone and neglected them. The only one that took an interest in these 2 kids was Daniel’s on and off girl friend. When Daniel Kelly broke up with his girlfriend in 2001, the girl was withdrawn from school.

He asked the children’s grandmother to take custody however she became sick and couldn’t do it. Danieal was 11 at this time. In 2003, he returned to Philadelphia and asked his estranged wife and her other children to move in with him and their 2 kids.

Soon after, he moved out, abandoning Danieal and their son to Andrea Kelly’s care. “Daniel Kelly was well aware what deserting his daughter meant to her safety and welfare,” the grand jury report said. “He just did not care.” He never bothered to visit the kids again after leaving them with Andrea.

Andrea Kelly

Andrea Kelly

Andrea continued to live her life as if she didn’t have a care in the world, she was going to classes, entertaining and never thought about Danieal rotting in that dark room with no air circulation. She never bothered to send Danieal to school or seek medical attention for her. Danieal’s brother begged to call 911 on many occasions but was threatened so he never did. It wasn’t until he told her flies were covering Danieal’s body that Andrea decided to call 911.

Andrea allowed all of the kids to live in squalor with no utilities, there were mattresses all over the floors in the home and it was filthy with garbage and old food lying around.

Danieal was found on August 4, 2006 when police and paramedics were summoned to her apartment and found her curled up in ball, weighing only 42 pounds. In case your wondering, 42 pounds is what a 5-year-old normally weighs. She was malnourished and emaciated. When they opened the bedroom door officers and paramedics almost became immediately sick at the horrible stench that permeated in that room. It was the smell of decaying, rotting and infected flesh, the body of 14-year-old Danieal. She had been dead for hours, laying on a mattress covered in feces on and around her body.

Andrea Kelly was arrested for murder and held without bail.

This precious little girl was also covered in maggot-infested bedsores all over her back side. She had been left to rot on that bed for so long her body left a permanent impression and outline on the mattress. Danieal’s life was no less than a excruciating existence filled with neglect, abuse and then left to slowly waste away over a long period of time. She was slowly starved to death and would beg her siblings for food until the last word she was able to say was water.

Andrea’s reason for not feeding or giving Danieal liquids….She said if nothing went in then nothing would come out. She didn’t want to touch her. Danieal’s sibling said her last word was WATER.

Not one person helped her although she was assigned many caseworkers and caretakers. Her mother simply shut the door and walked away…..forever. Andrea Kelly ignored her daughters pleas for help, she never once went back into the the room where her daughter was kept. This was cold-hearted murder and she purposely starved Danieal to death.

Why? How could a mother be so cruel as to allow her own child to suffer in agony in a dark room alone? To allow huge open wounds on her body that exposed bone-deep bedsores and then allow maggots to feed off her body? This child was so horribly abused that I cannot even post the picture of her autopsy photo in the story because I fear that it would physically make people ill so I’m linking it, therefore you can make the decision on your own accord to view it or not. Why would Andrea Kelly allow her daughter to suffer?

Daieal Kelly

Danieal Kelly

In her own chilling words she was “embarrassed by her disabled daughter, didn’t want to touch her, take her out in public, change her diapers or make sure she had enough fluids.”

This is how Andrea forced her flesh and blood, Danieal to live and die

Danieal was a thorn in Andrea’s side and she wanted her gone, at any cost. A burden.

According to family friends they were worried about Danieal’s deteriorating state but she kept promising them she would get help for her. She never called for help and soon after she quit allowing those relatives to come around if they continued to question her.

Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services investigation showed negligence on their end also. A report showed that neither DHS nor the now defunct, non-profit agency MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc. had even seen Danieal or reported her care. Neighbors contacted DHS many times reporting that Danieal was in danger, but those complaints fell on deaf ears. NOT ONE PERSON CARED ABOUT THIS CHILD ENOUGH TO SAVE HER FROM THE HELL SHE WAS IN.

