Boy’s beating death came after 2 exams, papers show
Months before the body of a beaten 6-year-old boy was found on the floor of his home last week, strong evidence existed to suggest that he was the victim of sustained abuse at the hands of the man now accused of killing him, according to documents obtained by The Times.
Authorities on Wednesday issued a murder warrant for Marcas Fisher, who police believe beat his ex-girlfriend’s son, Dae’von Bailey, to death a week ago. Police cordoned off a South Los Angeles neighborhood Wednesday morning in what ended up being a fruitless search for Fisher. Detectives believe he is in hiding with aid from friends or family.
Los Angeles Police Department officials said Wednesday that social workers had approved an agreement between Fisher and the boy’s mother that placed Dae’von in the man’s home. Fisher had been convicted of rape as a teenager and had a criminal record as an adult.
The appropriateness of that placement is one of several questions being raised by police and county officials about how social workers handled the case.
On April 27, the county Department of Children and Family Services was informed that Fisher had shoved Dae’von into a bathroom sink, injuring the boy’s nose and causing him to miss a week of school.
When a social worker arrived at the house two weeks later, Dae’von said Fisher had “socked him in the nose” but Fisher insisted that the boy’s injury was from an “accident,” according to documents obtained by The Times. Dae’von was treated for a contusion at a private medical office, the records show. But social workers ultimately allowed Dae’von to remain with Fisher.
Then on June 3, the county received another allegation, that Fisher had punched Dae’von in the stomach. When social workers arrived, Dae’von said Fisher hit him in either the stomach or chest, according to the documents. One of his siblings confirmed the story -- but later recanted. Fisher denied hitting the boy.
Again, Fisher took Dae’von to a doctor, and the medical provider who examined him later reported “there were no signs of physical abuse and stated that Dae’von had given more than one version of the incident. . . . She had no concerns for Dae’von,” according to the documents. The county concluded that the boy’s abuse allegations were “unfounded” and took no action.
Less than a month later, the boy’s body was found in a house on 87th Place. County records show that Dae’von’s body was found with “multiple bruises, to his face, arm, chest, back, wrist and elbow . . . [and] multiple circular contusions to both feet.”
Social workers were not the only ones who knew about the earlier allegations of abuse. In an interview with The Times, LAPD Det. Frank Ramirez said that in April and June, the child had told adults at his school that he had been abused. Officials at the school informed the county, he said.
“The boy did what he should do,” Ramirez said. “He reported it to the school, and the school did what they should do. They reported it to DCFS. And unfortunately he’s dead.”
County officials want to know whether social workers did an adequate investigation of the alleged abuse, talking to people besides Fisher and the boy. They have also asked whether the doctors examined him properly.
Both issues have come up before as the county has struggled to address a pattern in which children have been killed after their cases already had come to the attention of county child welfare officials.
The use of private doctors to evaluate potential abuse has been the subject of debate, with critics saying doctors in private practice are not always trained to detect abuse.
In the wake of Dae’von’s death, Supervisor Gloria Molina has proposed a pilot program in parts of the San Gabriel Valley and the Eastside in which all children who come to the county’s attention as possible child-abuse victims would be examined at a county facility by forensic pediatricians and other experts trained to spot abuse. Dr. Astrid Heger, executive director of the L.A. County-USC Violence Intervention Program, said Dae’von was exactly the kind of child who needed to be examined by experts at these county-run centers. There are currently six such “hubs,” but children who come to the county’s attention, like Dae’von, are not always referred to them.
“These kids are trying to figure out how to survive,” Heger said. “It takes an enormous amount of courage for a child to say, ‘He hit me.’ It’s like he’s looking at you and me and saying, ‘Rescue me.’ And what happened? We didn’t. And that’s the tragedy.”
Molina has also recommended adding a new layer of oversight to the county’s process for investigating allegations of child abuse. Under the proposal, a supervising social worker and an assistant regional administrator would review each case even when a social worker had determined the allegations to be “unfounded.”
“Who stepped forward to save this child?” asked Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has called on the county board to appoint an independent investigator to thoroughly review Dae’von’s case and look for breakdowns in the process.
Family Services officials declined to answer specific questions, citing confidentiality rules and the fact that the investigation into the boy’s death was continuing. But in a statement, Director Trish Ploehn said: “The entire department is grieving over the loss of this precious little boy. I have ordered a full investigation into this child’s tragic death. We are in the process of identifying any and all individuals and agencies that may have had contact with this family. Any DCFS procedural or performance violations identified will be fully and swiftly addressed.”
Much remains unknown about the county’s interactions with Dae’von and his family, including why the boy was not living with his mother, Tylette Davis, 28. In an interview with The Times last week, Davis said the boy was living with Fisher while she dealt “with some issues.” It’s unclear whether social workers knew of Fisher’s criminal record when Dae’von went to live with him. Typically, criminal background checks are done on people who social workers believe neglected or abused a child.
At the time of Dae’von’s death, none of Davis’ six children were living with her. Three were staying with her mother, two with Fisher and one with a cousin. All were taken into protective custody after Dae’von’s death.
On Wednesday, Davis said she had not known about the allegations of abuse in April and June. “If I had known, I would have taken the kids from him,” she said. “My boy never told me anything like that.”
LAPD Cmdr. Patrick Gannon said detectives still have much ground to cover in the investigation, but one fact remains painfully clear.
“This child was beaten to death,” he said. “There’s no telling how long he suffered before dying.”
Times staff writer Garrett Therolf contributed to this report.
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
Slain boy’s last days
April 27: L.A. County child abuse hotline receives a call reporting that Marcas Fisher had injured his ex-girlfriend’s son, Dae’von Bailey.
May 13: A social worker visits the household.
May 29: The Department of Children and Family Services closes the case, having decided that the allegation of abuse was not substantiated.
June 3: A call to the child abuse hotline alleges another incident of abuse of Dae’von by Fisher.
June 4: Social workers visit the household again.
June 25: Social workers’ last contact with Dae’von: The abuse charge was determined to be unfounded.
July 23: Dae’von’s body is found.
Source: Times reporting