Thursday, September 29, 2016

New York City’s history of failure to prevent fatal child abuse



Lisa Steinberg was beaten to death in 1987. (KEITH TORRIE

a series of broken promises between the city and many of its abused kids.

*In 1874, a missionary named Etta Wheeler heard that a 9-year-old girl, Mary Ellen Wilson, had been routinely beaten by her guardians in their Hell’s Kitchen apartment — and no one could stop them.

Wheeler turned to the only organization able to help at the time — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

An ASPCA lawyer found a legal mechanism that allowed Wheeler to free Mary Ellen — and for the first time politicians began focusing on child protective services.

Eventually the city formed the Bureau of Child Welfare. In 1969, it was renamed Special Services for Children — the first of many reincarnations for the agency now known as ACS.

*On Oct. 6, 1987, cops responded to an anonymous call that said a child needed help inside a Greenwich Village apartment. Upon arrival, police found a 6-year-old girl, Lisa Steinberg, beaten to a bloody pulp and unconscious. A 16-month-old boy, Mitchell Steinberg, was tethered to a chair and covered in his own filth.



Front page of the Daily News covering the death of Lisa Steinberg.

Police arrested lawyer Joel Steinberg, 46, who had illegally adopted both kids, and his partner Hedda Nussbaum, 45. Lisa died a month later and Mitchell was reunited with his biological mom. Steinberg was convicted of manslaughter in Lisa’s death. He served 16 years in prison and released on parole in 2004. Nussbaum testified against Steinberg and was not charged.

Soon after, Mayor Ed Koch renamed the agency to the Child Welfare Administration.



In 1995, city officals called Elisa Izquierdo's death the "worst case of child abuse they had ever seen." (Murray, Ken)

*On Nov. 22, 1995, horrified city officials reported the “worst case of child abuse they had ever seen” — and admitted they had been warned five times but failed to act. Elisa Izquierdo, 6, born to a crack addict, died after enduring years of physical, sexual and mental abuse at the hands of mother Awilda Lopez, who was convinced the girl was possessed by the devil.

Lopez made Elisa eat her own feces, mopped the floors with the girl’s hair and let her husband, Carlos Lopez, physically abuse the girl.

Elisa died after her mom threw her into a concrete wall. Lopez left the girl overnight while brain fluid slowly leaked from her nose. Lopez was convicted of second-degree murder. She is up for parole in 2018.

The city passed Elisa’s Law, which restructured city protection rules, after the girl’s death. Mayor Rudy Giuliani also renamed the agency yet again. The Administration for Children’s Services was formed and given its own commissioner. Just two years later, tragedy struck again — and repeated with frightening regularity.



Daytwon Bennett was found starved and beaten to death in 1997. (xxxxx)

* On March 29, 1997, 5-year-old Daytwon Bennett was found starved and beaten to death — under the nose of a city caseworker who visited his home 13 times but failed to notice his suffering.

His mother, Jocelyn Bennett, 27, had an eight-year history of child abuse. Daytwon’s emaciated body was covered in welts, including rope burns on his wrists. He was pronounced dead when his mother, using a fake name, took him to a hospital claiming he had a virus.

*On Nov. 8, 1997, Sabrina Green, 9, was beaten and burned to death by her older sister Yvette Green and Yvette’s boyfriend, Daryl Stephens. Sabrina was placed in her 32-year-old sister’s care in March and never showed up for school in September.

Attendance teachers, required to make a home visit after 10 absences, made only phone calls and never attempted to verify Yvette Green’s story that the girl was sick. Green had 10 kids of her own and ACS did a background check — even though Green was already under ACS investigation for abuse of one of her own children.

* On Dec. 3, 2000, a 15-month-old boy, Kyron Hamilton, died after he was beaten and whipped with a belt by his mother, Nicole Hamilton, 25. She said she beat him because he was annoying her while she tried to watch TV. ACS had investigated Hamilton in 1999 after an anonymous caller said she left her infant twins and Kyron’s older brother Tyon alone while she got high.

ACS closed the case after she attended parenting class and was referred to a drug treatment center. Hamilton pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Kyron’s death.

*On June 28, 2001, a 2-year-old Queens girl, Sydney Achan, died six days after she was found unconscious in her mother’s apartment. Sydney died of multiple skull fractures and brain injuries, the result of whiplash and blunt impact trauma.

