DHS offered home-based services before girl's death
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, April 28, 2012
5/24/12 at 3:55 PM
Five months before the death of a 15-month-old Washington County girl, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services offered the child's family home-based services after responding to a neglect referral stemming from severe diaper rash, according to records released Friday by DHS.
The family ended up not accepting the offer and later told a caseworker that the girl's death might have been caused by her hitting her head on a table or playpen, records state.
Emma Beth Warmerbrodt died Feb. 24 from blunt chest trauma and was a victim of "chronic physical abuse," a medical examiner determined.
The child's stepfather, Marcus Trinidad Mitchell, 22, has been charged with first-degree murder.
Her mother, Ashley Ann Williamson Mitchell, 23, is charged with two counts of child neglect and one count of enabling child abuse. She is accused of failing to provide adequate care for the girl, failing to protect the girl from illegal drugs and permitting willful and malicious abuse.
Marcus Mitchell's mother, Juanachellee Lanyl Fitch, 48, is charged with accessory to first-degree murder and child neglect.
She is accused of helping her son after he allegedly used unreasonable force against the toddler, of lying to investigators, of asking someone to erase incriminating text messages and of failing to provide adequate care for the girl.
A preliminary hearing is set for June 19.
DHS received a call in September from someone alleging neglect, saying the child was being moved "from place to place" and that her mother was "not providing the child appropriate supervision or nutrition," DHS records state.
A DHS caseworker visited the family and found that Emma did have severe diaper rash that was being treated with over-the-counter medication.
"Emma did not appear malnourished and appropriate nutrition was observed for her," records state. "The worker addressed the concerns for Emma having multiple caretakers and not appearing to have any fear of strangers."
In a follow-up visit, the caseworker documented that the rash was healing and offered home-based services. The family accepted the offer at the time, the reports state.
"However, the family moved and failed to provide an address to (DHS) so that services could be initiated," the report states.
"The referral was closed with the recommendation that the family participate in home based services due to concerns surrounding Emma's healthy development."
In February, authorities were called to a home about an unresponsive child, who showed signs of rigor mortis by the time the first responders arrived, according to a court affidavit.
A medical examiner told police the toddler had been a victim of chronic physical abuse, with bruises in various stages of healing on her head and chest.
DHS responded with police to the scene. The caseworker noted that Emma had two black eyes, along with bruises on her forehead, nose, chin, jawline, chest and right leg, DHS records state.
The defendants and other adults in the house at the time "claimed to not know what happened to Emma," DHS records state.
"Household members indicated that Emma had a rash on her chin and would rub it on the side of her play pen, causing it to bleed," the report states.
"Emma also reportedly hit her head on the coffee table and it was alleged this is what could have caused her black eyes. Emma's mother and Mr. Mitchell claimed Emma would hit her head against her play pen when she was upset."
Original Print Headline: DHS offered help before girl's death
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376
Marcus Trinidad Mitchell (from left), Ashley Ann Williamson Mitchell and Juanachellee Lanyl Fitch: The three face a preliminary hearing in June in connection with the death of a 15-month-old girl. Marcus Mitchell is charged with first-degree murder in the case