Trial Begins In Antioch Foster Mom Torture Case

Posted: 6:26 pm PDT June 7, 2011

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- Shemeeka Davis, an Antioch woman on trial for allegedly torturing and murdering her foster daughter, suffers from severe mental illness and delusions that caused her to believe that the child she killed was the devil, Davis' attorney Betty Barker said during opening statements in Martinez today.

Davis, 40, was charged with murder, torture and child abuse in connection with the Sept. 2, 2008, death of her 15-year-old niece, Jazzmin Davis.

She was also charged with abusing and torturing Jazzmin's twin brother, who is still alive.

Davis has entered a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, which means the trial will be held in two phases, the first to determine whether she was guilty and the second to determine whether she was legally sane at the time.

Prosecutor Satish Jallepalli said during his opening statements that the twins were born in San Francisco to a crack-addicted mother and a father who was in and out of prison.

Davis took them on as foster children as infants and raised them in Antioch with her own children.

"As the children got older it became very clear that there was a difference between them and the defendant's real children," Jallepalli said.

While the twins were still young, Davis began hitting them with spoons. Then she moved onto belts and later to electrical cords, sticks and a hot iron, Jallepalli said.

Jazzmin and her brother were not allowed to eat with Davis' biological children and were not even given the same food, Jallepalli said.

They were locked in their bedroom for long periods of time and forced to urinate and defecate on the floor, Jallepalli said.

"Jazzmin got skinnier and skinnier, and at some point the defendant realized that the children had to be kept out of public view," Jallepalli said.

He said that Jazzmin "was so bruised, so burned, so emaciated" that Davis could not let her go to school anymore without the abuse being discovered.

After her death, officials discovered that Jazzmin had not been to school in more than a year.

"That last year before she died, Jazzmin was a ghost," Jallepalli said.

On the day she died, she was 5 feet seven inches tall and only weighed only 78 pounds, Jallepalli said. The coroner found that she died from a combination of physical abuse and malnutrition.

But the abuse also had a psychological component. Jallepalli said Davis allegedly convinced the children, who knew they were foster children, that nobody else would love them. That belief prevented them from telling anyone about the abuse, Jallepalli said.

When Jazzmin's body was found, it "was literally covered from head to toe with cuts, bruises, scars and burns," Jallepalli said.

Her brother had similar injuries, but even after seeing his sister die, his "first concern was whether his mother -- the only mother he had ever known ... knew that he still loved her," Jallepalli said.

"She didn't deserve that love. She used that love as power," Jallepalli said.

"Ultimately it was Jazzmin's love and (her brother's) love, their love for their mother, that killed Jazzmin," Jallepalli said.

"For that, ladies and gentlemen, she is guilty of murder. She is guilty of torture and she is guilty of child abuse," Jallepalli said.

Barker said nothing would excuse what Davis did to Jazzmin and her brother, but the circumstances that led to Jazzmin's death were a complex web of severe mental illness, dysfunctional family dynamics and failed social services systems.

Davis herself was born to a drug-addicted mother who abused her and her brother -- the twins' father -- deprived them of food and locked them out in the cold while she turned their home into a heroine den, Barker said.

Davis and her brother were taken from their mother and sent to live with their grandmother when Davis was 5 years old, but their grandmother was also abusive, Barker said.

She was 21 and had two children when she took on the care of Jazzmin and her brother, who had numerous health and behavioral problems as a result of being born addicted to crack.

When the twins were 7 years old, Davis gave birth to a daughter with a heart defect and needed surgery.

Around that time, a social worker told Davis that she had to tell the twins that they were foster children.

Jazzmin took the news especially hard, Barker said, and began to act out. She even destroyed the baby's clothes and toys.

When Davis asked for help from social services, she was referred to a clinic, where she was assigned an intern to talk to, Barker said.

Meanwhile, Davis had begun to suffer from delusions.

"Shemeeka, in her delusions, believed that Jazzmin was dangerous and evil," Barker said. "She was wrong, but that was her belief."

She said Davis looked at Jazzmin and saw a danger to herself and her daughter, who was 7 years old when Jazzmin died.

"How does a parent get to the point where she looks at a child and sees the devil?" Barker asked.

Barker argued that Davis' mental illness prevented her from seeing that Jazzmin and her brother were suffering and that Jazzmin was literally starving to death. All she could see were her delusions.

"She honestly saw the devil in Jazzmin," Barker said.

