Parents of Slain Boy File Claim Against L.A. Schools, PTA

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The parents of a boy whose burned and bound body was found in a field south of Simi Valley filed a claim for damages Tuesday against the Los Angeles Unified School District and the PTA organization that runs a day-care center from which he was abducted.

Paul Bailly, 8, of Northridge was abducted March 23, shortly after his mother left him at the Darby Avenue School where he attended a program for "latchkey children" operated by the 31st District PTA.

About five hours later, the boy's body was found in a field. He had been strangled and his body set afire, authorities said. The following morning, Ventura County sheriff's deputies arrested Gregory Scott Smith, 21, of Canoga Park, a child-care worker who had been fired from the PTA program. He is awaiting trial for the slaying.

Investigators and PTA Project Latchkey administrators said Smith had been fired because of conflicts with supervisors and improper behavior with children he supervised. Before his dismissal, Smith, who had worked at 10 of the 17 day-care centers operated by the PTA in the San Fernando Valley, had been disciplined for improperly punishing Paul and insulting the boy.

The damage claim filed by the boy's parents, Mary Bailly and Glenn Cebulak, accuses the school agencies of negligence in hiring Smith and allowing numerous incidents of improper behavior before firing him.

If the claim is rejected, the parents could sue.

The claim also accuses the agencies of negligence because they provided inadequate security for children at the school. The claim also names Los Angeles County and the state Department of Social Services as defendants.

"The defendants failed to conduct a proper background check on employees and had knowledge of the problems with, and the dangerous propensities of, Gregory Scott Smith . . . and failed to warn and protect Paul Bailly," the claim reads in part.

Administrators of the nationally recognized school child-care program did not return phone calls for comment Tuesday but have previously denied that the program was responsible for Paul's death. School district officials said they could not comment because they had not seen the claim.

The claim did not ask for a specific sum but said compensation will be sought for negligence, medical, burial and funeral expenses and loss of income. The parents declined to comment on the claim.

Sanford M. Gage, an attorney representing Paul's parents, said his office's investigators and newspaper articles on the slaying revealed that Smith had a long history of improper behavior with children, yet he was not fired until nearly a year after other child-care employees began to record complaints about him.

During that time, Smith had repeated problems with Paul and apparently "fixated" on the boy after being fired, Gage added.

"There was negligence in keeping him so long when there was so much evidence that he shouldn't be dealing with young children," Gage said. "There was a pattern of poor behavior, and he should not have been working in the school facility. He developed a resentment toward Paul Bailly."

Smith has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnaping and arson. He faces the death penalty because the slaying occurred during the commission of a kidnaping.

His trial is scheduled for Oct. 22, but a hearing has been scheduled for today before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Steven Perren in which Smith's attorneys and prosecutors are expected to argue a defense motion to drop the death-penalty allegation.

Times staff writer Mack Reed contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°