Category: system failure

abuse, accountability, child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, death, family, foster care, foster child, foster home, foster parent, social services, system failure, system failure children
MURDERED TWO YEAR OLD WAS BEING “PROTECTED” BY CPS FROM HER POT-SMOKING (“Midnight Toking”) DAD

… Another baby protected to death while in the governments’ care…
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A loving father lost custody of his little girl last November in Austin, Tx, after he admitted to.smoking marijuana at night after he put his child down for bedtime.

The precious little girl was not ill, or harmed by her fathers nightcap, nor was she exposed to the marijuana he smoked, yet this loving parent had his two year old baby girl taken by CPS and placed in foster care last fall.

At visits, the father noticed bruises on his daughter, and voiced his concerns for the welfare of his little girl at the foster home she’d been placed in. Those concerns went ignored by CPS.

Now this beautiful baby girl was MURDERED in foster care by an abusive foster mom who was in it for the money! Below is an article where the woman admits, after changing her story a few times, that she slammed the little two year old girl down on her head at least two times before losing her grip the third time, dropping the girl on her head. Causing her death.

The foster mother was angry at the little girl for waking up hungry and getting herself something to eat and some water to drink out of the kitchen. So she killed her.

This child was removed from her natural home because of a father’s recreational marijuana use. The same natural herb that is rapidly being decriminalized in many other U.S. states!! Really.

As an advocate for the foster children and families torn apart wrongly by the system, I have stated before, my stance, on the issue of drug use and CPS. I strongly believe that absent evidence of abuse or neglect, and absent injury or harm to the child,there should be no reason for the removal of that child from their natural home solely because of a parents’ drug use and/or drug addiction particularly if there is no reason to believe that the drug was never used in the presence of the child. If the use of the marijuana was kept outside the child’s awareness, smoked after bedtime, I do not agree with the removal of that child solely due to that recreational marijuana use if it truly had no deleterious effect on the child, and where there is no other sign of abuse or neglect, and no injury to the child!

If the social worker truly believes a parent has a drug problem.. there are plenty of outpatient rehabilitation programs available for the parent to receive help that the CPS worker could refer the parent to, while keeping the family unit in-tact.

Had an approach such a that been utilized in this situation, this baby girl would not have suffered abuse by the FOSTER PARENT and would not have been brutally and senselessly murdered! I also question the worker monitoring the visits who failed to investigate the signs of abuse that the father pointed out with obvious concern. What happened there?
What this is .. is a child welfare system failure at its worst!

I hope this case grinds deep into the minds of every cps worker. I hope this reminds them to rethink when they begin to needlessly remove a child from an abuse-free/neglect-free home where other in-home services are available.

CHILDREN ARE NOT A SOURCE OF INCOME …. THIS WOMAN, when convicted (seems inevitable since she’s already confessed though, technically, she is still innocent til proven guilty in the court of law) (supposedly) SHE DESERVES  DEATH…(and in my opinion,a slow painful death)

It should be recorded and televised for foster parents to-be to watch in training class. Then maybe the “monsters to-be” who are getting into foster parenting to “earn an income” like this monster did.. will reconsider fostering and go get a JOB away from our children if they saw something REAL AND JUST being done about those who abuse and kill foster children!

God be with this baby girls’ family in this time of grief.

I hope this tragic loss changes something in the system, for change is so drastically needed.

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May this little girls death not be in vain.

ROCKDALE POLICE: FOSTER MOTHER ADMITS SHE SLAMMED TWO YEAR OLD FOSTER CHILD ON HER HEAD

by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist ERIN COKER Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

ROCKDALE, Texas — Tucked away behind the trees in Rockdale, Texas is a normally quiet neighborhood, but the peace has been shattered.

“It shocked me. It really did,” said Lois Rash, who lives in Rockdale.

“It’s a shame. Never should have happened,” added neighbor Larry McAdams.

Their neighbor, 54-year-old Sherill Small is now charged with the murder of her foster daughter Alexandria Hill, better known as Alex.

Monday night, police, fire and EMS crews were called out to the Small home. Small, who was the only person home at the time, called and said the two-year-old wasn’t breathing.

Alex was taken to the hospital, then airlifted to the children’s hospital in Temple. Alex’s biological parents rushed to her side.

“When I got there, it was about 1:00 in the morning and I found out that Alex was in a coma,” said her father Joshua Hill.

Wednesday night Hill and Alex’s mother decided to take her off life support.

“There’s not words to describe trying to make that decision,” said Hill.

Back in Rockdale, police say Small’s story about what happened kept changing.

“Originally, Mrs. Small reported that the child was running backwards and had fallen and this is how she had received the injuries. Later, it changed to kind of we were playing ring-around-the-rosy and I was swinging her and she fell,” said Rockdale Police Chief Thomas Harris. “And at some point somebody had gotten information that she was supposed to have been riding a bicycle and fallen off.”

Chief Harris said things just didn’t add up.

“I mean a two year old child doesn’t run backwards and fall hard enough to get this type of an injury,” explained Harris.

Doctors say Alex had hemorrhaging in her brain and eyes. An autopsy shows she had blunt force trauma to the head.

Harris says Thursday morning, Small finally told them the truth.

“She had evidently been frustrated with the child all day long. She had… the child… had evidently gotten up before the Small’s did and she had went and got into some food and some water,” said Harris. “That is what Mrs. Small was initially upset with her about…. had made her stand in a dark room, according to our reports, for at least three-to-four hours, wouldn’t let her sit or anything.”

Then around 7:00 that night, the young child, so full of life, was knocked unconscious.

“She actually admitted that she had slung the child down on the floor,” said Harris.

Small told investigators she raised the toddler over her head and slung her down toward the floor twice.

“On the third time down she said she lost her grip and dropped the child. Slammed the child down on the floor,” explained Harris.

Harris says Small’s husband, who wasn’t home when the incident happened, became emotional and even cried when talking to police. But not Small.

“I did not see a whole lot of remorse. I think it’s more like a lot of times these people’s, they’re sorry that they’re in trouble. This is the sense that I get. It’s still about them, it’s not really remorse about the child. I never got that feeling,” added Harris.

The Small’s had another foster child who is eight-months-old. That child has been removed.

Police say neither Small or her husband had jobs, but were instead planning to foster between five and six children as a source of income.

Small is in the Milam County Jail. Her bond has been set at $100,000.

accountability, Collin County, Texas, corruption, government, judicial system, legal, news, system failure
District Clerk’s Case Set for Trial
Source: Collin County Observer

The pretrial hearing in the Collin County District Clerk’s case held on November 8, 2011 revolved around motions filed by former District Clerk Hannah Kunkle’s attorney John Charles Hardin. Watching Mr. Hardin in action, it appears he is nothing if not flamboyant, perhaps a cross between Richard “Racehorse” Haynes and Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

The hearing was held in the suffocatingly small Auxiliary Courtroom #3 and with so many grandmothers in attendance; it looked more like a gathering of the Collin County Garden Club.

All of Mr. Hardin’s minor motions were granted, but only after objections made by attorney pro tem John Helms resulted in the rewriting of many of them. However, a motion for continuance was denied, as was Hardin’s request to have former District Clerk Hannah Kunkle’s trial severed from her co-defendants.

A major dispute erupted between Mr. Hardin and Mr. Helms concerning when discovery would be made available to Mr. Hardin for use in preparing Hannah Kunkle’s defense. The dispute became so heated that Judge Nelms had to quiet the two. Mr. Hardin demanded a specific time and place for all discovery and a list of the state’s expert witnesses to be provided to him. It was finally decided the exchange would take place November the 15th at 10 AM at the courthouse. Judge Nelms left it for Hardin and Helms to decide exactly where in the courthouse the exchange would take place.

Next up was Sherry Bell’s attorney Mr. Yoon Kim. Based on the decisions made on Kunkle’s motions, many of Mr. Kim’s motions were withdrawn or were granted without objection by Mr. Helms. Helms objected to Kim’s motion requiring disclosure of all information concerning the informers who brought the allegations against the four district clerks. Judge Nelms granted this motion.

Derek King Walpole representing Rebecca Littrell asked to adopt all orders to Littrell’s case. Judge Nelms granted this motion.

Judge Nelms next considered motions filed by District Clerk Patricia Crigger’s attorney Robert Hinton. Judge Nelms stated, “I ruled on all of Kunkle’s motions and therefore I have ruled on yours,” to which Mr. Hinton said, “yes sir.”

Next Judge Nelms busied himself with judicial housekeeping. In discussing voir dire Judge Nelms stated there would be 56 peremptory challenges. 28 for the state and 7 for each of the defendants. Mr. Walpole suggested they might need to call 250 members of the jury pool. Judge Nelms felt 150 would be sufficient and expressed concern that the selection of a jury should take no more than one day because of voir dire cost the county $6000 a day.

The affable Judge Nelms closed the hearing stating, “Thanks for being here, I’ll see you on the 28th.”

John

Comments, Pingbacks:

Comment from: COLLIN COUNTY ATTORNEY [Visitor] Email
Was John Hardin wearing his deer skin vest? He has always tried to channel Gerry Spence. The attorneys are so used to it, we don’t even notice anymore!
PermalinkPermalink 11/10/11 @ 16:04

The District Clerks trial: Day 1

November 28th, 2011

The Case
In September, 2009 Hannah Kunkle, the long-time District Clerk announced she would retire and endorsed Patricia Crigger running for the job.

Patricia won the race after a run-off, but a few months later, the Texas Rangers raided the District Clerks office at the Collin County Court House.

The Texas Rangers seized computer hard drives, removable storage drives, calendars, binders, and 2 employee Access Cards. Ranger Davidson interviewed and took testimony from 5 District Clerk employees who charged that they were either pressured into working for the Crigger campaign or told they would be rewarded with “Blue Book” time for any PTO (paid personal time off) taken to campaign.

“Blue Book” time was paid time off that was not authorized by county policies, but instead kept by the supervisors on Excel spreadsheets, and later in binders. One informer told Davidson that the “Blue Books” began in the early 1990’s after Hannah Kunkle was elected as District Clerk. When “Blue Book” time was taken by an employee, their supervisor would falsify county records to show that the employee was at work. Employees were reminded to leave their “Access Cards” with their supervisors when taking “Blue Book” time off, so that the supervisor could clock them in as ‘present’.

Davidson charges that at least 29 employees (out of 63 in the District Clerk’s Office) received “Blue Book” time off during the Crigger Campaign. In the 24 page Affidavit, Davidson lists several examples of employees being reported as present, but not having logged into their computers and of having ‘out-of-office’ messages on their phones. The DA’s documents show over 220 work days in free day, with county money, were given to employees for working on the Crigger campaign.

After she was indicted, she was sworn in as the new elected District Clerk.

The cast:

Judge:

  • Judge John Nelms, a retired judge from Dallas County

For the State:

  • John Helms,Jr., prosecutor pro tem an attorney in Dallas
  • Rebecca Gregory, 2nd prosecutor pro tem the former US Attorney of the Northern District of Texas

Hannah Kunkle, the former elected District Clerk. John Hardin is her attorney.For the Defense:

  • Patricia Crigger, the current elected District Clerk.Robert Hinton is her attorney.
  • Rebecca Littrell, the Chief Deputy District Clerk. Derek King Walpole is her attorney.
  • Sherry Bell, a Deputy District Clerk. Yoon Kim is her attorney.

The Charges

  • Kunkle, Crigger, and Littrell are charged with Abuse of Official Capacity, for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The charge is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary from 2 years to 10 years plus a $10,000 fine.
  • Kunkle, Crigger, Littrell and Bell are charged with Conspiracy of Abuse of Official Capacity, for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The charge is a ‘state jail felony’, punishable by imprisonment in a State Jail from 6 months to 2 years plus a $10,000 fine.

The Trial – Day One:

Most of today’s morning was spent corralling the 200 prospective jurors, organizing the court room and then listening to a couple of motion arguments.

I was surprised when I saw the defendants. At first I didn’t recognize Hannah Kunkle. She looks some how smaller and older. Her hair was simple and completely grey. Kunkle was wearing a dress looking an older, conservative, dignified lady. The other three ladies’ appearance looked in total contrast to Ms. Kunkle. Normally a defendant wants to give a jury’s a good their first impression.