Since her arrest, Davis has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder with psychotic features, delusional disorder, borderline personality disorder with dissociative features and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Barker said.

In jail, Davis is receiving medication for her mental illnesses for the first time in her life and finally realizes what she did, according to Barker, who said Davis, who sobbed throughout Barker's opening statement, feels horribly sad and remorseful about what happened.

However, she argued that in order for Davis to be found guilty of torture and murder, she has to have had the intent to kill and torment Jazzmin and her mental illness prevented her from forming that intent.

She asked the jury to find Davis not guilty of murder and torture.

Since Jazzmin's death, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, which was in charge of overseeing Davis' care of the twins, has agreed to a $4 million settlement with Jazzmin's brother.

The Antioch Unified School District board has also approved a $750,000 settlement with Jazzmin's brother and implemented changes to the district's attendance policy.

The trial was scheduled to resume Wednesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

Riverside woman admits in court to taking half-million from child welfare program

By City News Service, on June 7th, 2011

The mastermind of a fraud scheme that drained at least $528,000 from a state-run child welfare program today pleaded guilty — along with her mother — to felony charges.
Stephanie Luna Vega, 39, of Riverside and Sylvia Avila, 61, of San Bernardino admitted their criminal activity during a felony settlement conference before Riverside County Superior Court Judge James Warren. Lake Elsinore resident Brenda Acosta already pleaded guilty to playing a role in the scheme.
After reaching a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, Vega pleaded guilty to a half-dozen counts of misappropriation of funds and one count each of conspiracy, grand theft and embezzlement of public funds. Avila pleaded guilty to grand theft.
Warren set Vega’s sentencing for July 7 and immediately sentenced Avila to 120 days in jail and 36 months probation.
The pair were the last of seven conspirators to plead guilty in the case, which the District Attorney’s Office filed last November.
Also charged were Vega’s father, Alberto Lobato Luna, 60; his wife, Camilla Wright Luna, 61; Vega’s sister-in-law, Toni Catherine Luna, 40; and Esmeralda Garcia Martinez, 37.
Alberto Luna pleaded guilty on May 9 to misappropriation of funds, grand theft and conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Camilla Luna pleaded guilty on May 17 to grand theft and conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28. Toni Luna pleaded guilty around the same time to welfare fraud and and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 28.
Martinez pleaded guilty on April 25 to misappropriation of funds and is scheduled to be sentenced June 20. Acosta pleaded guilty on April 8 to forgery and is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.
Vega was at the center of the scheme, uncovered in 2009, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
While she and Martinez were employed at the Riverside County Office of Education, they conspired to falsify records and create fictitious children to obtain money from the CalWorks child care program, prosecutors said.
At least $528,000 was stolen, with a large amount of the taxpayer funds being diverted to the other defendants, according to prosecutors.
Then-District Attorney Rod Pacheco detailed the defendants’ scam during a Dec. 3 news briefing, describing how Vega and Martinez used their positions to set up phantom childcare providers and nonexistent children in need of CalWorks’ benefits.
Vega’s family members were designated as providers and received checks for nothing more than having their names on documents filed with the county, according to Pacheco.
Under the CalWorks program, which is supported through state and federal funds and administered by individual counties, welfare recipients can receive subsidized daycare for their children — the idea being that while the children are supervised, the mother or father can attend school or look for work.
According to prosecutors, the money goes directly to providers. But with the state allocating a limited number of funds each year to the program, not everyone who applies for publicly funded childcare services is granted access.
Because of the defendants’ actions, there was less money available for families who genuinely qualified to receive childcare assistance, cheating them out of the opportunity, Pacheco said, noting that the system has inherent exposure to fraud.
The scheme was brought to authorities’ attention after Vega’s former husband discovered cash and documents while rummaging through a closet at the couple’s former home, according to prosecutors.
Alberto Luna received the largest sum of fraudulently obtained funds — $314,000, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Relatives of dead toddler to sue state, local agencies

By RAY REYES | The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 10, 2011
Updated: June 10, 2011 - 6:22 PM


Relatives of a slain 13-month-old boy intend to file a lawsuit against the state and local agencies they say should have protected the child.

St. Petersburg lawyer Darryl Rouson said today that the mother and grandmother of Ezekiel Davis have hired him to represent the family in the lawsuit. Rouson said he has called the agencies involved in Ezekiel's case to give them verbal notification that the family intends to sue.

