Fresno foster mother charged in child's death




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Fresno foster mother charged in child's death

The Fresno woman charged with killing her 1-month-old foster child two years ago was known to be having problems in her home prior to her daughter's death.

Just days before foster parent Jovannee Reynolds took her daughter to the hospital, where the infant died of shaken-baby syndrome, a county social worker had visited Reynolds' apartment and found her second foster child, a 3-year-old boy, badly bruised, according to records obtained by The Bee.

Follow-up county and police reports suggest that Reynolds may have abused the boy.

The boy and the baby girl remained in Reynolds' home, however, until three days after the visit -- when the girl was hospitalized because of alleged abuse by the mother, the records show.

While no one is blaming county social workers for not doing more to curtail the abuse, Mikayla's ensuing death and the events preceding it are posing questions for a foster-care system that has seen problems in the past.

Today Reynolds, now 25, is scheduled to appear in court to answer to charges of assaulting and murdering her infant foster child, Mikayla Tabin. Reynolds also is charged with abusing her foster son, whose name is withheld in county documents because of his age.

County Supervisor Henry Perea, after learning that social workers had observed problems in Reynolds' home before Mikayla was hospitalized, said he would seek a complete accounting of the actions of the county Department of Social Services, which runs the local foster-care system.

"It's always a tragedy when we lose a child in our community," Perea said. "The county needs to sit down and see how we can increase our checks and balances to make sure children are protected."

The Department of Social Services declined to comment on the case. Reynolds' attorney did not return phone calls from The Bee.

The visit by social workers to Reynolds' home shortly before Mikayla's death is revealed in Mikayla's case files requested by The Bee under open-records laws.

On Sept. 10, 2010, at least one social worker visited Reynolds' central Fresno apartment, where she lived with her husband, Randall Reynolds. The social worker observed bruises on her foster son's face, forearms and back, according to the records.

Reynolds admitted to physically restraining her foster son, the records show, to prevent him from "self-injury," which may mean the bruises were self-inflicted. The report on the visit provides little explanation.

But a follow-up report, completed by the Department of Social Services nine months later, cites the bruises as evidence in alleging that Reynolds abused both children.

The boy was removed from Reynolds' care just after Mikayla was hospitalized on Sept. 13, 2010, according to police reports.

Mikayla was taken to Children's Hospital Central California when Reynolds recognized that her child was having trouble breathing, the records show.

Mikayla died Sept. 20. Investigators later concluded that the cause of death was shaken-baby syndrome, a condition associated with brain damage from violent shaking.

Reynolds was arrested March 17, 2011. Her husband was not arrested nor charged with a crime. Reynolds, if convicted, faces at least 25 years in prison. The couple's foster care license has been revoked.

The couple, who had no children of their own, were new to the foster care system, applying to be foster parents in April 2010 and licensed in July, according to the records.

Their first foster child, the 3-year-old boy, was placed with them Aug. 9, 2010, the records show. Another child, whose name and age is not identified, was placed with the couple Aug. 20 but returned to family members a few days later.

Mikayla, who was born Aug. 25, arrived at the couple's home at 5 days old, according to the records. Her biological mother had tested positive for methamphetamines and had a long history of drug use, the records show.

The nearly two-year delay in the court proceedings against Reynolds is due to a long criminal investigation and scheduling conflicts of attorneys. She has been free on bail.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. today.

Mikayla's plight is not isolated. Shortly before Mikayla's death another girl suffered brain damage while in foster care, a case that ended with a county settlement of $325,000 for negligence, according to county officials.

Two years earlier another foster child died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The coroner's office ruled the death a natural death, but the biological parents suspected foul play.

Social services managers have long said they employ strict checks of foster parents to ensure child safety. They also have said that finding enough qualified parents can be challenging





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Fresno hearing delayed in death of foster child

A preliminary court hearing for Jovannee Reynolds, the Fresno woman accused of killing her 1-month-old foster child, was postponed from Friday to next week. No reason was given for the continuance, which adds to the nearly two-year delay in prosecuting Reynolds. Reynolds, now 25, is charged with assaulting and murdering Mikayla Tabin in September 2010. She reportedly took Mikayla, who had been in her care just five days, to the hospital after Mikalya stopped breathing. The infant died days later, and investigators attributed the death to shaken-baby syndrome. Reynolds also is charged with abusing her 3-year-old foster son. She has pleaded not guilty on all counts. The preliminary hearing was rescheduled for Thursday.