STATE WILL EXAMINE CPS’S HANDLING OF A CASE AFTER TODDLER FOUND IN LANDFILL
By: La Ventrick Smith and Marc Ramirez
Two separate investigations will review Child Protective Services’ handling of a Dallas toddler’s case after the child was found dead Thursday in a landfill, a day after his aunt and caregiver reported him missing.
Police believe they found 18-month-old Cedrick Jackson’s remains Thursday morning in a landfill on the Garland-Rowlett line. The Dallas County medical examiner had yet to positively identify the remains or determine a cause of death as of Friday.
Authorities charged Sedrick Johnson, the 27-year-old boyfriend of the child’s aunt, with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.
Johnson faces additional charges pending the medical examiner’s findings. The toddler had been living in a Lake Highlands apartment with Johnson and his aunt, Crystal Jackson, after CPS placed him in her care.
Johnson told police he had swaddled Cedrick in blankets — something he had been doing since May after the child “made a mess” with ketchup packets, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Johnson told police he unwrapped Cedrick after he heard the child making noises in his sleep. He said the toddler then vomited and became unresponsive. Johnson told police he left the child’s body in a dumpster in northeast Dallas after his CPR attempts failed.
Internal and independent reviews will likely examine why Cedrick was placed in the home of Johnson, who has a criminal history in Dallas County.
The child’s mother, Dishundra Thomas, had allowed Cedrick to stay with Jackson. The arrangement by CPS was not against her will, Thomas said.
However, CPS would not knowingly place a child in a home with an adult who has a criminal history, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Johnson was charged with child abandonment in 2010 after police said he left his infant daughter alone in an apartment while he propositioned an undercover officer who he believed was a prostitute, according to court records.
He pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to four years of probation. Johnson later violated that probation and was sentenced to eight months in state jail in 2016.
Under normal circumstances, CPS officials conduct a criminal background check on each adult in a home being considered for child placement, Gonzales said. She didn’t provide details on Cedrick’s case Friday, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
The Department of Family and Protective Service’s Office of Child Safety will conduct an independent review of CPS’ handling of Cedrick’s case, Gonzales said. It’s not clear when either investigation will complete.
The Office of Child Safety will issue a report detailing its findings when the investigation is complete, but Gonzales said the office would need the approval of the Dallas County district attorney’s office and law enforcement before releasing the report publicly.
Johnson was still in the Dallas County jail as of Friday evening, with bail set at $503,000.
Vigil in boy’s honor
Friday evening, mourners gathered under a pavilion at Lake Highlands Recreation Center for a community vigil in Cedrick’s memory, where Dishundra Thomas, the boy’s mother, briefly addressed the crowd of about 100 before breaking down, inconsolable. Another read a prepared statement that was barely comprehensible through her tears.
“Baby C.J. was the sweetest little baby in the world,” his mother said. “He meant everything to us. He didn’t deserve anything that happened to him.”
Eventually family members had to escort her away, as she sobbed and screamed, “I want him back!”
The gathering included several families with small children, carrying blue and white balloons, one in the shape of a giant C. Some wore blue T-shirts with an image of Cedrick’s face and the words, “Rest in Heaven.” One woman carried a handmade poster reading “Our Beloved CJ” with photos of the boy.
Linus Walton of Wylie, an acquaintance of the boy’s uncle, spoke as well, saying “He brought people, as we see right now, together. C.J. was loved. His life was not in vain.”
Finally, as the sun began to set, the crowd moved to an open grassy area, where Cedrick’s grand-aunt, Benita Arterberry of Mesquite, said the gesture was symbolic of a soul being commended to God.
“Father, we know that into each life a little rain must fall, and today is a storm,” she said, as the crowd sent their balloons skyward. “We are so grateful to have had him for the time that we did.”