The agencies include the state Department of Children & Families, its local contractors and the offices of the Hillsborough County sheriff and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

DCF spokesman Joe Follick declined to comment, saying it would be premature to make a statement on pending legal action.

Jennifer Meale, spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi, said Rouson called her agency today, sharing his plans to represent Ezekiel's relatives. She did not comment further, saying it would be inappropriate for an issue that could "potentially become a lawsuit."

Larry McKinnon, sheriff's spokesman, said he has not confirmed Rouson's notice with his agency's lawyers. Even if he had, the sheriff's office also would not comment on a pending lawsuit, McKinnon said.

Rouson, a state representative with constituents in Pinellas and Manatee counties, said he expects to send out the notices early next week. The agencies then will have six months to respond to the notice. After the grace period, Rouson said he's likely to file a lawsuit.

He has not determined damages.

"It's not always about money," said Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. "We must continue to protect our children. If the law says there's indicators that a child should've been removed from a home, then they should've been removed. These agencies are responsible and accountable."

Ezekiel died May 18. Hillsborough sheriff's deputies say 21-year-old Damarcus Kirkland-Williams beat the boy to death. Kirkland-Williams is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Swazikki Davis.

Kirkland-Williams told deputies that he had gotten angry with Davis and tried to throw the child on the bed. Instead, the toddler struck a dresser. When the boy wouldn't stop crying, Kirkland-Williams put him on the bed and struck him twice on the back, deputies said.

The blows ruptured Ezekiel's spleen and liver.

A few weeks before Ezekiel died, deputies recommended that the boy be removed from the home after the child's sister showed evidence of physical abuse. Ezekiel's relatives said Kirkland-Williams was the culprit, according to court records.

The attorney general's office denied the request, saying Ezekiel showed no signs of injury, so there was no need to shelter him, records show.

Allowing the boy to stay was a major miscalculation, the agency said when it released its final report on the case earlier this month. The attorney general's office and DCF said they mishandled Ezekiel's case and relied too much on assurances from Davis that she was following a court order that barred Kirkland-Williams from being around her children.

Kirkland-Williams has been charged with first-degree murder in Ezekiel's death and is being held without bail. He has also been charged with child abuse in the incident involving Ezekiel's 2-year-old sister.

5 years later: foster child still missing, case runs cold

North Las Vegas (KTNV) -- A child who vanished from her foster home 5 years ago remains missing and police say their investigation has run cold.

Everlyse Cabrera was just 2 years old when she disappeared from that home near Clayton and Centennial Parkway. If still alive today, she would be 7.

For weeks in June of 2006, Cabrera's biological parents cried and plead for answers. Dozens of neighbors joined police to knock on doors and search the neighborhood.

"For any detectives who were out on this case, this case is still at the very forefront of our minds all the time," says Officer Chrissie Coon of the North Las Vegas Police Department.

The foster family has since moved away from this North Las Vegas home, but Everlyse's biological mom tells Action News that she still believes they know something.

"Those people do know where Everlyse is or know what happened to her," says Marlena Olivas. "Honestly, I pray for those people. I pray for them. I pray that their hearts will soften and they will admit whatever they did wrong."

Those foster parents, the Carrascals, were heavily criticized at the time Cabrera went missing for not being more cooperative with police.

Neighbors protested in front of the home and things got so heated, the Carrascals filed a restraining order against their neighbors.

"They were investigated pretty heavily at the forefront," says Officer Coon.

But no hard evidence could be found to link them to Cabrera's disappearance.

Since then, the case has run cold. Police say they haven't had a new lead in about a year.

"Right now this is a cold missing case file," says Officer Coon. "There have been no new leads recently for the detectives to work at all."

But Cabrera's biological mom, who has since moved away, says she isn't giving up hope that one day her little girl will be found.

"I truly believe that God has her somewhere," says Olivas. "I think that's the biggest part of it to keep going on everyday is knowing that God is protecting her."

Cabrera's family sued the Clark County foster system for failing to keep their daughter safe and the case was settled out of court.

As part of that deal, there remains a $15,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest in this cold case.

