Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Abusive aunt should not have been given custody

Officials say no abuse reported prior to Antioch foster child's alleged murder
CBS 5, Sept. 8, 2008.

ANTIOCH (BCN) -- Fifteen-year-old Jazzmin Davis was allegedly tortured and killed by her foster mother in Antioch, but nobody had ever reported any abuse to child protective services, executive director of San Francisco's Human Services department Trent Rhorer said today.

Jazzmin had been placed in foster care with her aunt, 37-year-old Shemeeka Davis shortly after she was born, Rhorer said.

Although Davis lived in Antioch, San Francisco oversaw the foster care placement and paid Davis for caring for Jazzmin, Rhorer said.

Antioch police reported that Jazzmin had a twin brother, who was also placed in Davis' care and also allegedly showed physical signs of abuse, but Rhorer said state law only permitted him to release information about deceased children. Davis' 7-year-old biological daughter had also allegedly been abused, according to police.

The two surviving children have been placed in protective custody, police said.

Throughout Jazzmin's 15 years in Davis' care, neither San Francisco nor Contra Costa children's services received any reports of suspected abuse, Rhorer said.

Jazzmin's social worker, who visited her every six months, also never reported suspecting any abuse. The social worker last visited Jazzmin in March, Rhorer said.

All of the child's medical and dental records were up to date, Rhorer said.

Jazzmin was found dead inside Davis' home at 3750 Killdeer Drive Tuesday afternoon.

Antioch police Lt. Leonard Orman said an autopsy showed that she had been burned with hot irons and whipped with belts and electrical cords over a long period of time.

The coroner's office, however, has not determined an official cause of death and is awaiting results of a toxicology test before the final report can be released, a deputy coroner said today.

Orman said a doctor told authorities that Jazzmin's brother also suffered similar injuries, but survived them.

Police today were still looking for the twins' biological father, 40-year-old Jason Lawon Davis, because he reportedly had recent supervised visits with the children, Orman said.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has issued a no-bail warrant for his arrest, alleging that he violated his parole on a previous drug conviction, police said.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney's office charged Davis Friday with murder, two counts of torture and two counts of felony child abuse, according to Deputy District Attorney Satish Jallepalli.

She was arraigned on the charges Friday but did not enter a plea. She is scheduled to return to court Sept. 26 for a further arraignment.

Once the coroner's report is complete, the San Francisco Human Services quality assurance division will review the case to assess whether all federal, state and local policies and procedures were followed. The report will then be presented to Rhorer and potentially to Mayor Gavin
Newsom.

"I think the unanswered question right now is the length of the abuse," Rhorer said, and whether Jazzmin could have hidden her injuries with clothing.

Contra Costa County's Children and Family Services department was required to submit a child fatality report to the California Department of Social Services, but could not comment further on Jazzmin's death.

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