Anthony Miller, the father of some of Andrea Kelly’s children, called the DHS hotline on April 20, 2005. The grand jury states: “Mr. Miller said he was moved to make the report to DHS because ‘I seen Danieal Kelly upstairs in a hot room laying in pee, no curtains, no blinds, no fans, just laying in pee.'” Mr. Miller said no one from DHS ever contacted him.

A report states it is charging nine people, her parents, four social workers and three family friends. How does 9 people sit around with their thumbs up their asses and do nothing while that child is in the worst imaginable agony ever? Oh….because they don’t know about it…how could they know when they never bothered to do their damn jobs to begin with.

Daniel Kelly

Daniel Kelly

The day after Andrea and Daniel Kelly were arrested they had the audacity to file lawsuits against the City, DHS, the Commonwealth and several caseworkers with failing to protect Danieal. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from the city because Danieal Kelly was under DHS supervision at the time of her death two years ago. The suit also specifies that they want to be fully reimbursed for medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and attorneys’ fees! Mayor Nutter was quoted as saying “I have never heard of anything so crazy in my life,”

“I think this lessens the reputations of attorneys in general and doesn’t do anything for them either; in my judgment, they look terrible as attorneys and professionals,” D.A. Lynne Abraham The lawyers who filed the suit are Brian Mildenberg and Eric Zajac.

District Attorney Lynn Abraham was outraged. “”The nerve, the gall,” she said. “This is such a perversion of what parents are supposed to be.”

In November 2006 Andrea’s friends, Marie Moses and Diamond Brantley testified saying they both visited Andrea’s home and it smelled fresh. Marie also testified that Danieal appeared “healthy” and like “her normal self,” and that the apartment was clean.

It was the next day when paramedics found her dead.

Paramedics on the scene said the apartment was in “deplorable conditions” and “unfit for human habitation,” with food containers, feces and piles of dirty clothes strewn about. He said it was one of the filthiest he had seen in ten years, as a paramedic.

Danieal’s cause of death was malnutrition and infection. The doctor that examined the case said the only reason she lived as long as she did was because she must have been strong-willed.

Laura Sommerer

Laura Sommerer

Andrea Kelly has claimed the victim role throughout this whole case and her public defender, Richard Q. Hark, told the media, she “was relieved to accept responsibility for her role in this case.” But he also claimed, “Had one DHS worker done their job on one occasion, the child would be alive, and that’s why the more significant part of the case goes on.”

Although I absolutely do place part of the blame on DHS and the outsourced company the real blame falls squarely on the parents shoulders.

Two top city commissioners were fired, and DHS is now under new management. Authorities considered criminal charges against DHS officials but could not make a case for them; however, two former city social workers are charged with child endangerment. Dana Poindexter and Laura Sommerer, both fired from DHS and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.

Carmen Paris has not been charged with anything. She was the Assistant Health Commissioner and ordered a coroner not to release the grim autopsy results, the coroner testified at Kamuvaka’s trial. But it was too late. Investigator and the public were becoming aware of the case. Paris resigned in 2008, days after a grand jury report on Danieal’s death accused her of interfering with the investigation.

DHS received at least five reports of Danieal being mistreated between 2003 and 2005. They were all described as a “helpless child sitting unattended, unkempt and dirty, in a stroller sitting in urine and feces,” her screams were being ignored by her mother. The stroller served as a wheelchair and she never left the house.

MultiEthnic employees, caseworker Julius Juma Murray, Solomon Manamela, Mariam Coulibaly and co-founder Mickal Kamuvaka, are charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. Julius Murray was assigned to visit Danieal twice a week. It is alleged that he rarely made any visits, and that he and the company owner forged reports.



William Cannon, Mickal Kamuvaka’s attorney, says the managers “were the victims of their own staff, social workers who did her in,” by falsifying reports and not making assigned visits.

On May 1st, a federal grand jury charged MultiEthnic with fraud, for falsifying bills for nonexistent or unfulfilled services.