Patricia Crigger appeared to be very worn and distracted. She looked disheveled looking like she came in from a storm. Rebecca Littrell came to court in a dressy, casual pants suit. The most shocking was Sherry Bell. She appeared in court in slacks and a home decorated applique sweatshirt. She looked like a bag lady coming to court looking for a free lawyer.

The judge and bailiff spent the large part of organizing moving the trial from a court room to the Central Grand Jury Room. That room was the only one capable of seating over 200 people.

After the court settled down, John Hardin made two motions to continue the case, and to sever Kunkle’s charges from the trial. The judge had ruled the same questions before, and again the judge denied the motions.

After lunch, voir dire began. The judge warned the panel that these trials may go on to December 15. Nelms promised them that the trial will not go into Christmas.

I do need to thank Judge Nelms and the prosecutor. He asked the panel did anyone know Bill Baumbach…. and then Helm’s later asked them twice if anyone reads the Collin County Observer. While no one said they knew me or read the CCO, I think the court I owe the court for the free advertising of the Collin County Observer. The jury panel was a captive audience and he had their complete attention. That kind of advertising is priceless.

The voir dire will continue late tomorrow.

The District Clerks trial: Day 2

November 30th, 2011

The second day of the trial was entirely spent in choosing a jury

Judge John Nelms

Voir dire took all morning.

After lunch, the judge told the 200 folks on the jury panel, that if they want to ask for an excuse for serving on the jury, he and the counsel would meet with each of them individually, and the judge and attorneys would vote if they could be excused.

59 people lined up to talk to the judge.

That took most all afternoon – from my perspective the procedure had as much drama as watching paint dry.

After the excuses, there were 147 members left in the panel. Each defendant had 7 strikes against a potential juror, and the State had 28 strikes. The whole process was finished a little after 6 PM.

The judge sworn in 10 men and 2 women as the jury. (I wonder if a male jury is less forgiving to female defendants, then a jury made up of mostly female jurors. I don’t know.)

The trial will begin again at 9:30 AM at the Ceremonial Courtroom. First up will be the State’s opening arguments.

 

The District Clerk’s Trial – Day 3

December 1st, 2011

The District Clerk’s Trial – Day 3
By: Lex In Limine (LIL)
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

After some preliminary matters, the parties presented their Opening Arguments.

John M. Helms, Jr.

The Prosecution, lead by John Helms, Jr. , prosecutor pro tem, began. With a clear voice and methodical manner, he told the jury of four women and six men that this was a case that involved the abuse of taxpayer dollars and the interference with free and fair elections. Of the 63 employees at the District Clerk’s office, all but one are female. He referred to the office as a “Good Ole’ Girl Network.”

The Defendants, Hannah Kunkle, Patricia Crigger, Rebecca Litrell, and Sherry Bell were the four highest “ranking” employees of the office at the time of the alleged offense. The Clerk’s office set up a rewards and benefits system for the employees and this system was kept “secret” from the Collin County Commissioners’ Court. Helms was quick to emphasize that the Defendants were not being prosecuted for the “secret” reward and benefit system.Helms stated that the crime alleged to be committed by the Defendants is the misuse of labor to promote the campaign of Patricia Crigger. The reward system was “off book” paid leave time that was referred to as “Blue Book” time. Again, Helms repeated that there is no crime in having the secret Blue Book time, but, instead, the use of said time for campaign work is what offends.

Helms produced a poster with snap shots of the Defendants and explained their respective job titles. He described the defendants as “joined at the hip” and a close knit group. The proximity of their respective work spaces added to their camaraderie. Helms said the evidence will show that the absences of the workforce when using “Blue Book” time adversely affected the efficiency of the office.

Helms then described the “anxiousness” felt by the many employees when they learned of Kunkle’s retirement. Kunkle had been in office for many years and they were concerned they would lose their jobs with a new regime. A lunch meeting was held at Fudruckers in January 2010 – two meetings to permit proper coverage of the office. The meetings, allegedly headed by the Defendants, are where Litrell stated that those who worked for Crigger’s campaign would be rewarded with Blue Book time.

Helms stated that in April after the runoff election between Alma Hayes and Patricia Crigger (Crigger won the election handily), the Press (which is The Collin County Observer) made a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for the time records of the District Clerk Employees during the period of the campaign. Records were provided – but none of the Blue Book time was supplied.

The Human Resources Department noticed irregularities in time keeping. This was attributed to supervisors overriding the computer records and entering time arrival and departures in whole/exact numbers. If an employee swiped their card in the reader, the time would probably not be at the exact hour, for example.

The HR department audited the time records. The supervisors then collected the access cards of the employees and “swiped” various employees in or out of work to make it appear they were in the office, when they were, in fact, exercising paid leave pursuant to the Blue Book.

In June 2010, the Texas Rangers raided the District Clerk’s office and confiscated records and computer hard drives. Helms stated that despite the FOIA press request, the HR audit, and a raid by the Texas Rangers, the Defendants never conducted any type or form of internal investigation.

Helms concluded by stating that the Defendants had a “feeling of entitlement” and “undermined the integrity of an election.” Crigger had second thoughts about using the Blue Book time but did nothing to stop it and she benefitted from it.

Patricia Crigger

Defendant Patricia Crigger’s attorney, Robert Hintondelivered the second Opening Argument. Hinton specializes in representing legal professionals and elected officials. An experienced litigator with a folksy and easy manner, Hinton addressed the jury and agreed with much of the characterization of the prosecution. He agreed that the Defendants were “Good Ole’ Girls” – they are just good people. He described Kunkle’s office as the best District Clerk’s Office in the State. (Many an attorney, LIL included, can attest to this – regardless of the guilt or innocence of the Defendants, there is no clerk’s office that matches this one.)

He describes his client, Patricia Crigger, as a “God fearing woman” who worked at the office for 24 years in a career that she began as a secretary. The Blue Book system has been in existence since the “beginning of time” and is necessary because the county cannot offer cash or monetary rewards or incentives because of budgetary constraints.

Over the years, time clocks gave way to computers and swipe cards. Blue Book time was kept manually at first then it was kept on the computer. When the HR department asked the Clerk’s to discontinue manually overriding the time records, they adopted the system of swiping the ID cards of the employees. Every time the HR department asked the clerks to change the way they kept time, they complied. What occurred is not illegal. As an elected official, Hannah Kunkle could do what she wanted with her budget.

The employees at the Clerk’s office feared for their jobs because a Crigger opponent allegedly promised to ‘clean house” if elected. The employees had a garage sale to pay for Crigger’s filing fee (to seek election). Hinton stated that Crigger was the most qualified person in Collin County for the job.

The Fudruckers luncheons did occur and Kunkle promised Blue Book time to those who worked on Crigger’s campaign. But this, according to Hinton, was against the will of Crigger. After the election, Crigger told the supervisors to alert the employees to use their Blue Book time because this practice of Blue Book time would be discontinued in January 2011 when Crigger took office.

Hinton then describes what he learned about one of the Prosecution’s witnesses, Kristy Duty. Duty was a relatively high ranking employee at the Clerk’s office who was assigned to the 296th District Court, presided by Judge John Roach, Jr.. Allegedly, Roach, who was seeking re election at the time, asked that the clerks of his court display his signs, alongside those of Crigger at campaign sites. Crigger did not permit the display of Roach’s campaign signs by the clerks and this “infuriated Roach.” Then Duty made her complaint to Roach.

Hinton concluded by stating “mistakes were made,” and Crigger never agreed to this practice.

Rebecca Lettrell

Defendant Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, gave the third opening argument. (Yes attorneys and non attorneys alike – this is a LOOONG trial and there are many players – usually there are only two sides to a dispute).

Walpole is an experienced criminal attorney who recently defended Warren Jeffs at the YFZ child sexual assault trial, and is a self described victim of the former district attorney. He is an aggressive litigator and wastes no time with pretences. He began by stating that the prosecution of this case is “politically motivated.” He described what occurred as akin to someone waiting in the bushes, watching a fire start, and refusing to call for help until the house burned down. He said that the law is not a sword, it is a shield.

Walpole stated that Duty complained to Judge Roach and surmised the following scenario: “I’m going to Dad, Dad goes to the Texas Rangers, and you are getting arrested.” (Note – the past District Attorney, John Roach, Sr. is Judge John Roach, Jr.’s father)

Littrell has worked for the District Clerk’s office for 24 years and this is all she knows. He told the jurors that the original indictments against these Defendants were for keeping the Blue Book Hours – and nothing more. At this point the Prosecution objected to this but he was quickly overruled by the judge. Walpole continued, that since the District Attorney’s office, then lead by DA John Roach, Sr., had their own “Blue Book” system, the indictment was dropped and Littrell was re indicted with other charges.

He describes Duty as a disgruntled employee who is a cousin by marriage to Littrell. Duty and Littrell did not “get along.” The impetus for this investigation and subsequent trial is Kristy Duty’s chagrin over having to use paid leave for a snow day. Allegedly, Duty had previously arranged to have paid leave on that day. As it turns out, it snowed that day and all the employees were able to take leave pursuant to a snow day. Duty did not want to use her paid leave for that day and requested that HR change her timesheet to reflect this change. HR refused and Duty complained to Littrell. Littrell told her that she can use her accrued Blue Book Time instead. For whatever reason, this offended Duty. So, she then complained to Judge Roach.

Walpole stated that the Defendants are not in a position of power and have no influence over anybody. He stated that the legal standard for conviction in this case requires that the Littrell “intentionally or knowingly” misused government property. And she did not know. And she did nothing wrong. He said that the clerks used Blue Book time to work on the campaigns of County Commissioner Joe Jaynes and County Clerk, Stacy Kemp.

Walpole concluded stating “don’t throw their careers in the trash because someone didn’t hold up a freakin’ sign.”

Sherry Bell

Defemdant, Sherry Bell, represented by Yoon Kimdelivered the 4th Opening Argument. Yoon, a young attorney and former prosecutor, spoke briefly about his clinet. He describes her as a 64 year old with a high school education who worked for the clerk’s office for 22 years. She was advised that she could help the campaign and she did not realize that she was doing anything wrong. There was no intent for a conspiracy.

THE JURY WAS EXCUSED AT THE REQUEST OF JOHN HARDIN

John Hardin then made a motion to sever Hannah Kunkle’s trial from the other Defendants. This motion was denied. Helms, for the Prosecution, requested that any testimony regarding the prior indictments and attempts to indict the Defendants be excluded. This was denied by the court also. Helms protested that he did not want it to appear that he was a party to the prior indictments. Hardin then stated, and this is not an exact quote, “when you step into someone’s shoes, you step into the mud too.”

AND THE JURY IS BACK

Hardin addressed each individual juror by name and reminded them that this is the second week of Advent. He described former Constable and husband, Jerry Kunkle’s various illnesses and hospitalizations, including a debilitating heart attack in Colorado, and stated that Kunkle retired to attend to the needs of her husband and family.Defendant, Hannah Kunkle, represented by John Hardindelivered the 5th and FINAL Opening Argument. Hardin is a prominent, long time, and well known Collin County attorney. He has a folksy and casual manner with the jurors. His style is a conversational one which causes him to segue to various points of information – and the summary here reflects that style.

Hardin relates that After Kunkle announced her retirement, Kristy Duty and another Clerk’s office employee organized a garage sale to raise money to pay for Crigger’s filing fee. This prosecution “star witness” seemed to want Crigger to win and engaged in the same activities of which the Defendants are accused. Kristy created a flyer for the occasion. Hannah saw the flyer and promptly advised Kristy that “no one is to campaign in the office.”

He stated he did not know what happened at the Fudrucker’s meeting. He said that Judge Roach, an honorable man, was subpoenaed, and will testify at the trial. He mentioned to the jury that there is an article in the March edition of the Dallas Observer that describes the Collin County “Kangaroo Court.” He suggested the jury review the article and then he told them not to do their own research. (Not sure why the prosecution did not object to this one – LIL)

Hardin then segued to the actual election. He said that a Laura Roberge was campaigning at the Election office displaying signs for Crigger and Judge Roach. Sherry Bell called Roberge and told her to stop displaying Roach’s sign. Roberge called Roach and Roach allegedly went to the Election office.