The Irish Times - Saturday, June 11, 2011

Foster parent pleads guilty to trying to film 15-year-old girl

STAUNTON — As far as first attempts at parenting go, things didn't go so well recently for a Staunton man.
Police arrested Russell C. Bayne III, 38, in October after he was accused of trying to videotape a 15-year-old foster child in a state of undress while she lived at his home on Belmore Avenue.
In a plea agreement with the Staunton prosecutor's office, on Tuesday in Staunton Circuit Court Bayne received no prison time after pleading guilty to a felony charge of attempting to film a minor without consent.
The case was taken under advisement for two years. Following the two-year period, the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor if Bayne doesn't run afoul of the law.
In court Tuesday, assistant prosecutor Anne Reed said the 15-year-old girl began living with the Bayne and his wife in March 2010.
"This was their first time serving as foster parents," Reed said of the childless couple.
Reed said the girl was given chores with one of them being to clean the family's upstairs bathroom, the only one in the house that was used. While cleaning the bathroom in September, the teen found a digital camera that Bayne had showed her months before. On the camera were two short videos, one that showed Bayne adjusting the angle of the camera while in the bathroom.
Because of the angle of the video that was shot, the girl determined the camera had been hidden in a piece of fabric hanging on the inside of the bathroom door. The fabric also had a small hole for the lens, Reed said.
On Sept. 15 the girl spoke to a school official at Robert E. Lee High School about the camera, and the Staunton Police Department was immediately notified.
After obtaining a search warrant, Staunton police searched Bayne's Belmore home where they found the camera in the living room. Bayne told police he and his wife were concerned about the teen's boyfriend visiting the house when they weren't around, and said they decided to secretly tape the couple. His wife, however, denied taking part in the plan.
As part of Bayne's guilty plea, he cannot have contact with the victim and can't have unsupervised contact with a minor. He also must perform 50 hours of community service.
Reed said the teen agreed with the plea deal, stating she felt that Bayne exhibited "extremely misguided parental decisions."

Teen Testifies In Yukon Abuse Case

Investigators said John and Sonja Kluth abused their three foster children.

According to court documents, the Kluths locked their children in a storm cellar, fed them dog food, locked one in a dog crate and, on one account, whipped a victim with a horse whip and told them to “take it like a slave.”

The couple was arrested after one of the children ran away and was found living in a box behind a store.

The 16-year-old said that at one point, he was locked in a dog kennel for one or two weeks. He said he was allowed out only the morning to clean his "bucket" and to eat a meal. To pass the time he would "just sit there," he said.

The teen told the judge he and his siblings were starved, beaten, and locked in cages meant for dogs. The boy said he crawled out of his shelter after not getting fed dinner last December and started running toward Oklahoma City.

The teenager told the judge he "hadn't been to school in four years," and "hadn't been allowed to leave the house since last June."

Raw Video: Court Appearance
The boy also said his mother "would use pliers and a clothes pin to pinch his penis when he would leak his pants."

John and Sonja Kluth each face six counts of child abuse, and authorities said the couple is set to return to court for a formal arraignment in August.

After the teen broke out of the kennel to get some food, he said, the Kluths started locking the kennel with a padlock.

Read more:

