Livingston County SA to review death of foster child case

BLOOMINGTON — The Department of Children and Family Services has found enough “credible evidence” to substantiate allegations of abuse and neg… Read more
Cullom foster parents under investigation in girl's death
CULLOM — Livingston County authorities and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services are investigating the death of a 4-year-old… Read more
Death of foster child, 4, ruled homicide
PEORIA -- A Peoria County coroner's jury ruled Tuesday the May 4 death of a 4-year-old girl living in a Cullom foster home was a homicide. Read more
PONTIAC — Livingston County State’s Attorney Seth Uphoff plans to review a 2-year-old case involving the death of a foster child to determine what — if any — criminal charges should be filed.
Uphoff was not state’s attorney on May 4, 2011, when Kianna Rudesill, 4, of Bloomington, died of head injuries. She was living with a Cullom foster family at the time. Former State’s Attorney Tom Brown did not file charges in the case.
“This case is certainly tragic,” Uphoff said last week. “I can only imagine the impact on the victim’s family. It warrants a careful and thorough review. It’s something I will focus on more.”
That was good news for Kianna’s great-grandmother, Evelyn Rudesill of El Paso.
“I’m glad he’s going to look into it,” she said. “It’s been two years and we need closure.”
While Uphoff said he knew of the case, nothing had transpired since he took office in November to bring it to the forefront. That changed last week during a juvenile court hearing to determine whether the foster parents’ two biological children could be returned to their home.
The two children — as well as Kianna’s three other siblings who also were in foster care at the home — were taken into the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services after Kianna was rushed from the Cullom home to OSF Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac on May 3, 2011.
A 911 caller from the residence said a child having seizure-like symptoms. The girl was later airlifted to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria where she underwent surgery for a severe brain injury. She was later taken off life support.
A Peoria County coroner’s jury ruled the death a homicide. A report from forensic pathologist Dr. J. Scott Denton indicated Kianna suffered eight points of impact to her head and face, seven on her back and 18 on her arms and legs. He said the injuries were “more consistent with inflicted rather than accidental blunt trauma.”
The Pantagraph has not identified the parents because no criminal charges have been filed against them.
During an initial juvenile court hearing regarding custody of the foster parents’ biological children, Livingston County Associate Judge Robert Travers determined the foster mother caused Kianna’s death after hearing testimony from doctors who treated Kianna, a pediatric specialist called in on the case and Denton.
That decision prompted the court to require the biological children remain in DCFS custody and for the parents to undergo psychological testing and to meet with a clinical psychologist.
During last week’s juvenile court hearing, clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kalvelage-Roth said she met with the parents once a month for the past year. She testified she found the couple to have very good parenting skills and recommended their biological children be allowed to return home.
When pressed by DCFS attorney Andrew Killian, Kalvelage-Roth said she believed the foster mother’s story about the incident — that Kianna threw a temper tantrum and hurt herself. Kalvelage-Roth noted Kianna had reactive attachment disorder, a psychological condition that can cause a child to “act out” and throw his or her body around during a temper tantrum.
Judge Travers asked Kalvelage-Roth if she had received a copy of the testimonies of the physicians, the pathologist and the pediatric specialist indicating Kianna’s injuries were not self inflicted. Kalvelage-Roth said she did.
“Yet you believe the (foster mother) had nothing to do with the death?” Travers asked. “You testified you believe the (foster mother’s) story. To believe her is to disbelieve or ignore the testimony of three doctors. How do you rationalize that?”
Kalvelage-Roth said she believes certain information is allowed in court and other information isn’t.
“It matters not what I believe about what the court says or (the parents) say,” Kalvelage-Roth said. “I did what DCFS asked — determine if it is safe to return the kids to the home.”
Travers said he had “grave concerns that the parents are not taking responsibility for their actions.” But he also concurred with the parents’ attorney, John Coghlan, who said the situation was at a stalemate.
Coghlan said the parents had done everything the court had asked; had received increased visitation rights; and said no evidence was ever presented that the couple abused their biological children.
While Travers said he stood by his original ruling, he believed the couples’ biological children were suffering by the separation and were being “held hostage” by a goal of finding more evidence of parents possible involvement in Kianna’s death.
He agreed to return the biological children to the home. A status hearing is scheduled on July 9.