On April 29,2009 Andrea Kelly was sentenced to 20-40 years in prison for 3rd degree murder and endangering the welfare of a child . A plea bargain spared her a life sentence for 1st degree murder. This sentence in my opinion is not nearly enough time and it’s a slap in the face to Danieal.

Daniel Kelly is charged with endangerment. He had a status hearing set up in December 2010 but he skipped it. His Defense lawyer Earl Kauffman fears Daniel Kelly is worried about his sentence. Kauffman says the father’s case is different because he wasn’t living with Danieal and didn’t abuse her.

Kelly’s trial is set for June.

A friend of Andrea’s who was convicted of perjury, Andrea Miles, was a minor at the time of the crime so she was given probation.

Marie Moses and Diamond Brantley pleaded guilty to perjury but have not been sentenced yet. Their lawyers are recommending probation, community service and fines.

Mickal Kamuvaka, Founder of MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Services, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison. It’s unlikely she will ever get out considering she is in her 60’s.

Andrea Miles

Andrea Miles

Solomon Manamela, Co-Founder of MulltiEthnic Behavioral Health Services was sentenced to 14 years for his role in the fraud. He’s a political refugee from South Africa and will be deported when he gets out. He was quoted as saying “Part of me died (after Danieal did),” Manamela, who oversaw training, told the judge.

Earle McNeill, who also helped form the company in 2000 was sentenced to 7 ½ years to prison for his role.

Case worker Julius Murray only visited 10 the home times, not 46 like he forged into notes. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Mariam Coulibaly was sentenced to 135 months for forgery, attempting to hide $50,000 after the verdict to shield it from the court-ordered restitution and lying to the FBI.

Another video about this case

Mayor Nutter said of Danieal, “As a city government, we have failed you. I am fully, thoroughly, and completely pissed off about what has happened here. The behaviors exhibited by public employees is unacceptable, and I am furious by their actions.” You have not died in vain.

The Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, then suspended the following as a direct result of Danieal’s death:

• Social Service Program director Wesley Brown.

• Children and Youth Division operations director Pamela Mayo.

• Janice Walker, the immediate supervisor of Dana Poindexter until she was promoted in July 2006.

• Martha Poller, supervisor of Janice Walker.

• Valerie Mond, an administrator.

• Ingrid Hawk, who assigned the Danieal Kelly case to Laura Sommerer.

• Shawn Davis, a supervisor of Laura Sommerer.

The full grand jury report can be read here

Excerpts from the report include:

In the final weeks of her life, Danieal’s brother – himself only a child – kept telling his mother that something was wrong, but she dismissed him. Shortly before his sister died, he begged his mother to call an ambulance. She refused. Only the next day, with flies buzzing all over her body, was 911 contacted.

During this investigation we found a tall, filthy cardboard box in [DHS social worker Dana] Poindexter’s cubicle, big enough to hold a file cabinet. The box was filled to the top with random case files, food wrappers, and unopened business envelopes (some with four-year-old postmarks). At the bottom of the pile was Danieal’s file.

Dana Poindexter had already been suspended after a 3-week-old baby died on his watch in 2002, Poindexter continued his “slovenly, neglectful and dangerously reckless work habits” after being assigned the Kelly case, the grand jury said. He did not file a single report.

At least one [DHS] administrator herself back-dated reports about Danieal, some by more than a year, with false dates and determinations to make it look like they had been properly completed. She said this was a common practice at DHS.

On the afternoon and evening of Danieal’s death, [part-owner/director of MultiEthnic Behavior Health Mickal] Kamuvaka convened what in essence was a forgery fest in her office. She directed [employees] to concoct almost a year’s worth of false progress reports, to substitute for all the work that had never actually been done.

The Grand Jury finds the evidence that the mistreatment suffered by Danieal – the malnutrition, the bed sores, the lack of stimulation, and the dehydration and heat stress – caused her death. The photographs taken of Danieal, first as the healthy and high-spirited child enrolled in Arizona, later as a skeletal corpse in a Philadelphia morgue, do not lie . . . Danieal was a victim of homicide.


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