Foster children struggle with identify theft

By Paresh Dave
Published: Saturday, Jun. 25, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2011 - 12:46 pm
Four years after Sacramento County Child Protective Services removed Katrina Haywood from her mother's abusive grip, the woman still has managed to stand in the way of her daughter entering college, finding a job or paying for the roof over her head.
Haywood, 18, has spent the past two months starting to clean up a mess that foster care workers say she couldn't have prevented.
Eight entities, including Bank of America and Pacific Gas & Electric, want a total of $6,000 from Haywood. She says her birth mother started opening lines of credit using subtly crafted aliases and Haywood's Social Security number. Since the bills weren't paid, the credit history associated with Haywood's Social Security number is filled with accounts in poor standing.
Exiting the state's 60,000-member foster system at about the age of 18 is hard enough for teenagers such as Haywood. For one to five out of every 10 children, the situation is even worse. Their Social Security numbers and birthdays, easily accessible to birth parents, foster parents, siblings, social workers and courts, were hijacked so others could get quick cash from banks, keep electricity and water flowing, avoid criminal conviction or even save on taxes and medical costs.
"You're completely at their whim as children," said Sacramento-area social worker John Morton.
The children graduating from foster care then must reclaim their Social Security number – often with little financial wherewithal. Money woes at the state and federal level also have stalled solutions meant to help foster children reverse identity fraud.
"If your credit is bad, you really can't do anything," Haywood said. "You're hit with this big boulder and it just becomes a burden on your shoulder."
She said Target, Century Theatres, Walgreens, Sacramento's Department of Parks and Recreation and nearly a dozen other employers rejected her due to the bad credit. Haywood said appealing to some of them with a pile of documents didn't help.
She wants to attend Sacramento City College, but hasn't found anyone to finance a loan. She's living in a friend's apartment, where the manager won't assign her a lease.
Peter Samuelson, who runs the national foster children advocacy group known as First Star, said the teenagers are deemed "deadbeats through no fault of their own."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation five years ago that required social workers to retrieve free credit reports for foster children shortly after their sixteenth birthdays.
To save the state's social services department a few hundred thousand dollars each year, legislators have delayed the mandate until at least July 2013.
"This is an obvious measure to make sure foster youth can be as successful as possible upon emancipation," said Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. "It's been very unfortunate that this has been caught up in the budget problems."
Bonilla is carrying a bill only a Senate vote away from the governor's desk that would make the eventual system more efficient. The state's social services department could submit one batch request to credit agencies each quarter instead of more than 100 agencies filing individually.
"The fix is probably federal, but we're going to do whatever we can to open up the conversation in California," said Chantel Johnson, policy coordinator for California Youth Connection.
Later this year, Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., plans to introduce a bill in Congress, with a yet-to-be-named Republican co-sponsor, ordering annual credit checks for foster children and empowering them with a special federally funded endowment.
"That would have helped instead of this being dropped on me now," Haywood said.
At the urging of their county supervisors, Los Angeles foster care officials recently ran credit checks on 2,110 children. About 100 of them had marks on their report, from library fines to outstanding medical fees to $400,000 home loans. All told, 230 different credit accounts had to be erased. A few of them may have been legitimate.
"We are making some real headway on behalf of these children," said Joanne McNabb, head of the state's Office of Privacy Protection, which assisted in the effort.
In Haywood's case, an attorney working pro bono likely will submit dispute letters to the eight creditors. Because she wasn't 18 years old when she supposedly entered into the contracts, her erroneous history should be wiped within a couple of months.
Experts said the "friendly fraud" Haywood experienced is classic for foster children. The final report due next month from the pilot program in Los Angeles will offer the first official clues as to how widespread the issue is.
"All of the exposure hallmarks are there in the lives of foster children for this to be a really big issue," said Matt Cullina, chief executive officer of help service Identify Theft 911. "Not everyone who has access to (their) information has the best interests of the child in mind."

Judge allows suit against DCF, others to proceed for Naples girl abused in foster care

NAPLES —He had an alcohol problem, a drunken driving arrest, a juvenile rap sheet and was the target of a restraining order, so he was turned down twice after applying to be a foster fatheYet when Jeff Allen Woodring of Golden Gate applied with his wife, Kathy, they were approved as foster parents for a sexually abused 13-year-old girl, who later claimed they drank alcohol and smoked marijuana together, and he molested and raped her.

He was arrested and sued.

The 2008 lawsuit by the woman, now 22, overcame a hurdle last month after a Collier judge denied a motion by Ruth Cooper Center to drop the complaint, which also targets the state Department of Children and Families, Family Preservation Services of Florida, David Lawrence Mental Health Center, and Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

This month, Children’s Network filed a notice of a proposed confidential settlement, a routine move aimed at possibly recouping its legal fees.

As the civil case heads to trial, Woodring, who maintains his innocence, remains free on $75,000 bond and wears an ankle monitor pending his criminal trial in late September.

“It was totally inappropriate to place a sexually abused teenage girl alone with an older man in a small guest house,” said the woman’s attorney, Richard Filson of Sarasota, who will be there to support the Naples woman at Woodring’s criminal trial.

Filson is the attorney who won a $1.2 million award from DCF for 26-year-old Pierreisna Archille and her daughter, now 9.

Archille’s former foster father was her daughter’s father. Bonifacio “Bennie” Velazquez, 74, of Immokalee, was released from state prison in 2008 after serving 6½ years for molesting Archille’s baby sister and repeatedly raping Archille, who has the mental abilities of a first-grader.

Bonifacio “Bennie” Velazquez

DCF, which oversees the subcontractors that provided care for the foster daughter in the latest case, declined comment, but said abuse within foster homes is highly unusual.

“We’re exceedingly careful with these children,” DCF spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said Friday. “It’s very rare, but one case is too many where these children have already suffered.”

Gillespie cited an intensive questionnaire and interview process that enables DCF to weed out unsuitable foster parents. Applicants are asked about their childhoods, discipline theories, how they treated their children, how they were treated as children, and their sexual lives — what’s appropriate, normal and what’s abuse.