Hardin then describes the raid by the Texas Rangers. The office was shut down during business hours. The Rangers confiscated records, computers, and even hand searched the purses of the employees. This raid was an absolute shock to all in the District Clerk’s office.

Hardin relates that the Defendants, with the exception of Kunkle, were indicted two times before and the indictments were dropped. Greg Davis, then the First Assistant to DA Roach, made a Brady Filing requesting recusal from the case because the DA’s office uses a system called “High Five” to permit exemplary employees to take leave from the office while time records falsely indicated they were actually working. This lead to the appointment of a prosecutor pro tem – John Helms, Jr.. Hardin relates that Helms and his team interviewed various employees. Pursuant to these interviews, Littrell asked Kunkle to write a letter vouching for her and the other defendants. Kunkle did so, and among the various documents that were presented to the subsequent Grand Jury, Kunkle’s letter was among them. This, asserts Hardin, is the reason that Kunkle was indicted in May 2011.

Hardin then describes his repeated requests for a continuance and his difficulty in obtaining discovery from the Prosecution. He stated that Kunkle, upon her announcement to retire, spent many days at the end of her term caring for her husband and was not involved in the minutiae of the office . He conclude by stating that Kunkle specifically forbid any campaigning in the office.

Lex In Limine
Attorney at Law

 

Cousins, Babysitters, and Snow Days – More from Day Three of the District Clerk Trial

December 1st, 2011

By: Magna Carta
Attorney at Law

On Day Three of the District Clerk trial, John Helms Jr. for the Prosecution called Ms. Kristy Duty who worked for the District Clerk’s office and remains a county employee in another division.

Kristy Littrell Duty

Duty described the Blue Book system as being a system for recording extra hours that employees worked, redeemable as PTO (Paid Time Off). Initially, when a person redeemed PTO time from the Blue Book, their supervisor would manually enter aPeopleSoft record showing that employee had actually been at work. (PeopleSoft is the software system they use in the HR department and payroll department.) Eventually, HR came to audit the DC office because of the excessive number of manual PeopleSoft entries. (Normally, entries are automatically created when a person scans his or her badge.) Once the HR audit was completed, employees and supervisors adopted the practice of employees leaving their badges with their supervisor when redeeming Blue Book time so the supervisor could “swipe” the employee in and out. This created the PeopleSoft record needed to get the employee paid without requiring a manual entry. Duty described the Blue Book system as being secret in the sense that it was not to be disclosed outside of the District Clerk’s office.

Deric Walpole

Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, cross examined Duty. During Walpole’s cross, Duty admitted that the DC employees described the Blue Book system to her during her initial job interview with the DC’s office, his point being that if it was so secret, why were they telling a mere prospective employee? Her response was that because her cousin (Littrell) was involved in the hiring process and everyone knew she was going to get the job. [Implicating the “Good Ole’ Boy (Girl?)” network arrogance that is so endemic in Collin County.]

Duty admitted that she had been the beneficiary of the Blue Book system. When she was pregnant and on bed rest, she had to work one weekend to show Crigger and others how to change some accounting codes in the AS/400 system. She received 40 Blue Book hours for the weekend, which she redeemed. Defense attorneys pointed this out more than once. And each time she distinguished her use of the Blue Book as being related to work she did for the county vs. working on someone’s election campaign.Initially, Duty testified that her only involvement in the Crigger campaign was that she and Melissa Smith held a garage sale to help raise funds to pay Crigger’s filing fee. Later, under cross examination by Walpole, she remembered that she held a Saturday evening meet and greet, close to the Valentine’s Day.

Duty described a meeting at Fuddruckers and recounted that Littrell encouraged the staff to campaign for Crigger and they would “get their time back.”

Hannah Kunkle’s attorney, John Harden, cross examined Duty. She admitted that Kunkle never said anything about anyone getting reimbursed for campaign time. Littrell sent a reminder email (using the county computers) regarding the Fuddrucker lunch. Walpole pointed out during his cross that if the Blue Book system was so secret, why did they talk about it openly and freely during lunch hour at a popular restaurant?

Duty testified that when Human Resources notified the District Clerk’s office that they would be conducting an audit, Littrell sent an email to the supervisors instructing them to delete their Blue Book spreadsheets prior to the audit. According to the Blue Book calendar, some employees would take several days off in a row to work on Crigger’s campaign. Sometimes so many people would be out of the office working on the campaign that there were not enough people for the office to function properly. Duty alleged that phones were not being answered, people couldn’t take lunch breaks, parties couldn’t get their file marked copies, etc. [I never understood what this meant, having lots of experience in getting things file marked. There has never been a delay, in my experience – MC]

On cross, Walpole asked her WHO complained about the service. She said “lots of people.” He said “name one.” She named two people and punctuated it with a sarcastic “how’s that?” Walpole asked Duty to name a single customer who complained. Duty finally admitted she never actually heard any customer complaints–just heard people complaining about people complaining.

NON SEQUITUR: Duty never held a campaign sign for Judge Roach.

Duty testified that in February 2010, it snowed. Employees were told that they could take half a day off and record it inPeopleSoft as 4 hours of “Office Closed” time. If they wanted to take off the entire day, they needed to record an additional 4 hours of PTO time. She took the entire day off, but somehow her time was recorded in PeopleSoft? as 8 hours of PTO time. Initially Duty testified that she complained about this to Littrell who told her to call Human Resources. She called the payroll department and was told that if Littrell or Kunkle would send an email, payroll would correct the time entry. Littrell, according to Duty’s testimony, told her that Kunkle and Crigger wanted all of her PTO would go on the Blue Book, rather than a PeopleSoft correction. This upset Duty. LATER, during Hardin’s cross, Duty admitted that Kunkle had never been involved in her timesheet and Kunkle’s name never appeared on any of the emails comprising this transaction.

The next day, still upset about her PTO time AND all the campaign time she saw being logged into the Blue Book, she complained to Judge Roach. About two weeks later, Roach told Duty and a Lara Roberge, who made a separate complaint, that he took the issue to his father, John Roach, Sr., the District Attorney at the time, who, in turn, referred the issue to the Texas Rangers. Judge Roach told them that they should know that as supervisors in the department, they could face jail time for being part of the system they were complaining about.

[Yes, this blew up over 4 hours of PTO time for a person probably making $15/hour. $60 would have kept all this under wraps.]

Duty testified that she was contacted by Texas Ranger A.P. Davidson. She described the Blue Book system to him and thereafter kept him informed of what was occurring in the DC office. She quit her job in the DC office in November 2010 because she did not want to work under the Crigger/Littrell regime.

Duty described the falling out she had with Littrell. Twelve years ago, she and Littrell “got into it.” They were very close (cousins by marriage) when she first moved to Collin County. Littrell and Husband Adam asked her to babysit their child. She agreed. Later, she decided to spend time with her sister so she backed out. Littrell was hurt by this. She thinks this is where the relationship started to sour between her and Littrell. [There is a pungent waft of “pettiness” (this being a polite word) on all sides throughout this story. Little hurts and annoyances leading to big bangs.]

Kunkle discovered a Crigger campaign flyer in the office and was very upset about campaigning on county time. Kunkle said “they shouldn’t do this.” Hardin made her tell this story several times. Hardin was genteel but insistent and forced Duty to admit she had no personal knowledge of Kunkle’s involvement in anything.

Magna Carta
Attorney at Law

Yes,, Attorneys are Expensive – Aaaand we’re back –

Day 4 of the District Clerks Trial

December 3rd, 2011

By Lex In Limine
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributer

Lorrie Robertson takes the stand. She is a supervisor at the District Clerk’s office. She was one of the Defendants who was originally arrested and indicted.

Through the direct examination of John Helms, Jr. for the prosecution, Robertson explained the various calendars and spreadsheets and how they were used to record Blue Book time. She testified that the Blue Book time was kept on the computer until Rebecca Littrell told her to remove it – sometime before the Runoff between Patricia Crigger and Alma Hayes in April 2010. She did so.

Robertson admitted that much of the Blue Book time was for leave not associated with the campaign. She testified that Littrell told her to encourage the staff that she supervised to work on the Crigger campaign. And she did, in fact encourage this.

At the time of the raid by the Texas Rangers, Robertson had another employees badge in her possession. That employee was not at the office but was exercising this Blue Book time. Robertson, as the supervisor of this employee had swiped the badge to make it appear that the employee was at work, when she was, in fact, not.
Yoon Kim, attorney for Sherry Bell, then cross examined Robertson. Robertson admitted that she was originally indicted. In July 2010, she entered into a plea agreement with then assistant District Attorney, (and instigator of most of these types of cases) Chris Milner.

NON SEQUITOR – Milner has a history of prosecuting defense attorneys for typos in their pleadings – alleging some type of government document tampering. Most of these cases have been dismissed and Milner has been mentioned in other publications regarding this over reaching and abusive tactic. He attempted to prosecute the current District Attorney, Greg Willis, for some crime – don’t know the exact charge – but basically Milner did not like how Wills ran his court (when he was a judge). The Grand Jury refused to indict Willis and took the unusual step of preparing a written statement explaining that Willis committed NO CRIME.

After Robertson entered into her plea of guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity, she kept her job and she wasn’t fined. (why don’t the other ladies get the same deal?) Later the indictments against the other defendants were dropped and re-indicted. She was afraid that her ex-husband would attempt to seek custody of her young children if she was prosecuted. So, she agreed to assist the prosecution.

She remained in the office during all of the alleged campaign activities. She reluctantly admitted that the business of the Disrict Clerk’s office never suffered during the campaign. She admitted that Kristy Duty, a prosecution witness and former employee of the Clerk’s office, was “in and out” of the office a lot because she was working with IT. She testified that not all Blue Book time was actually redeemed.

She was a former roommate with Crigger opponent, Alma Hayes, and this caused discomfort in the office. Robertson asserts that Hannah Kunkle excoriated her for supporting Hayes. Bur Crigger advised Robertson that it was not appropriate for Kunkle to do that and she could support whoever she wanted.

Deric Walpole, attorney for Sherry Littrell, cross examined Robertson. Robertson testified that if a judge or anyone else had advised the office what they were doing was illegal, Kunkle would have stopped it immediately.

NON SEQUITOR – Deric – you are a top notch attorney – so please take those sunglasses off your neck!

During the Robert Hinton, attorney for Patricia Crigger, cross examination, Robertson denied ever hearing Crigger proclaim that the Blue Book system would cease upon her taking office. But she found the Blue Book system to be a good program which contributed to the success of the office.

Robertson testified that the day she was arrested was the most embarrassing day of her life. She was humiliated. No one from the District Clerk’s office told her what to do. She hired attorney George Milner (no relation to Chris Milner)

John Hardin, attorney for Hannah Kunkle, cross examined the witness next. Hardin reminded Robertson that they had known each other since she was a child, she played with his dog, etc. etc. ( a lot of folksy introductions going on here – so BORING) Hardin promised the witness that no matter what happened, they would remain friends.

Robertson, through tears, testified that Kunkle was a very special and awesome lady. At the Fuddrucker’s meeting, she only remembers Littrell speaking and alleges that Littrell , when encouraging the staff to work on the Crigger campaign, said “we will figure out a way to get your time back.”

She met with prosecutor pro tem, John Helms, Jr.. Through attorneys, he asked to speak with Robertson. When asked, through Hardin, whether she took her attorney with her to this meeting, she said no “because he is very expensive.” This statement drew laughs from the gallery and the hoards of attorney in the courtroom. Judge Nelms asked the court reporter to make a transcription of that statement and laughed. (Attorneys are, indeed expensive – and they deserve every penny, I say!)

She met Helms for dinner and discussed car racing, oh and, also the District Clerk’s office.

I had to leave at this point and Bill will be covering the rest of the day. I will continue to cover the trial if you find that my posts are helpful to your understanding of this case.

Lex
Attorney at Law

District Clerks Corruption Trial – CLOSING ARGUMENTS

December 6th, 2011

By: Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

We have a verdict and a sentence – but I have been asked to bring everyone up to date on what transpired before the verdict. I have studied and analyzed the Closing Arguments – So Get Ready!!!

