16 June 2010

Custodial dad, step blamed dead girl's injuries on her mother--who hadn't seen her in months

This from Dastardly Dads

Custodial dad, step blamed dead girl's injuries on her mother--who hadn't seen her in months (Muncie, Indiana)

We just posted on this case earlier today, but this article provides additional information. This story is utterly sickening. Seems the custodial dad and step were busy blaming the mother for the child's abuse symptoms when the mother hadn't even seen the child in MONTHS and was in fact searching for her. And CPS BELIEVED the custodial dad and step! Unfortunately, in a political environment where mothers, especially single mothers, are trashed as the cause of all social ills, these kinds of lies have become much more believable and seemingly legitimate. Although it still seems to me that a lot of CPS employees need to be terminated NOW.

This reminds me of the Charlenni Ferreira case in Philadelphia. Last fall, Charlenni died in the home of her custodial father and step, and they pulled the same stunt: blaming the girl's injuries and health problems on her mother. Only one problem. The girl's mother lived in Puerto Rico and hadn't seen her child in months either. But nobody followed up those lies--not until it was too late.



Red flags not recognized during fatal neglect of Lauren McConniel
By SETH SLABAUGH • • June 16, 2010
MUNCIE -- In the months leading up to her death, 5-year-old Lauren McConniel was treated twice at Ball Memorial Hospital, once at Southway Urgent Care Center, once at St. Vincent Randolph Hospital in Winchester and three times at Merdian Services, a behavioral health care provider.
Despite staff seeing broken fingers, malnutrition, a head injury, weight loss, unusual vaginal appearance and bizarre behavior, only one of these professional caregivers called Child Protective Services (CPS), which was just a 1-800 telephone call away, police say.
Karen Royer -- a counselor at Meridian who reported that in all of her years of dealing with kids she had never heard of such bizarre behavior, and who believed the girl was being seriously sexually abused -- did contact CPS. Lauren looked exhausted, frail and fragile to Royer.
But that was on March 1, and the target of the sexual abuse allegation was not the girl's father, Ryan, or stepmother, Brittany, who had custody of Lauren. The target was Amber Huggins, the girl's natural mother who was living in Knoxville, Tenn. Huggins had last seen her daughter seven months earlier, when Lauren was in good health, and Huggins had been desperately searching for her.

By March 3, Lauren was hospitalized at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she developed seizures, respiratory failure and shock. She died there six days later.
"Child Protective Services was contacted by Karen Royer over allegations of sexual abuse that Ryan and Brittany made about the natural mother," said Muncie police Sgt. Jimmy Gibson. "The trouble is, Karen Royer believed Ryan and Brittany. They were believable. But I don't suspect the natural mom at all. The natural mom hadn't had contact with the child since August, and here this (allegation) was coming up in February and March. When the natural mom had custody of her, her weight was normal and the pictures showed she was healthy and happy."

And those weren't the only lies the McConniels told to caregivers, Gibson said. They also claimed that Lauren was being treated for malnutrition by a Winchester physician, who had never even seen her once.
Also, at Southway Urgent Care on Feb. 4, the McConniels presented themselves as rescuers of the child, claiming they had just recently obtained custody of the girl. "When questioned about the girl's weight, they acted concerned and blamed the natural mom," Gibson said. "And they were convincing."

Bill Gosnell, a nurse at Southway who treated Lauren, declined comment, saying, "This is going to trial."
On Dec. 8, Lauren was treated by physician Tom Mengelt in the emergency department at BMH for broken right fingers from jumping on the bed.
"I don't know why they didn't report that to (CPS)," Gibson said. "People don't want to believe that parents would hurt their kids that way. They think surely the parents care or they wouldn't bring a kid in with broken fingers."
The child was seen again at BMH on March 2 for a head injury caused by a fall. A clinical impression of malnutrition and behavioral problems was also noted during that visit. The hospital sent Lauren home after treatment including a CT scan.
On that same day, the McConniels took the child to Valle Vista Health Systems in Greenwood for psychiatric treatment (the couple were unable to contact Meridian).
Ellen Harrington, a counselor at Valle Vista, diagnosed the girl's problem as lack of supervision, failure to thrive, malnutrition and medical neglect. Harrington referred Lauren to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she was taken in the early morning hours of March 3. She died there on March 9.
"We can't comment regarding any specific patient or related processes, but we are cooperating fully with the investigation, and our hearts go out to the family," BMH spokesman Neil Gifford said.
Hank Milius, president of Meridian Services, said, "We at Meridian Services are deeply saddened by the death of Lauren McConniel. While privacy laws prevent us from commenting specifically on this case, in the event there is a suspected case of child abuse or neglect, Meridian staff are trained to make a report to the Indiana Department of Child Services."
Gibson credits Southway with referring Lauren to Meridian Services, and he credits Meridian Services for contacting CPS.
Under Indiana law, anyone who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect is required to report it.
Investigation ongoing

Police have not closed their investigation of the hospital's and Southway's failure to report the McConniels to CPS. Failing to report is a misdemeanor, Gibson said.
"Any red flag could be reported to us," said Ann Houseworth, a spokesman for the department of child services. "We would rather assess a situation that was not a case of abuse and neglect than not assess a situation and find that the child was placed in more harm."
The child abuse hotline is staffed 24 hours a day. If a child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm, CPS is required by law to respond within an hour. If a child may be a victim of abuse, the agency must respond within 24 hours, and if a report of child neglect is made, the maximum response time by law is five days.
"If someone sees something that makes you wonder, you might want to ask questions to find out more," Houseworth said.
She declined comment on Lauren's death.
After Royer reported the suspected abuse of Lauren to CPS, "I believe CPS here contacted CPS in Tennessee, because that's where the allegations were," Gibson said. "Lauren was scheduled to be interviewed by SMART (Sexual Molestation and Abuse Response Team), me or (Sgt. Linda) Cook, on March 3. We were doing it as a courtesy for Tennessee. That's when she went into Riley. I wish I could have talked to her. I hate it that I didn't."
Police also haven't closed their investigation into other family members for failure to report.
Lauren's stepgrandparents Robert and Angie Lee and her step aunt Samra Lee shared a house at 2304 S. Ebright St. with the McConniels, Lauren and Lauren's older sister.
"There are a whole lot more family members (than the McConniels) who could be held accountable," Gibson said. "But how far do we go? Do we arrest everybody? We're behind on other cases and under-staffed."

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