The Woodrings operated a special therapeutic home for abused children with behavioral needs that exceeded basic foster care.

“Those parents have to take extra training to be foster parents ... to deal with a child with more issues,” Gillespie said. “It’s extremely rare that we have an abuse or neglect report for a foster home.”

“The very last thing we would want for a child in a foster home is to be abused again because we know that these children have been abused or neglected and they are vulnerable,” she added. “That’s why the process is so thorough.”

The lawsuit says the girl and her two siblings were placed in the Woodring home in 2000, but the couple separated in 2003 and he moved into a small, adjacent guest house with the girl, then 16.

“While living with the Woodrings, (she) had developed a substance-abuse problem,” says the lawsuit, amended last year to add DCF. “Jeff Woodring provided and consumed alcohol and marijuana with (her).”

The lawsuit says she was last sexually abused in January 2006, when Collier sheriff’s deputies were alerted by DCF and the home was shut down. Woodring was arrested four months later and faces life in prison if convicted.

The lawsuit alleges the girl suffered physical trauma, emotional anguish, shame, humiliation, insecurity, self-revulsion and damage to her self-esteem. She also suffered medical problems, including suicide attempts, that prompted medical bills.

The lawsuit seeks damages for battery, negligence and vicarious liability, contending DCF and its subcontractors are liable as employers of a foster parent because they placed the girl in a position to be molested by licensing and relicensing an unfit foster parent who twice was rejected due to disqualifying offenses.

The lawsuit contends the agencies had a duty to monitor, supervise and ensure her safety and that they knew or should have known of the abuse.

At a May hearing before Collier Circuit Judge Cynthia Pivacek, Filson argued Woodring never should have been licensed.

“That ought to be enough,” Filson told the judge, citing Woodring’s alcohol abuse and domestic violence history.

But attorney Joel Roth of Miami, who represents Ruth Cooper Center, contended it shouldn’t be liable because Woodring was required to adhere to duties under their contract.

“The minute you are performing a sexual assault, you are no longer acting within the course of your employment,” Roth argued, citing a prior court ruling in which an insurer refused to cover a deputy who raped a woman he’d promised not to arrest if she agreed to have sex.

“Jeff Woodring is a foster parent,” Roth said. “He is not authorized under any circumstances to assault, molest or sexually abuse a foster child. He is not acting in furtherance of his employer’s intentions. There can be no liability.”

Filson, however, cited a different court ruling in which a trooper who stopped a girl walking home from elementary school told her she was a theft suspect, drove her to a remote area and molested her.

Filson contended that, like that trooper, Woodring was only able to sexually assault his foster daughter because he was employed as a foster father and raped her under the scope of his duties.

Under a motion to dismiss, a judge must take a plaintiff’s allegations as factually true, allowing a lawsuit to move to the next stage if there are no other defects. Pivacek denied Roth’s motions to dismiss the case.

The defendants can seek dismissal later by filing a motion for summary judgment, which means a judge rules there are no factual issues to be tried and that the lawsuit can be decided on certain facts without a trial.

Jury convicts foster mom of murder, torture, abuse

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jazzmin Davis was beaten to death. Her foster mother is charged with her murder. (KGO Photo)

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- Jurors deliberated for about two hours on Thursday before convicting an Antioch woman of torturing and abusing her two foster children and murdering one of them in 2008.

Shemeeka Davis, 40, was found guilty of first-degree murder and two counts each of torture and child abuse. The trial, however, is not over because Davis pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The second phase of the trial will begin next week, during which the same jury will be asked to decide whether Davis was legally insane during the years she abused and tortured her niece and nephew, who she took in as foster children shortly after they were born.

Her niece, 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis, was found dead on the floor in Davis' house on Sept. 2, 2008 with scars and injuries covering her entire body, prosecutor Satish Jallepalli said during the trial.

Jazzmin's twin brother also had extensive injuries on his body, but lived.

Jallepalli said that Davis had beaten the children with belts, electrical cords and a wooden closet rod and burned them with boiling water and an iron. She reportedly locked them in their closet for long periods of time and withheld food from them.

When Jazzmin died, she was so malnourished that she only weighed 78 pounds and was 5 feet 7 inches tall. Her brother was also severely malnourished and looked about two years younger than he was.

Davis also withheld medical treatment from the children and prevented Jazzmin from going to school.