The State rested on Friday, December 2, 2011 around 2:30 p.m.. The court recessed until the following Monday at 9:00 A.M.. So, everyone shows up in court Monday morning – all ready to hear this rest of this loooooong trial. Guess what? The Defense rests. Judge Nelms was surprised by this and determined that the attorneys would work on the Jury Charge on Monday and they would resume Tuesday morning to read the charge to the jury and to hear closing arguments.

Tuesday – today – Judge Nelms read the charge to the jury. This is a very aggravating time for attorneys and litigants. This reading of a very long charge is required by the law. The jurors get a Charge to read in the jury room but every word is read to them – even the judge sounded bored.

Mentioned in the charge are the legal requirements necessary to find a “conspiracy.” There must be corroboration of testimony to find that a conspiracy occurred. Moreover, an accomplice, (such as the testifying District Clerk employees who used the Blue Book Time), cannot corroborate each other. There must be proof independent of the testimony of the accomplices.

The Charge contained many lesser included offenses. For example, even if the jury finds that government funds in an amount less than $20 was somehow misappropriated, some sort of lesser conviction can occur.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

John Helms, Jr., Prosecutor Pro Tem

Helms describes this case as an “abuse of official capacity.” He states, “this is why we are here . . .” Aaaand, we are waiting for what I think is a dramatic video or something. Nothing happens and an assistant or some attorney is fiddling with some switches on a machine. This temporarily throws off the Mojo of Helms (I hate it when stuff like this happens to me – stupid equipment – that is why I stick to posters – nonetheless, not your fault , Helms! – LL) Well the AV equipment isn’t exactly working and finally, an audio recording booms through the courtroom. It is a recording of telephone conversation between Defendant Rebecca Littrell and Lara Roberge, a District Clerk employee. Littrell tells Roberge that she has used over 100 hours [on Crigger’s campaign] of her Personal Time Off (PTO) and will get it back on Blue Book – and she will do the same for Roberge.

Helms states, with steady eloquence, that this case is about “influencing an election.” He begins to review the charge with the jury. He asks one of his assistants to display the charge on the trusty ELMO projector. (For those of you who don’t know, Collin County is blessed with a Battlestar Galactica set up of technology that is the envy of many counties.) Guess what, the ELMO isn’t turned on. Assistants are flipping switches, Helms tries to get it to work. The attorneys mention that the bailiff knows how to work the projector. The Bailiff is in the anteroom “bailifing.” Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell, volunteers that he knows how to use the equipment. Judge Nelms is relieved and Kim gets to work. (Kim is a young attorney so he knows what he is doing! LL). Kim gets on the judge’s computer then assists Helms with his computer and, voila, ELMO is working.

NON- SEQUITOR – Kim is quite a gentleman to assist the Prosecution with this. He is a better man than me. I would have stared at the ceiling.-LL

Helms reviewed the charge with the jurors. The element of intent is required for these crimes and Helms said intent could be found because the Blue Book time program was asecret. Helms stated that the law does not require that the object of the conspiracy was accomplished – only that there was an agreement among the Defendants.

He reviewed the chronology of events. In the Fall of 2009, Hannah Kunkle announced her retirement. Patricia Crigger, Alma Hays, and Terrye Evans announced they were running for the office. Hays had a head start on fundraising and campaigning. At a Christmas party, Kunkle told everyone they should support Crigger. Kunkle wrote a letter of endorsement for Crigger.

Concerned that Crigger did not have enough volunteers, the Fuddrucker’s luncheon was held. Helms described the Defendants as the “Brain Trust” of this operation who took seats at the foot of the table. Littrell did most of the talking but all of the Defendants “strategized.”

Helms described various emails sent by Kunkle to friends where she lamented the election and did not want to turn over her office to someone who “didn’t have a clue” on running the place. He described other emails by other Defendants that were introduced in the trial. He casually mentioned that there were “complaints” about how the office was run without mentioning specific testimony or evidence.

Twenty District Clerk employees were involved in this activity, and he named each one. (Why weren’t they indicted? – LL) They were audited by HR. After the FOIA request (by The Observer), Ms. Jacobsen from the HR office asked Crigger about the request and Crigger assured Jacobsen that “nothing was going on.”

Littrell instructed her supervisors to remove the BB time from the computer and keep records on “scraps of paper” – a retreat of technology. The Defendants swiped badges for other employees.

The Blue Book program does not stop until June 2, 2010, the day of the raid by the Texas Rangers. During the raid, Littrell called Linda James, an employee and witness, and said, “the Texas Rangers are here – if you are asked, you don’t know anything.”

After all of this, no one was fired. Instead, they were promoted!!

Helms describes some of the various lesser included offenses in the charge. The misuse of a sum greater than $1500 is a State Jail Felony. The misuse of a sum greater than $20,000 is a Third Degree Felony. Oh yeah, and the misuse of less than $1500 is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Helms then used the spreadsheet prepared by the Texas Ranger to demonstrate how the amount of misused funds were calculated. It was determined that for each hour of time misused by the employees, the cost, INCLUDING BENEFITS – NOT JUST STRAIGHT TIME – was approximately $25. (I do not believe the Prosecution could have reached the Third Degree Felony level without this particular formula – LL)

He stated that the Defendants misused used approximately $26,000 of time poll sitting, block walking, and campaigning for Crigger on County time by this calculation.

Helms said regardless of whether all of the Blue Book time was actually exercised, a crime is still committed. He countered defense arguments that much of the Blue Book time was accrued before the campaign activities by showing the various calendars and ledgers that recorded the time spent on the campaign and said that more time was accrued during the campaign than before.

The Texas Ranger testified that, at the time of the raid, Littrell gave him the Blue Book time schedule when asked. He said the Defendants thought they could get away with this and described their behavior as “brazen.” Sometimes, Helms said, “if you are in an [elected] position too long, you get a feeling of entitlement.”

(I apologize for not having a summary of Robert Hinton’s (attorney for Crigger) argument – we were unable to cover that one. – LL)

Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell

Kim focused on the element of intent required by the Charge. Specific mental intent, mens rea, is required for guilt and it is not possessed by Bell. She thought she was doing the right thing. All of the witnesses were co-conspirators and therefore, could not, by law, corroborate the charges of a conspiracy.

He described the testimony of Lorri Robertson. She was indicted and signed a confession admitting guilt. Then the indictment was dismissed. Moreover, Robertson was never indicted of the same crime as the Defendants. He described Ranger Davidson’s Excel spreadsheet as not being trustworthy and much of the Blue Book time was accrued and used before the campaign.

He said, “you cannot trust the evidence to put these women in prison for their lives.”

Deric Walpole, Attorney for Rebecca Littrell

Walpole, sans the sunglasses (thank you – LL), finds the law to be on the side of the Defendants. He describes the Defendants as good people. He described his role as a defense attorney as a difficult one. Many of his clients are not good people and he has to “set fires” (literal not figurative) to divert attention from their misdeeds. But in this case, these Defendants are genuinely good people and he does not need to create any diversions for them.

He reiterated that all of these activities could have been stopped by a telephone call. And sometimes good people make mistakes. All of the PTO was done on the Defendants’ own time. The cost of this trial exceeds the alleged $26,000 in misused funds.

Walpole describes the prosecution as politically motivated and questioned why the prosecution waited until the election had ended to pursue their investigation. Because of the political situation, innuendo was used as evidence and innuendo is not evidence.

He said that Lorri Robertson confessed to nothing that the Defendants were prosecuted for.

John Hardin, Attorney for retired District Clerk, Hannah Kunkle

Kunkle was not indicted until recently – others were indicted many months before. He stated that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial.

Hardin related that John Roach, Sr., former Collin County District Attorney, never indicted Kunkle and Roach was a fierce prosecutor. And the fact that Roach did not prosecute Kunkle and Helms did, demonstrates the overzealousness of Helms, the prosecutor pro tem. Then, according to an observer in the court room, Hardin raised his hands above his head and started doing a “dance” toward Helms. While “dancing,” Hardin complained of the overzealous prosecution. He stopped and said “I’m so sorry, I just get upset.” No one objected to this (and I am not judging, in fact, I am impressed – Hardin’s client was acquitted, after all!)

He stated the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He told the jurors that regardless of their verdict, he would like to get to know them and talk to them. Hardin concluded by stating, “when you leave the courthouse, on this cold day, during Christmas, you should feel good about what you did.”

John Helms, Jr., Prosecution – Rebuttal

Aaaaaaaand finally – we see the finish line. Helms stated that intent is not needed for a conviction. (huh?? – LL) He said a phone call would not have stopped the use of Blue Book time – the Defendants were fully engaged in these actions and were committed to it. There was never an internal investigation by the District Clerk’s office. The only investigation that was conducted was to find out who the whistle blowers are. Crigger’s reaction to the raid was to promote Bell and Littrell. He ended by stating that this is a third degree felony and the Defendants know it.

Hannah Kunkle was found NOT GUILTY
Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, and Rebecca Littrell were found GUILTY of all charges against them and accepted two years of probation each.

Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law

Posted in Guest Opinions

WE HAVE A VERDICT IN THE DISTRICT CLERKS CORRUPTION CASE

December 6th, 2011

*BREAKING NEWS*

Bill was in the courtroom when the jury annnounced their verdict.

Patricia Crigger – GUILTY on all charges
Rebecca Littrell – GUILTY on all charges
Sherry Bell – GUILTY on her one charge
Hannah Kunkle – NOT GUILTY – Kunkle is acquitted.

Judge Nelms immediately asked Crigger to stand. He said, “you are removed from your office effective immediately. Do you understand?” Crigger replied, “Yes sir.”

Bill and I will have updates later this evening regarding evidence and testimony from Day 4 and the Closing Arguments.

Sentencing tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.

LEX LAWYER (In Limine)
Attorney at Law

District Clerks Corruption Trial – CLOSING ARGUMENTS

December 6th, 2011

By: Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

We have a verdict and a sentence – but I have been asked to bring everyone up to date on what transpired before the verdict. I have studied and analyzed the Closing Arguments – So Get Ready!!!

The State rested on Friday, December 2, 2011 around 2:30 p.m.. The court recessed until the following Monday at 9:00 A.M.. So, everyone shows up in court Monday morning – all ready to hear this rest of this loooooong trial. Guess what? The Defense rests. Judge Nelms was surprised by this and determined that the attorneys would work on the Jury Charge on Monday and they would resume Tuesday morning to read the charge to the jury and to hear closing arguments.

Tuesday – today – Judge Nelms read the charge to the jury. This is a very aggravating time for attorneys and litigants. This reading of a very long charge is required by the law. The jurors get a Charge to read in the jury room but every word is read to them – even the judge sounded bored.

Mentioned in the charge are the legal requirements necessary to find a “conspiracy.” There must be corroboration of testimony to find that a conspiracy occurred. Moreover, an accomplice, (such as the testifying District Clerk employees who used the Blue Book Time), cannot corroborate each other. There must be proof independent of the testimony of the accomplices.

The Charge contained many lesser included offenses. For example, even if the jury finds that government funds in an amount less than $20 was somehow misappropriated, some sort of lesser conviction can occur.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

John Helms, Jr., Prosecutor Pro Tem

Helms describes this case as an “abuse of official capacity.” He states, “this is why we are here . . .” Aaaand, we are waiting for what I think is a dramatic video or something. Nothing happens and an assistant or some attorney is fiddling with some switches on a machine. This temporarily throws off the Mojo of Helms (I hate it when stuff like this happens to me – stupid equipment – that is why I stick to posters – nonetheless, not your fault , Helms! – LL) Well the AV equipment isn’t exactly working and finally, an audio recording booms through the courtroom. It is a recording of telephone conversation between Defendant Rebecca Littrell and Lara Roberge, a District Clerk employee. Littrell tells Roberge that she has used over 100 hours [on Crigger’s campaign] of her Personal Time Off (PTO) and will get it back on Blue Book – and she will do the same for Roberge.

