Severely beaten child was under county watch


 

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2-year-old's caregiver lived with felon accused of hurting him

Hamilton County’s child welfare agency allowed a woman who twice before was accused of abuse and neglect – although the charges were never proved – to care for a 2-year-old whose own mother neglected him, Hamilton County Juvenile Court records show.

And the agency didn’t know that the woman, Mary Enzenbacher, was living with a convicted robber and abuser, those records show.

That man, Anthony Walton, 34, was arrested Monday on a charge of felonious assault, accused of severely beating the toddler in their Over-the-Rhine home, according to Cincinnati police records.

Enzenbacher – who has not been charged with a crime – admitted to police she witnessed the boy “being beaten over the past few days by Mr. Walton” and “refused to seek medical attention for him,” court records show. She could not be reached for comment.

According to court records, the boy suffered a cut to his liver, broken ribs and a “significant” head wound. He was so hurt, doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center couldn’t immediately operate. He remains hospitalized, Cincinnati police said Wednesday.

The welfare agency is reviewing the case to see if it could have done anything differently.

“We’re cooperating with police and doing our investigation,” said Hamilton County Job and Family Services spokesman Brian Gregg.

Unsubstantiated claims are not uncommon and would not have ruled out Enzenbacher as a caregiver. The court records show an unsubstantiated neglect charge in 2008 and an unsubstantiated physical abuse charge in 2006.

JFS would have had access to those records; it’s unclear if the agency knew. Gregg declined to comment on details.

JFS records show a caseworker saw the boy twice in August, once on Aug. 4 and then again Aug. 13, Gregg said; the boy was injured a week later. Visits were required once a month.

The Enquirer has requested public records for the caseworker’s name and personnel file.

The boy’s injuries come on the heels of a troubled period for Hamilton County JFS; five children who were in the agency’s care or had recently been in the agency’s care died since December 2010.

A series of Enquirer stories found the agency was short-staffed and underfunded. This year, county commissioners gave the agency $2 million so it could better care for the county’s abused and neglected children.

Just this week, JFS Director Moira Weir touted improvements and said the agency had already hired 27 caseworkers, now in various stages of training. The hope is they will take caseworker loads from 26 cases per worker now to 18 cases per worker, giving workers more time to look out for children.

No family, so boy placed with friend

The toddler’s case dates to June, when his mom, Taquila Sims, 27, was arrested on a charge of child endangering. A Cincinnati police officer said she was drunk and not supervising her children.

That arrest prompted Job and Family Services intervention. When no family could be found to care for the boy, Sims suggested Enzenbacher, court records show; it’s not clear what their relationship is.

JFS agreed to the placement. Sims would later be convicted and sentenced to a year of probation, court records show.

Before placing the toddler with Enzenbacher, JFS caseworkers ensured she passed a background check and made sure her home was safe, Gregg said. The toddler was placed with Enzenbacher July 10.

“At the time of placement, Mr. Walton was not identified by Ms. Enzenbacher as someone living in her home,” court records said.

Sims was also unaware Walton lived there.

An Enquirer check of Walton’s criminal history showed he served a six-year prison term for aggravated robbery and was convicted on a 2005 domestic violence charge stemming from his choking a woman until she passed out.

On Monday, Cincinnati firefighters responded to a 911 call reporting the toddler was having trouble breathing. Paramedics arrived to find the boy in cardiac arrest.

Before Enzenbacher’s confession that she witnessed the toddler being beaten, both she and Walton tried to tell police they didn’t know what was wrong, according to court records.

Court records said Enzenbacher and Walton told police that the boy woke up at about 10:30 a.m. Monday and was “lethargic and unable to stand.” Walton added that when he tried to pick the boy up, his eyes rolled back into his head and “he was moaning,” the records said.

Job and Family Services has filed paperwork to take temporary custody of Enzenbacher’s 9-year-old daughter. She cannot live with her father because of prior domestic violence charges, court records show.