Her attorney Betty Barker argued during trial that Davis suffered from several severe mental illnesses, including psychotic delusions that caused her to falsely believe that Jazzmin and her brother were evil and were trying to poison her and her biological daughter, who was 7 years old when Jazzmin died.

Barker argued that Davis, in her delusional state, believed she was punishing the children to make them behave and was unable to see the damage she was doing.

Jallepalli agreed that Davis was mentally ill, but said she took actions to conceal the abuse, which showed that she knew what she was doing was wrong.

The sanity phase of the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

Former Brevard foster dad sentenced in child porn case

A former Brevard County foster dad, who sexually assaulted his adopted daughter, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison followed by 15 years of probation for downloading child pornography.

Robert Howard, 41, was a foster father to at least 36 children during the past 15 years. He was previously sentenced to only four years in prison for the sexual battery on his daughter, a sentence that forced federal prosecutors to step in and pursue a conviction on the child pornography charges. Since the Internet crosses state lines, downloading child pornography can be tried in federal court.

"We applaud the efforts of the United States Attorney's Office, who was committed to ensure this predator was held accountable," said Lt. Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

The sentence was handed down Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell in Orlando.

In 2005, Howard was arrested on 70 counts of sexual battery and dozens of counts of child pornography. But in 2009, he pleaded no contest in state court to one count of sexual battery on a child and one count of possession of child pornography. He officially was labeled a sexual predator.

The case first made headlines in 2005, when Howard was arrested and it became public that foster children had been removed from his home.

The Department of Children and Families allowed children to remain in the home years after Howard and his wife had lost their license to be foster parents.

After that, Howard and his wife, Margaret, had been allowed to adopt two girls -- one who would become his 12-year-old victim.

Davenport Couple Sentenced For Stealing From Their

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Davenport husband and wife were each sentenced Monday to three years in prison for stealing more than $400,000 in life insurance money from a former foster child.

17-month-old Brooklyn child beaten by foster mother's boyfriend likely to die

The 17-month-old Brooklyn child allegedly beaten by his foster mother’s boyfriend was likely assaulted with a metal rod or bat and is likely to die, it was revealed in court today.

Kysheen Oliver, 19, was arraigned on assault and endangerment charges in Brooklyn Criminal Court today as the prosecution revealed the horrific injuries he allegedly inflicted on little Kymell Oram while he was babysitting last Thursday.

Kymell suffered multiple broken ribs, bruising to his buttocks, torso and eyes, a lacerated liver, a bruised spleen and a torn anus in an attack likely to have included the use of a metal rod or bat, Assistant District Attorney Wilfredo Cotto told Criminal Court Judge Joanne Quinones.

There were gasps in the courtroom and a stunned onlooker exclaimed, "Damn!" as the orgy of violence was recounted.

Oliver’s girlfriend, 32-year-old Teyunna Cummings, returned home from dropping her daughter and another foster child and found Kymell laying face down in a pool of vomit.

Kymell was having difficulty breathing and Cummings gave him asthma medicine and told Oliver to call 911, Cotto said.

Oliver said they should wait 20 minutes for the medicine to take effect, but Cummings told him the child didn’t have 20 minutes, Cotto said.

After being whisked away in an ambulance, Kymell had to be twice resuscitated and is likely to die, the prosecutor said.

Quinones ordered Oliver held without bail.

Ex-New Castle man accused of molesting, threatening foster daughter

Darrin Reid (jail mug)

NEW CASTLE -- A former New Castle man who impregnated his 15-year-old foster daughter in 2006 now stands accused of repeatedly sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl who had been placed in his care by the state.

Darrin Keith Reid, 42, more recently of Indianapolis, has been charged with child molesting, a Class A felony carrying a standard 30-year prison term, and intimidation, a Class D felony with a standard 18-month sentence.

The most recent foster child to allege abuse by Reid spent six weeks in the defendant's New Castle home in the late summer and early autumn of 2005, along with her two younger siblings.

The girl told police Reid threatened to kill her brother and sister if she told anyone about the assaults.

Arrested Friday, Reid remained in the Henry County jail on Tuesday under a $35,000 bond. He received an Aug. 29 trial date Tuesday in Henry Circuit Court.

According to a report by Stacey Guffey, a Henry County sheriff's investigator, Reid's latest accuser and her siblings were placed by welfare authorities in the Railroad Street home the defendant shared with his wife, Traesha, from mid-September to late October of 2005.