Helms states, with steady eloquence, that this case is about “influencing an election.” He begins to review the charge with the jury. He asks one of his assistants to display the charge on the trusty ELMO projector. (For those of you who don’t know, Collin County is blessed with a Battlestar Galactica set up of technology that is the envy of many counties.) Guess what, the ELMO isn’t turned on. Assistants are flipping switches, Helms tries to get it to work. The attorneys mention that the bailiff knows how to work the projector. The Bailiff is in the anteroom “bailifing.” Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell, volunteers that he knows how to use the equipment. Judge Nelms is relieved and Kim gets to work. (Kim is a young attorney so he knows what he is doing! LL). Kim gets on the judge’s computer then assists Helms with his computer and, voila, ELMO is working.

NON- SEQUITOR – Kim is quite a gentleman to assist the Prosecution with this. He is a better man than me. I would have stared at the ceiling.-LL

Helms reviewed the charge with the jurors. The element of intent is required for these crimes and Helms said intent could be found because the Blue Book time program was asecret. Helms stated that the law does not require that the object of the conspiracy was accomplished – only that there was an agreement among the Defendants.

He reviewed the chronology of events. In the Fall of 2009, Hannah Kunkle announced her retirement. Patricia Crigger, Alma Hays, and Terrye Evans announced they were running for the office. Hays had a head start on fundraising and campaigning. At a Christmas party, Kunkle told everyone they should support Crigger. Kunkle wrote a letter of endorsement for Crigger.

Concerned that Crigger did not have enough volunteers, the Fuddrucker’s luncheon was held. Helms described the Defendants as the “Brain Trust” of this operation who took seats at the foot of the table. Littrell did most of the talking but all of the Defendants “strategized.”

Helms described various emails sent by Kunkle to friends where she lamented the election and did not want to turn over her office to someone who “didn’t have a clue” on running the place. He described other emails by other Defendants that were introduced in the trial. He casually mentioned that there were “complaints” about how the office was run without mentioning specific testimony or evidence.

Twenty District Clerk employees were involved in this activity, and he named each one. (Why weren’t they indicted? – LL) They were audited by HR. After the FOIA request (by The Observer), Ms. Jacobsen from the HR office asked Crigger about the request and Crigger assured Jacobsen that “nothing was going on.”

Littrell instructed her supervisors to remove the BB time from the computer and keep records on “scraps of paper” – a retreat of technology. The Defendants swiped badges for other employees.

The Blue Book program does not stop until June 2, 2010, the day of the raid by the Texas Rangers. During the raid, Littrell called Linda James, an employee and witness, and said, “the Texas Rangers are here – if you are asked, you don’t know anything.”

After all of this, no one was fired. Instead, they were promoted!!

Helms describes some of the various lesser included offenses in the charge. The misuse of a sum greater than $1500 is a State Jail Felony. The misuse of a sum greater than $20,000 is a Third Degree Felony. Oh yeah, and the misuse of less than $1500 is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Helms then used the spreadsheet prepared by the Texas Ranger to demonstrate how the amount of misused funds were calculated. It was determined that for each hour of time misused by the employees, the cost, INCLUDING BENEFITS – NOT JUST STRAIGHT TIME – was approximately $25. (I do not believe the Prosecution could have reached the Third Degree Felony level without this particular formula – LL)

He stated that the Defendants misused used approximately $26,000 of time poll sitting, block walking, and campaigning for Crigger on County time by this calculation.

Helms said regardless of whether all of the Blue Book time was actually exercised, a crime is still committed. He countered defense arguments that much of the Blue Book time was accrued before the campaign activities by showing the various calendars and ledgers that recorded the time spent on the campaign and said that more time was accrued during the campaign than before.

The Texas Ranger testified that, at the time of the raid, Littrell gave him the Blue Book time schedule when asked. He said the Defendants thought they could get away with this and described their behavior as “brazen.” Sometimes, Helms said, “if you are in an [elected] position too long, you get a feeling of entitlement.”

(I apologize for not having a summary of Robert Hinton’s (attorney for Crigger) argument – we were unable to cover that one. – LL)

Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell

Kim focused on the element of intent required by the Charge. Specific mental intent, mens rea, is required for guilt and it is not possessed by Bell. She thought she was doing the right thing. All of the witnesses were co-conspirators and therefore, could not, by law, corroborate the charges of a conspiracy.

He described the testimony of Lorri Robertson. She was indicted and signed a confession admitting guilt. Then the indictment was dismissed. Moreover, Robertson was never indicted of the same crime as the Defendants. He described Ranger Davidson’s Excel spreadsheet as not being trustworthy and much of the Blue Book time was accrued and used before the campaign.

He said, “you cannot trust the evidence to put these women in prison for their lives.”

Deric Walpole, Attorney for Rebecca Littrell

Walpole, sans the sunglasses (thank you – LL), finds the law to be on the side of the Defendants. He describes the Defendants as good people. He described his role as a defense attorney as a difficult one. Many of his clients are not good people and he has to “set fires” (literal not figurative) to divert attention from their misdeeds. But in this case, these Defendants are genuinely good people and he does not need to create any diversions for them.

He reiterated that all of these activities could have been stopped by a telephone call. And sometimes good people make mistakes. All of the PTO was done on the Defendants’ own time. The cost of this trial exceeds the alleged $26,000 in misused funds.

Walpole describes the prosecution as politically motivated and questioned why the prosecution waited until the election had ended to pursue their investigation. Because of the political situation, innuendo was used as evidence and innuendo is not evidence.

He said that Lorri Robertson confessed to nothing that the Defendants were prosecuted for.

John Hardin, Attorney for retired District Clerk, Hannah Kunkle

Kunkle was not indicted until recently – others were indicted many months before. He stated that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial.

Hardin related that John Roach, Sr., former Collin County District Attorney, never indicted Kunkle and Roach was a fierce prosecutor. And the fact that Roach did not prosecute Kunkle and Helms did, demonstrates the overzealousness of Helms, the prosecutor pro tem. Then, according to an observer in the court room, Hardin raised his hands above his head and started doing a “dance” toward Helms. While “dancing,” Hardin complained of the overzealous prosecution. He stopped and said “I’m so sorry, I just get upset.” No one objected to this (and I am not judging, in fact, I am impressed – Hardin’s client was acquitted, after all!)

He stated the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He told the jurors that regardless of their verdict, he would like to get to know them and talk to them. Hardin concluded by stating, “when you leave the courthouse, on this cold day, during Christmas, you should feel good about what you did.”

John Helms, Jr., Prosecution – Rebuttal

Aaaaaaaand finally – we see the finish line. Helms stated that intent is not needed for a conviction. (huh?? – LL) He said a phone call would not have stopped the use of Blue Book time – the Defendants were fully engaged in these actions and were committed to it. There was never an internal investigation by the District Clerk’s office. The only investigation that was conducted was to find out who the whistle blowers are. Crigger’s reaction to the raid was to promote Bell and Littrell. He ended by stating that this is a third degree felony and the Defendants know it.

Hannah Kunkle was found NOT GUILTY
Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, and Rebecca Littrell were found GUILTY of all charges against them and accepted two years of probation each.

Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law

Posted in Guest Opinions

WE HAVE A VERDICT IN THE DISTRICT CLERKS CORRUPTION CASE

December 6th, 2011

*BREAKING NEWS*

Bill was in the courtroom when the jury annnounced their verdict.

Patricia Crigger – GUILTY on all charges
Rebecca Littrell – GUILTY on all charges
Sherry Bell – GUILTY on her one charge
Hannah Kunkle – NOT GUILTY – Kunkle is acquitted.

Judge Nelms immediately asked Crigger to stand. He said, “you are removed from your office effective immediately. Do you understand?” Crigger replied, “Yes sir.”

Bill and I will have updates later this evening regarding evidence and testimony from Day 4 and the Closing Arguments.

Sentencing tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.

LEX LAWYER (In Limine)
Attorney at Law

 

abuse, Gov Rick Perry, government, system failure
Perry Downplayed Allegations at Centers for Disabled

Perry Downplayed Allegations at Centers for Disabled

  • by Emily Ramshaw, The Texas Tribune
    • 10/24/2011
  • Part two of two.

    Yesterday: Two years after Texas leaders signed a federal agreement to improve care at the state’s institutions, not even a quarter of its terms have been met, and mistreatment is still commonplace.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign hinges on one overarching message: that states perform best when left to their own devices and federal regulators should butt out. Yet during his decade-long tenure in the governor’s office, Perry and his staff repeatedly downplayed the severity of abuse and neglect allegations at Texas’ state-run institutions for the disabled — until conditions became so dire that the U.S. attorney general was forced to intervene.

    “They haven’t taken it seriously,” said Joe Tate, a policy specialist with Community Now!, an organization that supports the closure of Texas’ institutions for the disabled. “We hear all the time from lawmakers that there’s not the political will to make changes. That political will — the knowledge that we have deadly, dangerous institutions — could come from the governor’s office.”

    Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said the governor’s office has taken reports of abuse and neglect in Texas’ state-supported living centers seriously from the very beginning. Early in his first term, he signed legislation and issued an executive order designed to improve conditions and give disabled residents more options to move out of the institutions.

    In 2005, when he learned problems in the state-supported living centers had not abated, his office said he made sure the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees Texas’ 13 institutions, had the resources to fund reform.

    “Gov. Perry is committed to ensuring the safety of the residents in these facilities, and we take each of these claims very seriously,” Nashed said. “We continue to monitor the progress they are making toward meeting the terms of the agreement.”

    But a look back at the timeline of abuse reports — and the response of the governor’s office to them — paints a far more nuanced picture.

    After the U.S. Department of Justice released a report critical of conditions at the Lubbock State School in 2006 — saying there had been more than 17 deaths there in 18 months — the governor’s office suggested the problems had already been solved.

    “Some would like to ramp up another emotional issue,” Perry spokesman Robert Black said at the time, referring to a recent abuse and neglect scandal in Texas’ juvenile justice system, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC).

    When a 2007 Dallas Morning News investigation found hundreds of mentally and physically disabled residents of the state-supported living centers had suffered serious abuse at the hands of those paid to watch over them, Perry’s office cautioned against any assumptions that the system was flawed and said despite reports of physical and sexual assault, the centers shouldn’t be compared to the abuse-ridden TYC.

    “It’s important not to sensationalize these incidents,” then-spokeswoman Krista Moody said. “They should not be portrayed as though they happened yesterday and no action has been taken.”

    And in August 2008, when the Justice Department announced it was going to investigate conditions inside all of Texas’ institutions for the disabled — not just in Lubbock — Perry’s office was unfazed.

    “We expected that [the Department of Justice] would expand their investigation to all state schools as they have done in other states,” spokeswoman Allison Castle said. She added that the governor is “always interested in ways to improve state government.”

    Four months later — and two years after the original Justice Department report — the U.S. attorney general’s office sent Perry a 60-page letter threatening legal action if Texas didn’t resolve the problems, including residents dying of preventable conditions and hundreds of employees being fired for abuse and neglect.

    Only when faced with legal action and monetary damages did Perry’s tone shift: In February 2009 he declared protecting the residents of Texas’ institutions for the disabled a legislative emergency. In May 2009, the state reached an agreement with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to spend $112 million over five years to improve care and enhance staffing at the institutions.

    Asked at the time why it had taken so long to pass needed legislation, Perry said that health and human services agencies have “always been difficult to address” and that Texas was a big state with lots of needs. “My focus has always been, when an issue bubbles up to the top, to bring in the best people you can find,” he said.

    Halfway through the five-year settlement agreement, Texas’ federally appointed watchdog group says the state has met just 20 percent of the standards required to comply. To this, too, the governor’s office is taking a glass-half-full approach.

    “The governor expects DADS to continue to work toward full compliance of the settlement agreement,” Nashed said. “While there is still work to be done, each facility and their staff continue to make significant progress toward substantial compliance, including better reporting, investigation, prosecution and firing of individuals who commit these crimes.

    Back To Top

    This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-state-agencies/aging-and-disability-services/perry-downplayed-abuse-institutions-disabled/.

    accountability, child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, foster care, government, reform, social services, system failure, texas, welfare reform
    ‘Major epidemic’ Says the BBC – UK Investigates Child Abuse in the U.S.

    America’s child death shame 

    Every five hours a child dies from abuse or neglect in the US.

    The latest government figures show an estimated 1,770 children were killed as a result of maltreatment in 2009.

    A recent congressional report concludes the real number could be nearer 2,500.  In fact, America has the worst child abuse record in the industrialized world.

    Why?

    The BBC’s Natalia Antelava investigates. (VIDEO)
    Sixty-six children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse or neglect every week in the industrialized world. Twenty-seven of those die in the US – the highest number of any other country.
    Even when populations are taken into account, Unicef research from 2001 places the US equal bottom with Mexico on child deaths from maltreatment.
    In Texas, one of the states with the worst child abuse records, the Dallas Children’s Medical Center is dealing with a rising number of abused children and increasing levels of violence.
    Meanwhile, the Houston Center is expanding its services to deal with the rising problem of child sex abuse.
     
    (Video) 
     The doctor’s experience 
     

     
    (Video)
    Inside a Houston help center

    Emma’s story

    Emma Thompson was just four years old when she was beaten to death in 2009. Her injuries included broken ribs, a bloodied lip, widespread bruising and a fractured skull. She had also been raped.Her mother and her mother’s partner have been jailed over the abuse. But Emma’s father, Ben, believes his daughter was let down by everyone around her.

    (Video) ‘Everybody missed the signs’
     

    Who’s to blame?

    Just like Emma Thompson, hundreds more children fall through the cracks of the child protection system. Some blame overworked investigators and inefficient management, while others say it’s the federal government’s drive to keep families together that is the problem.
    But child protection officials in Texas, a state with one of the highest total number of child deaths from abuse and neglect in the US, say such cases are complicated and difficult to assess – especially when a child’s guardians are hiding what is really going on.
     
     
    Model of a child from a tv ad aimed at reducing abuse
    The Child Protection Challenge
     
     
     
     

    How to stop it

    In Washington, politicians are beginning to recognize what some now describe as a “national crisis”.A congressional hearing in July heard from experts in the field about what can be done to prevent deaths from child abuse.

    A national commission is being set up to coordinate a country-wide response.Many believe home visits to new parents by qualified health professionals, preparing them for the difficulties of family life, are key to that strategy.

    (video) Teaching parents to be parentsTeenagers describe the challenges of having children young

    Cycle of violence

    While child abuse blights the lives of victims’ families, its devastating impact is felt far beyond relatives and friends.

    (Video) ‘You only know anger and violence’ 
    Victim Stacey Kananen on the lasting impact of abuse 
    Abused children are 74 times more likely to commit crimes against others and six times more likely to maltreat their own children, according to the Texas Association for the Protection of Children. For this reason, experts believe it is in the US government’s as well as society’s interest to ensure children are protected from abuse. 
     
    Each and every citizen, they say, has a responsibility to help break this cycle of violence.
    Design: Mark Bryson. Production: Franz Strasser, Bill McKenna, Lucy Rodgers and Luke Ward.

    EXPERTS VIEW

    Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year

    Why is the problem of violence against children so much more acute in the US than anywhere else in the industrialized world, asks Michael Petit, President of Every Child Matters.

    Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year. Why is that?

    Downward spiral

    Part of the answer is that teen pregnancy, high-school dropout, violent crime, imprisonment, and poverty – factors associated with abuse and neglect – are generally much higher in the US.

    Michael Petit

    “The sharp differences between the states raises the question of an expanded federal role” Michael Petit – Every Child Matters

    Further, other rich nations have social policies that provide child care, universal health insurance, pre-school, parental leave and visiting nurses to virtually all in need.

    In the US, when children are born into young families not prepared to receive them, local social safety nets may be frayed, or non-existent. As a result, they are unable to compensate for the household stress the child must endure.

    In the most severe situations, there is a predictable downward spiral and a child dies. Some 75% of these children are under four, while nearly half are under one.

    Geography matters a lot in determining child well-being. Take the examples of Texas and Vermont.

    Texas prides itself in being a low tax, low service state. Its per capita income places it in the middle of the states, while its total tax burden – its willingness to tax itself – is near the bottom.

    Vermont, in contrast, is at the other extreme. It is a high-tax, high-service state.

    Mix of risks

    In looking at key indicators of well-being, children from Texas are twice as likely to drop out of high school as children from Vermont. They are four times more likely to be uninsured, four times more likely to be incarcerated, and nearly twice as likely to die from abuse and neglect.

    Texas spending

    • $6.25 billion (£4.01bn) spent in 2007 on direct and indirect costs dealing with after-effects of child abuse and neglect
    • $0.05 billion (£0.03bn) budgeted in 2011 for prevention and early intervention
    Source: Univ of Houston, TexProtects

    In Texas, a combination of elements add to the mix of risks that a child faces. These include a higher poverty rate in Texas, higher proportions of minority children, lower levels of educational attainment, and a political culture which holds a narrower view of the role of government in addressing social issues.

    Texas, like many other traditionally conservative states, is likely to have a weaker response to families that need help in the first place, and be less efficient in protecting children after abuse occurs.

    The sharp differences between the states raises the question of an expanded federal role.

    Are children Texas children first? Or are they first American children with equal opportunity and protection?

    Blame parents?

    A national strategy, led by our national government, needs to be developed and implemented. For a start, the Congress should adopt legislation that would create a National Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

    Woman holding a baby
    Nearly half the child fatalities in 2009 were children under the age of one

    And no children’s programmes should be on the chopping block, federal or state. Children did not crash the US economy. It is both shortsighted economic policy and morally wrong to make them pay the price for fixing it.

    But instead as the US economy lags, child poverty soars, and states cut billions in children’s services, we are further straining America’s already weak safety net.

    Inevitably, it means more children will die. The easy answer is to blame parents and already burdened child protection workers. But easy answers don’t solve complex problems.

    And with millions of children injured and thousands killed, this problem is large indeed, and it deserves a large response.

    Michael Petit is the president of Every Child Matters. He served as the state of Maine’s human services commissioner, and as deputy of the Child Welfare League of America.

    Related Internet links: 
    Justice for Children 
    Every Child Matters
    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites
     Your comments (66) This entry is now closed for comments

    Comment number66.

     cka1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 23:21

    Virgil – Thank you for the full report. My guess is that DC isn’t a state and Nevada has a whole host of other religious issues that would make counting impossible. It is legal for a man to marry multiple underage wives of which he is related. Doesn’t happen in any other state, at least not legally. Wyoming and Montana barely have 100,000 children in them, so statistically not significant.

    Comment number65.

     thehughes69
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:51

    we in the uk need to worry about staying under torie leadership any longer, sorry to knock the yanks but were starting to see steps towards private healthcare like the us where the poor are left behind and the lowering of funds into social services with money going elsewhere bit like texas ey

    Comment number64.

     Karen Spears Zacharias
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:48

    Once again the BBC proves why it’s a news source I turn to as a journalist. Here you are doing the story that America journalists shy away from. For the past five years, I’ve been at work on a book about this issue. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] I applaud Natalia Antelava & BBC for the courage in addressing this national shame.

    Comment number63.

     marie
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:48

    contd No part of the world is free from this horror, but some parts of the world have far less abuse of children. It makes sense to discover possible reasons why this might be so; those countries with higher stats might then learn from this & be able to do so much more to protect their vulnerable children.

    Comment number62.

     marie
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:37

    @ 56 Why on earth would anyone jeer at the spectre of child abuse, whether it takes place in the USA, UK or on the Indian subcontinent?
    By comparing figures across the world & looking at factors implicated such as poverty, educational levels, aswell as care provision, steps can be taken to reduce child abuse in areas where it is high, improving the lives &mortality of children who live there.

    Comment number61.

     thehughes69
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:33

    bit of an eye opener
    think its a piece about the surprise that a country like the us has these problems were others are maybe known about

    Comment number60.

     inthewakeofautism
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:27

    I would like to see the statistics on children killed who are living with both their Biological parents vs those with non biological parents especially people referred to as partners in the article. I think living arrangements contribute to this most heinous of acts.

    Comment number59.

     thekuhl1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 22:10

    Where is China in this report or India??

    Comment number58.

     thekuhl1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 21:55

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

    Comment number57.

     HMayhan
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 21:40

    I am not saying there isn’t a problem with violence against children in the US. In fact I agree it is ridiculously commonplace. But reading this on a BBC website smacks of the pot calling the kettle black. Hardly a day goes by on the UK section of this website without news of a kid getting killed in the UK.

    Comment number56.

     kcwhattrick
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 21:24

    Why is it that Europeans take tragedies such as this and use them to jeer other countries? It’s very strange and somewhat perverted behavior. A normal person would feel horror and sadness at such a thing happening to children, yet the Europeans use it more as a way of saying “Ha, knew things were better over here all along.” Really sad way of behaving.

    Comment number55.

     assynt1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 21:06

    Once you start helping these kids, you can’t stop. They will truly motivate you. I always say that they deserve not just good care, but the BEST care we can give them as a community. One more thing on perp stats. There is a type of abuse that used to be called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, now called Medical Child Abuse. Mothers are almost exclusively the perpetrators in that case.

    Comment number54.

     tre4w
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:57

    as a student social worker this piece really galvanises me to get out there and make a difference in the lives of kids, although i’m going to have to get past the gut wrenching reaction it provokes in me first…

    Comment number53.

     assynt1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:58

    You are welcome for the info. There are certain scenarios where it is “classic” to have a male perp (unrelated male living in the household as a risk for sexual abuse). If we think about the stressors that influence abuse and neglect (poverty, single parent, lack of social support, young age) and who the primary caretakers are, it’s no wonder that moms are more common in overall numbers.

    Comment number52.

     stebsb
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:44

    @assynt1:

    Thanks for the info – although I’m not as informed on the subject as I’d like to be (and as you are obviously are!) I was surprised in what I’d read how women were more likely to be abusive than I’d thought; and I was also shocked to read how some feminists simply deny that female abuse occurs, insisting it’s virtually exclusively inflicted by men.

    Comment number51.

     assynt1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:38

    The perpetrators are parents 75% of the time, with mothers as the most common at 1/3, both together at 1/5 and just dads at around 1/5. This is likely because mothers tend to be caring for the kids more and so have more access. The only exception is child sexual abuse where the abusers are overwhelmingly male at 90%.

    Comment number50.

     assynt1
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:36

    Reply to question about geneder of perp and vics. In US, overall girls and boys are victimized at the same rate. Girls are higher for sexual abuse and boys are slightly higher for physical abuse. Neglect, though, is the number one type of abuse and occurs in equal numbers of boys and girls.

    Comment number49.

     Bb
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:26

    Parental rights far out way the children needs. I am personally aware of children placed in good foster homes, then removed and placed back with their abusive family.

    The second issue is Right to life vs Right to choice, both should focus their resources on unwanted pregnancy. That would cut down on abortions and unwanted babies.

    Comment number48. rich
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:22

    Interesting to note that the comparative numbers are given for Canada and Italy. Based on the numbers in this report Italy has 181 child homicides a year. The UK by comparison has around 60 per year

    http://www.nspcc.org.uk/inform/research/statistics/child_homicide_statistics_wda48747.html – Now who was it that said that British social workers were failing?

    Comment number47.

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     ChildPerson
    17TH OCTOBER 2011 – 20:01

    Supreme Court refused to take on any responsibility for child abuse, because, wrote Chief Rehnquist in DeShaney v. Winnebago County, 1989, “A state’s failure to protect an individual against private violence” was not a denial of the victim’s rights as the state…”played no part in their [dangers to the child]creation, nor did it do anything to render him any more vulnerable to them.” Joshua died

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    cps, family, healing, social worker, system failure, welfare reform
    When CPS Workers Confuse Poverty w/Neglect..They Live Forever…

    A single mother has  fallen on hard times with the sudden departure of her husband. He has recently abandoned her and her son for a woman, his mistress from a love affair.

    This mother is distraught & undoubtedly depressed.  She was caught off guard and was left without a job after having been a housewife for many years.

    This mother went  from an affluent wife to a single poverty stricken mother. She does not know where to begin her new life, for she is still in shock from the ending of her old life.  She is, as any woman would be, terribly depressed at the failure of her marriage, but,  one thing she knows for certain is that  she has a son to care for.