The girl said Reid sexually abused her the "whole time" she was in his care, forcing her to join him in his bedroom, ostensibly to "watch television," and also entered her bedroom at night.

She said she frequently began to cry when Reid fondled her, prompting the foster father to place his hand over her mouth and threaten to kill her siblings, by strangulation or smothering them with a pillow. He also said he would not molest the younger children if she cooperated, the girl said.

"(The girl) told us that (Reid) did threaten her personally by saying he would come and find her," Guffey wrote in his report.

Reid denied the girl's allegations when interviewed on April 21.

His wife told investigators she was unaware such abuse had taken place, but said after her husband's later impregnation of an older foster child and allegations -- unrelated to the Henry County cases -- that he sexually abused still another child, "anything is possible at this point."

After pleading guilty to two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor in 2007, Reid was placed on probation for five years, including three years on electronic home detention.

In accepting a plea agreement in that case, Judge Mary Willis noted that Reid wasn't well suited for prison due to his severe vision problems.

Reid in April told investigator Guffey that he has one prosthetic eye and limited vision in the other eye.

Jun 1st, 2011

State to pay $7.3 million to 3 abused as foster children

The state of Washington has agreed to pay $7.3 million to three former foster children who were sexually or physically abused in a Redmond home.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The state of Washington has agreed to pay $7.3 million to three former foster children who were sexually or physically abused in a Redmond home.

Details on the settlement won't be available until it is approved by the court, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Despite receiving at least 28 complaints of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation and licensing violations between 1996 and 2006, DSHS still left the three girls in the care of Enrique Fabregas, according to the lawsuit the girls' attorney filed in 2007 in King County Superior Court.

In 1998, DSHS discovered that Fabregas had lied on his foster-care license application about his criminal record, but it failed to hold him accountable, according to court papers. Fabregas had a long history of arrests, drug abuse and criminal convictions, the lawsuit says.

Finally, in June 2006, Fabregas was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography.

In May 2007, he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. He was sentenced to four years in prison by a King County Superior Court judge. DSHS said in a Friday news release that he had been deported.

During the criminal trial, the former foster children told the court they had been abused by Fabregas for years.

One of the victims told Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie in 2007 that she had flashbacks of Fabregas sexually and physically abusing her and threatening to kill her if she told anyone. She told the court that he made her feel like garbage.

Her sister said Fabregas would make her copy Bible verses for hours, often on topics such as lying and stealing. He would then present her "confessions" to Child Protective Services when she later made allegations against him.

Another victim said Fabregas would force her and another of the girls to kneel for hours on the floor with their arms in the air. When he left the house, he told the girls he was videotaping them and if they flinched they would be killed.

Fabregas' victims described being beaten, choked and emotionally abused.

DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said in a news release Friday that the agency believes the $7.3 million settlement "fairly compensates the plaintiffs, who can use the settlement to meet any special needs they may have in the future."

"We take to heart any situation in which harm is inflicted on a child with whom we've had contact, take each child's situation personally and use each child's case as a lesson to evaluate our training and practice," the statement said.

Information from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.

Queenie Wong: 206-464-2108 or

Five years after foster child death, Mother still fighting for answers

Jeremy Lye
The mother of a child who died after being in foster care five years ago is calling for changes to legislation that puts cases like hers under an automatic publication ban.

Velvet Martin says she is only able to talk publicly about her daughter Samantha's death because she fought to have the ban suspended.

Just days before what would've been Samantha's 18th birthday, Velvet says the David-and-Goliath struggle to find answers, and justice, over her daughter's death continues.
Samantha was born with Tetrasomy 18p, where a child has 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

According to the
Chromosome 18 registry & Research Society, symptoms affecting both physical and mental development vary in severity.

''We were told it was the kindest thing to do, That we had to do so while she was still young and 'cute'.''

''Hence, adopt the child out so that the government doesn't have to pay for the funding of a child with a severe disability.''

Effectively, Velvet and her family had to surrender Samantha to
Children and Youth Services in order to get the medical care she needed.

But Velvet says Samantha didn't get it.

''She suffered seven broken bones including three femur breaks,'' Velvet says.
''I'm fighting for medical reports, reports that were revealed following my daughter's death,'' she says.

''Medical reports, educational reports that three schools in three different towns and cities were each reporting similar concerns to what we were reporting about our daughter being hungry, about her being dirty.''

''It goes on and on,'' she says.

Velvet says around 70% of the approximate 12,000 children in care in Alberta have special needs. (jl,blb)