    She musters up the strength of will to keep going, however difficult it is . Some days seem impossible to do what she has to, but she finds the will to take care of her boy. They are very close, even moreso since finding themselves alone. They are partners against the world, each night saying prayers and assuring one another that times will get better, just have faith.

    One day, her electric bill came due.  In her newfound budget, she had mistakenly overspent at the grocery store and the lights get shut off.

    Her soon to be ex comes by to surprise her with divorce papers .  He announces that he is on his way out of town for a “new job somewhere “.  When she asks where, he won’t disclose any details and it angers him.

    The former couple begin to argue and he remarks of the mother and child living  in the dark with candles lit and a fire in the fireplace.

    When she insists that it is his fault for leaving them without warning, insisting on knowing where he’s moving for this job, he threatens to take her son with him if she doesn’t stop badgering.

    The next day calls CPS and a social worker comes out, and finds the home without electricity, and removes the child into foster care. The father has already left town and isn’t readily found, and the mother falls apart.

    The child never comes home again.

    This mother is sustained on a finding of ‘neglectful supervision’ because she “should have known” better than to allow her electricity to get shut off .  The social worker stated in her report that the mother failed to apply for assistance before it came down to that and if she overlooks something like electricity, she is probably overlooking  other needs of the child’s.  These  activities could leave the child at serious risk of harm.That’s what the report said.

    Truth is though, she is poor and suffering at a tragic time in their life.   That does not mean she neglects her child, she just needs a boost to start their new life.  Maybe some assistance.  It was the only time their electricity was cut off, she never considered it before because it never happened.

    The CPS worker jumped to immediate conclusions, and should have helped the mother find ways to improve her situation, request assistance, apply for legal aid and get child support. There were many ways the problem was easily remedied.

    However, poverty was mistaken for neglect, and defined “at risk ” when there’s never been any risk to the child, the problems begin with the definitions of abuse/neglect. Then, the problems end with the willingness to remove children being stronger than the desire to keep the child at home.

    A CPS social worker who is unable to familiarize herself with this poor but loving family that needs a little boost in life, offer some counseling maybe, or a support group for divorcing women is the first problem that should be solved.

    Why is she unable to do this?  Most likely its due to the tremendous caseload she has stacked in front of her… Perhaps she does not mean to overlook this family… but because she has so much to do, she inadvertently tosses this family into the black pit of a child welfare system’s worst side, needlessly removes the child from the home, and places him in foster care.

    Even worse, the shortage of foster homes takes this child too far away to visit regularly because there were no other openings.  Later, he gets abused there and nobody finds out until too late and permanent injuries are suffered.  The mother has fallen apart and can’t seem to get the help she needs, so she is labeled overly emotional.  CPS puts her through psychiatric evaluations one after the other, until finally she has a breakdown when she learns of the abuse her son has gone through. They terminate her rights.

    It happens all the time in this system.

    All this Mother really needed was some food stamps and assistance on her light bill for a month or two. Maybe temporary financial aid for a down payment on a new car, so she could get some job training and go back to work. Perhaps some temporary medical care to get them both back healthy again, with a flu shot, and some counseling over her divorce. and his loss of a father figure.

    Instead, this mother lost her husband, then her lights, then her child, then herself, to grief.

    An overzealous social worker received a spite referral from a cheating man who spent enough money on airplane drinks to pay her electric bill twice over.  Nobody tracks him down to file false allegation charges on him.

    Her son no longer wants to make his Daddy proud, or thinks of  Daddy as a hero, but instead, loses his own future in drugs and alcohol.    It starts out with a beer can and a marijuana joint he smokes but eventually turns into cocaine and petty crimes in order to buy it.

    The boy is a teenager in foster care.  He’s been moved so many times from home to home, facility to facility, that now, he doesn’t care anymore.  He runs away from the home often so he can do his drugs and eventually goes to jail.

    Of course by then he doesn’t have anyone to call so he does time, about a year in juvenile detention.  In that year  he gets sexually abused and in fights.  A few months after being released on his 18th birthday, he gets arrested again for stealing a car.  That sentence, he gets caught up in the prison gang life and learns to hurt people, after years he spent in foster care and juvenile detention, doing a lot of fighting.  He is very angry.  It was only a light bill past due.

    He is angry at his father who divorced his mother and leaving them in a shabby apartment with no lights.

    He knows his father made the phone call that destroyed their life. He knows his father so cowardly ran away with another woman, and he is angry at how that hurt them.

    He is angry that he lost his mother who was his best friend. He is angry that he can’t find her, and that she was taken away from him. 

    He is angry that it made her fall apart, because he knows she loved him so much.

    He is angry that now she is gone, and he is angry that he is behind bars, and so he fights life, and everyone in it. 

    He sits and thinks about it all the time.  He thinks about the social worker who took him away from home.

    3a1ff59156e57f08

    Are you a caseworker for CPS? 

    Do you volunteer for CASA while you go to school?

    Do you hope to be a social worker and help abused kids one day?

    Do you want to be a social worker when you graduate college? 

    Do you work for the advocacy center doing forensic interviews?

    Is that you?

    Okay, next question… do you want to live forever?

    Carry on a legacy?

    Make a difference in someone’s life?

    Change history?

    Well, here this caseworker did it without a lick of effort and didn’t even know it.  Its amazingly easy to live forever.

    This way though, its what happens, when you confuse poverty with neglect.  You live forever.

    Exactly what is abuse and neglect? 

    Why is it so important to define these two words?

    Abuse and neglect are the defined allegations used as justification for removing children from their natural homes.

    They are the acts of parents that CPS has “reason to believe”  did occur which gives them the right to remove a child from the home.

    The parents are then expected to jump through hoops working their (“services”) which are outlined in the “family service plan” made to “protect”  the children from the “abuse and “neglect” …  right?

    Child Protection Services. CPS – Services to Protect the Children from abuse and neglect. That is why it is so important to define Abuse & Neglect.  That is why we should not confuse poverty with neglect.

    Abuse is defined as the prolonged maltreatment of another; the continued misuse of something, the mishandling thereof, the ill-handling of something.

    Abuse is intentional – with forethought and deliberate action – It is causing or threatening to cause physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual harm against a person, or a person’s beloved … (pet, family member, friend, or other loved one). Abuse is not only causing harm or injury to that person but also controlling them by placing them in fear of harm or injury against  themselves or another person.

    An abuser often uses fear to control or manipulate that person into acting or performing in a certain manner bending to a will not his or her own.

    Definition of Child Neglect

    Child neglect is the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional neglect:

    • Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.
    • Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.
    • Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

    How often is poverty confused with neglect ?   Many times.

    That is why the social worker’s assessment is so valuable a tool, if used properly.  But most of the time, it is not.

    The assessment identifies the services that might be able to assist a family out of a tough situation that has placed the family at risk.

    Perhaps the recent loss of a job has led to hard times, and the stress has caused some issues in the parenting skills of the mother or father with their children.

    Assistance with applying for financial aid, unemployment benefits, housing or food, and parenting classes, could prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the home.

    Avoiding placement in foster care when the risk is low enough that needs can be met through a service plan that keeps the family in tact, is definitely best for the family unit. So why do children enter foster care? !

    Children enter foster care because of abuse and/or neglect.

    The majority, however, is due to neglect, which, when neglect is a stand-alone problem (not in combination with abuse), it is often the result of inadequate housing, poor child care, or insufficient food or medical care. For example – lets take a look at poverty and an example of how it can mistakenly destroy lives with the misapplied help of CPS at its worst… so this example can remain just that – an example to learn from.

    Poverty is not neglect, but the two get tied together in a tragic knot.

    So if you ask the grown up little boy who could have changed it all…  he’ll tell you … He will say the social worker could have made a difference.

    He says it quickly and matter of fact – Ms. Too-Busy-To-Pay Attention social worker is who could have, and should have helped. But didn’t.

    Its the social worker he blames – even more than he blames his  father. Why? Because she had the training, the power, and she was in the role,that  SHOULD HAVE helped them.

    Instead she failed them.

    He says “her decision killed my Mom and me, we’ll never recover.”

    BUT – If you ask the caseworker about the same little boy…

    She will stop, and pause, and shake her head before she walks away telling you she hasn’t the time to discuss a case that was “over so long ago.”  

    Besides, she could not even remember which one he was – the boy without electricity.

    She laughs, “How much more vague can you be?”

    She will carry on as if he never existed.  That case was 0ne of many to her. Hell, she hasn’t even worked for CPS now for years – that was only a summer job she had once.

    To him, though, his case, and this social worker is everything.

    She is the reason he has no home, no life, no mother, no education, no wife or children.

    She is the reason he is nothing, a statistic, with no goals, no dreams, no hope, no will to live.

    She is the reason he is angry with an addiction to drugs.

    To him, the CPS Social Worker is a face he cannot forget.

    She has the name that haunts him.

    She is the woman that he seethes, day in and day out.

    But to the social worker, he was a number on a file she might recall if she dug it up and looked again. Maybe.

    To him, she has ripped a hole in the bond between his mother & him.

    She destroyed his family unit that probably will never be repaired.

    Because of her, he quits school & lives on the streets.

    That’s not child protection. That’s child sabotage.

    the social worker now lives forever…

    to that little boy …

    (c) 2009 Forever May, J.Murphy

    cps, family, healing, social worker, system failure, welfare reform
    When CPS Workers Confuse Poverty w/Neglect..They Live Forever…

    A single mother has  fallen on hard times with the sudden departure of her husband. He has recently abandoned her and her son for a woman, his mistress from a love affair.

    This mother is distraught & undoubtedly depressed.  She was caught off guard and was left without a job after having been a housewife for many years.

    This mother went  from an affluent wife to a single poverty stricken mother. She does not know where to begin her new life, for she is still in shock from the ending of her old life.  She is, as any woman would be, terribly depressed at the failure of her marriage, but,  one thing she knows for certain is that  she has a son to care for.

    She musters up the strength of will to keep going, however difficult it is . Some days seem impossible to do what she has to, but she finds the will to take care of her boy. They are very close, even moreso since finding themselves alone. They are partners against the world, each night saying prayers and assuring one another that times will get better, just have faith.

    One day, her electric bill came due.  In her newfound budget, she had mistakenly overspent at the grocery store and the lights get shut off.

    Her soon to be ex comes by to surprise her with divorce papers .  He announces that he is on his way out of town for a “new job somewhere “.  When she asks where, he won’t disclose any details and it angers him.

    The former couple begin to argue and he remarks of the mother and child living  in the dark with candles lit and a fire in the fireplace.

    When she insists that it is his fault for leaving them without warning, insisting on knowing where he’s moving for this job, he threatens to take her son with him if she doesn’t stop badgering.

    The next day calls CPS and a social worker comes out, and finds the home without electricity, and removes the child into foster care. The father has already left town and isn’t readily found, and the mother falls apart.

    The child never comes home again.

    This mother is sustained on a finding of ‘neglectful supervision’ because she “should have known” better than to allow her electricity to get shut off .  The social worker stated in her report that the mother failed to apply for assistance before it came down to that and if she overlooks something like electricity, she is probably overlooking  other needs of the child’s.  These  activities could leave the child at serious risk of harm.That’s what the report said.

    Truth is though, she is poor and suffering at a tragic time in their life.   That does not mean she neglects her child, she just needs a boost to start their new life.  Maybe some assistance.  It was the only time their electricity was cut off, she never considered it before because it never happened.

    The CPS worker jumped to immediate conclusions, and should have helped the mother find ways to improve her situation, request assistance, apply for legal aid and get child support. There were many ways the problem was easily remedied.

    However, poverty was mistaken for neglect, and defined “at risk ” when there’s never been any risk to the child, the problems begin with the definitions of abuse/neglect. Then, the problems end with the willingness to remove children being stronger than the desire to keep the child at home.

    A CPS social worker who is unable to familiarize herself with this poor but loving family that needs a little boost in life, offer some counseling maybe, or a support group for divorcing women is the first problem that should be solved.

    Why is she unable to do this?  Most likely its due to the tremendous caseload she has stacked in front of her… Perhaps she does not mean to overlook this family… but because she has so much to do, she inadvertently tosses this family into the black pit of a child welfare system’s worst side, needlessly removes the child from the home, and places him in foster care.

    Even worse, the shortage of foster homes takes this child too far away to visit regularly because there were no other openings.  Later, he gets abused there and nobody finds out until too late and permanent injuries are suffered.  The mother has fallen apart and can’t seem to get the help she needs, so she is labeled overly emotional.  CPS puts her through psychiatric evaluations one after the other, until finally she has a breakdown when she learns of the abuse her son has gone through. They terminate her rights.

    It happens all the time in this system.

    All this Mother really needed was some food stamps and assistance on her light bill for a month or two. Maybe temporary financial aid for a down payment on a new car, so she could get some job training and go back to work. Perhaps some temporary medical care to get them both back healthy again, with a flu shot, and some counseling over her divorce. and his loss of a father figure.

    Instead, this mother lost her husband, then her lights, then her child, then herself, to grief.

    An overzealous social worker received a spite referral from a cheating man who spent enough money on airplane drinks to pay her electric bill twice over.  Nobody tracks him down to file false allegation charges on him.

    Her son no longer wants to make his Daddy proud, or thinks of  Daddy as a hero, but instead, loses his own future in drugs and alcohol.    It starts out with a beer can and a marijuana joint he smokes but eventually turns into cocaine and petty crimes in order to buy it.

    The boy is a teenager in foster care.  He’s been moved so many times from home to home, facility to facility, that now, he doesn’t care anymore.  He runs away from the home often so he can do his drugs and eventually goes to jail.

    Of course by then he doesn’t have anyone to call so he does time, about a year in juvenile detention.  In that year  he gets sexually abused and in fights.  A few months after being released on his 18th birthday, he gets arrested again for stealing a car.  That sentence, he gets caught up in the prison gang life and learns to hurt people, after years he spent in foster care and juvenile detention, doing a lot of fighting.  He is very angry.  It was only a light bill past due.

    He is angry at his father who divorced his mother and leaving them in a shabby apartment with no lights.

    He knows his father made the phone call that destroyed their life. He knows his father so cowardly ran away with another woman, and he is angry at how that hurt them.

    He is angry that he lost his mother who was his best friend. He is angry that he can’t find her, and that she was taken away from him. 

    He is angry that it made her fall apart, because he knows she loved him so much.

    He is angry that now she is gone, and he is angry that he is behind bars, and so he fights life, and everyone in it. 

    He sits and thinks about it all the time.  He thinks about the social worker who took him away from home.

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    Are you a caseworker for CPS? 

    Do you volunteer for CASA while you go to school?

    Do you hope to be a social worker and help abused kids one day?

    Do you want to be a social worker when you graduate college? 

    Do you work for the advocacy center doing forensic interviews?

    Is that you?

    Okay, next question… do you want to live forever?

    Carry on a legacy?

    Make a difference in someone’s life?

    Change history?

    Well, here this caseworker did it without a lick of effort and didn’t even know it.  Its amazingly easy to live forever.

    This way though, its what happens, when you confuse poverty with neglect.  You live forever.

    Exactly what is abuse and neglect? 

    Why is it so important to define these two words?

    Abuse and neglect are the defined allegations used as justification for removing children from their natural homes.

    They are the acts of parents that CPS has “reason to believe”  did occur which gives them the right to remove a child from the home.

    The parents are then expected to jump through hoops working their (“services”) which are outlined in the “family service plan” made to “protect”  the children from the “abuse and “neglect” …  right?

    Child Protection Services. CPS – Services to Protect the Children from abuse and neglect. That is why it is so important to define Abuse & Neglect.  That is why we should not confuse poverty with neglect.

    Abuse is defined as the prolonged maltreatment of another; the continued misuse of something, the mishandling thereof, the ill-handling of something.

    Abuse is intentional – with forethought and deliberate action – It is causing or threatening to cause physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual harm against a person, or a person’s beloved … (pet, family member, friend, or other loved one). Abuse is not only causing harm or injury to that person but also controlling them by placing them in fear of harm or injury against  themselves or another person.

    An abuser often uses fear to control or manipulate that person into acting or performing in a certain manner bending to a will not his or her own.

    Definition of Child Neglect

    Child neglect is the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional neglect:

    • Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.
    • Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.
    • Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

    How often is poverty confused with neglect ?   Many times.

    That is why the social worker’s assessment is so valuable a tool, if used properly.  But most of the time, it is not.

    The assessment identifies the services that might be able to assist a family out of a tough situation that has placed the family at risk.

    Perhaps the recent loss of a job has led to hard times, and the stress has caused some issues in the parenting skills of the mother or father with their children.

    Assistance with applying for financial aid, unemployment benefits, housing or food, and parenting classes, could prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the home.

    Avoiding placement in foster care when the risk is low enough that needs can be met through a service plan that keeps the family in tact, is definitely best for the family unit. So why do children enter foster care? !

    Children enter foster care because of abuse and/or neglect.

    The majority, however, is due to neglect, which, when neglect is a stand-alone problem (not in combination with abuse), it is often the result of inadequate housing, poor child care, or insufficient food or medical care. For example – lets take a look at poverty and an example of how it can mistakenly destroy lives with the misapplied help of CPS at its worst… so this example can remain just that – an example to learn from.

    Poverty is not neglect, but the two get tied together in a tragic knot.

    So if you ask the grown up little boy who could have changed it all…  he’ll tell you … He will say the social worker could have made a difference.

    He says it quickly and matter of fact – Ms. Too-Busy-To-Pay Attention social worker is who could have, and should have helped. But didn’t.

    Its the social worker he blames – even more than he blames his  father. Why? Because she had the training, the power, and she was in the role,that  SHOULD HAVE helped them.

    Instead she failed them.

    He says “her decision killed my Mom and me, we’ll never recover.”

    BUT – If you ask the caseworker about the same little boy…

    She will stop, and pause, and shake her head before she walks away telling you she hasn’t the time to discuss a case that was “over so long ago.”  

    Besides, she could not even remember which one he was – the boy without electricity.

    She laughs, “How much more vague can you be?”

    She will carry on as if he never existed.  That case was 0ne of many to her. Hell, she hasn’t even worked for CPS now for years – that was only a summer job she had once.

    To him, though, his case, and this social worker is everything.

    She is the reason he has no home, no life, no mother, no education, no wife or children.

    She is the reason he is nothing, a statistic, with no goals, no dreams, no hope, no will to live.

    She is the reason he is angry with an addiction to drugs.

    To him, the CPS Social Worker is a face he cannot forget.

    She has the name that haunts him.

    She is the woman that he seethes, day in and day out.

    But to the social worker, he was a number on a file she might recall if she dug it up and looked again. Maybe.

    To him, she has ripped a hole in the bond between his mother & him.

    She destroyed his family unit that probably will never be repaired.

    Because of her, he quits school & lives on the streets.

    That’s not child protection. That’s child sabotage.

    the social worker now lives forever…

    to that little boy …

    (c) 2009 Forever May, J.Murphy

    domestic violence, parental alienation syndrome, system failure
    When he kills me…

    Dear Presiding Justice, Police Officers, Senators, Legislators, Doctors, Clergy, Parish Members, Family and Friends:

    I am a battered woman.

    Do you remember me?  I was your neighbor.  I sat next to you in church every Sunday.

    I was your patient in the emergency room. I was the woman who dialed 911 and begged for your help. I sat in your court room and pleaded with you to protect me and my children. I came before you and asked you to make laws to ensure our safety.

    I was the loving young mother you noticed playing tag with some children in the park.

    Do you remember me now?

    I am writing this letter for I know that he will surely kill me and I don’t want to be forgotten. My advocate has promised to give you this letter if I should die.

    I feel as though I should apologize. Maybe for not being a good enough person or for not readily admitting how my face was bruised or bones broken.

    Maybe if I would have tried a little bit harder he wouldn’t have had to beat me.

    Maybe if I was smarter I wouldn’t have fallen in love with someone like him.

    Maybe if I was stronger I would have left sooner. But maybe, maybe if you would have helped me I would never have to write a letter like this.

    I would not have to worry about whether or not today would be the day that he would kill me and you would not be inconvenienced by having to read this letter because I would still be alive. (But I am not.) Do you understand?

    If you should come to read this letter -I am dead.

    He killed me!

    So what happens now?

    I don’t want to be another statistic.

    I don’t want to be blamed any longer. I don’t want you to make excuses or justify my death because it never should have happened. I was a good person. I was a devoted wife and a loving mother. I did leave. I tried to protect my children and myself, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

    I asked for your help. I told you that he would kill me. You saw the bruises. You knew that he was dangerous but you wouldn’t help. It wasn’t your problem. You turned your back on me and my children.

    Oh my children.

    My sweet little children. I don’t know if they will survive because he promised to kill them also, but if they still are alive who will take care of them?

    Who will love them? Who will sing to them at night? Who will hold them and wipe away their tears when they cry for their mommy?

    This isn’t right. I should be alive. You should have helped me. Why didn’t you help me?

    I know that if he kills me it will be extremely painful and violent. He promised to use a knife. Oh I am so afraid to die that way.

    Please don’t let my death be in vain.

    Please help the others.

    Please protect their children…

    And please don’t forget me…

    Holly Collins – Letter 1990

    child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, domestic violence, family, General, government, system failure
    An 8 year old’s childhood deferred… what happened?
    I have a serious problem with an 8 year old murdering anyone – 8 year olds aren’t generally of a disposition to shoot anyone with a rifle execution style; i don’t even think i KNEW what a rifle was at that age.  I am not in a position to say what i think might have gone on behind the scenes so i don’t think i will go there; but i did want to share this story; and offer my prayers to this child, who is still – just a child –

    8-year-old accused of killing father, another man

    FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) — An 8-year-old boy is charged with murder in the shooting of his father and another man in a rural community in eastern Arizona, authorities said Friday.

    The boy was charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the death of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and 39-year-old Timothy Romans, St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said.

    Police arrived at the home within minutes of the shooting Wednesday, Melnick said. They found one victim just outside the front door and the other dead in an upstairs room.

    The boy, who prosecutors say had never been in trouble before, initially denied involvement in the shooting but later confessed, Melnick said. Read the full story here.

    child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, domestic violence, family, General, government, system failure
    An 8 year old’s childhood deferred… what happened?
    I have a serious problem with an 8 year old murdering anyone – 8 year olds aren’t generally of a disposition to shoot anyone with a rifle execution style; i don’t even think i KNEW what a rifle was at that age.  I am not in a position to say what i think might have gone on behind the scenes so i don’t think i will go there; but i did want to share this story; and offer my prayers to this child, who is still – just a child –

    8-year-old accused of killing father, another man

    FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) — An 8-year-old boy is charged with murder in the shooting of his father and another man in a rural community in eastern Arizona, authorities said Friday.

    The boy was charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the death of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and 39-year-old Timothy Romans, St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said.

    Police arrived at the home within minutes of the shooting Wednesday, Melnick said. They found one victim just outside the front door and the other dead in an upstairs room.

    The boy, who prosecutors say had never been in trouble before, initially denied involvement in the shooting but later confessed, Melnick said. Read the full story here.

    child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, domestic violence, family, General, government, system failure
    An 8 year old’s childhood deferred… what happened?
    I have a serious problem with an 8 year old murdering anyone – 8 year olds aren’t generally of a disposition to shoot anyone with a rifle execution style; i don’t even think i KNEW what a rifle was at that age.  I am not in a position to say what i think might have gone on behind the scenes so i don’t think i will go there; but i did want to share this story; and offer my prayers to this child, who is still – just a child –

    8-year-old accused of killing father, another man

    FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) — An 8-year-old boy is charged with murder in the shooting of his father and another man in a rural community in eastern Arizona, authorities said Friday.

    The boy was charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the death of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and 39-year-old Timothy Romans, St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said.

    Police arrived at the home within minutes of the shooting Wednesday, Melnick said. They found one victim just outside the front door and the other dead in an upstairs room.

    The boy, who prosecutors say had never been in trouble before, initially denied involvement in the shooting but later confessed, Melnick said. Read the full story here.