Her mother, Deborah Achan, 29, hired a lawyer and refused to speak to cops, as did her boyfriend Israel Lopez.

Sydney’s father eventually sued ACS, claiming the agency overlooked his reports of suspected abuse. He noticed bruises on his daughter’s neck during a visit and took her to a hospital, then filed a report that he said the ACS caseworker, a new hire, had ignored.

* On Nov. 5, 2001, 3-year-old Sylena Herrnkind was beaten to death by her mother in the Staten Island home she shared with four siblings.

On the day she died, Sylena had soiled her diaper. Parents Julie and Matthew Herrnkind scrubbed her with steel wool, rinsed her with peroxide, made her eat soap and then dunked her head in ice-cold water. A report after Sylena’s death showed a parade of city caseworkers and therapists missed blatant signs of abuse committed against the girl and the Herrnkinds’ four other children.

*On Nov. 13, 2001, a 4-year-old girl, Signifagance Oliver, was drowned by her mother, who claimed she was exorcising the child of demons. Her mother, Sabrina Wright, 29, had lost custody of Signifagance and her twin sister, Ellagance, as well as two older children in 1997 after ACS found evidence of abuse.

ACS said it didn’t know how Wright came back into contact with the twins or how long they’d been with their mother. ACS had given custody of the twins to an out-of-state aunt in February 1999. In April and December of that year, ACS followed up and found the twins doing well. The case was closed.

* On Nov. 21, 2001, 7-year-old Inez Bennett was found dead inside a roach-infested Bronx apartment. Her jaw was smashed along with both arms. She died of multiple blows to the head. Mom Natasha Anderson, 24, called 911. She and her boyfriend Jason Lewis, 24, also had a 3-year-old son. ACS had gotten a complaint of neglect against the family in 1999 but said it was unfounded. Anderson pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and avoided a prison sentence. Lewis pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years.



Jovannie Florestal was convicted of second-degree murder for the death of her son, Colesvintong Florestal, who was starved and beaten to death in 2004. (HERMANN, Marc A.)

* On May 20, 2004, officials got a 911 call to a Harlem shelter, where they found 3-month-old Colesvintong Florestal, starved and beaten to death. He weighed less when he died then he had at birth, and all his ribs were broken, officials said. He had a broken leg and suffered brain trauma from being violently shaken.

His mother, Jovannie Florestal, then 23, was convicted of second-degree murder. His father, Colesvintong Florestal Sr., had pleaded guilty to his son’s murder and got 20 years as well. In 2001, ACS got a “substantial allegation of inadequate guardianship” against the couple for their older son. The boy was placed with a relative.



Sierra Roberts was beaten to death in 2005.

* On October 25, 2005, 7-year-old Sierra Roberts was beaten to death. Her father pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with her death. ACS had investigated the family, but failed to remove Sierra.



Nixzmary Brown was found dead in her Brooklyn apartment in 2006. She died as a result of a blow to the head. (Robert Mecea/Newsday Staff)

* On Nov. 6, 2005, 16-month-old Dahquay Gillians drowned in the bathtub of his apartment. His mother pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. ACS had also investigated the family.



Quachaun Brown died in 2006. His mother and her boyfriend were charged with manslaughter and murder.

* On Jan. 11, 2006, police found 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown beaten to death in her Brooklyn apartment. She died as a result of a blow to the head. Her mother and stepfather were charged with her death. Nixzmary’s stepfather was also charged with sexually abusing her and unlawfully imprisoning her. In the year before Nixzmary’s death, ACS received repeated reports Nixzmary and her siblings were being abused and neglected — but the kids were never removed.

* On Jan. 30, 2006, 4-year-old Quachaun Browne was found beaten to death in his apartment. His mother, Aleshia Smith, 26, and her boyfriend were charged with manslaughter and murder. Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison. Boyfriend Jose Calderon, 19, was charged with murder. ACS had received six complaints about Aleshia Smith since 2004, and caseworkers visited the house four times in the three months before Quachaun’s death, but failed to save him.

* On Sept. 2, 2010, medics responded to call for a 4-year-old girl who stopped breathing and found Marchella Pierce lying on a bed, weighing 18 pounds, with pieces of twine around the bedposts and blood on the wall.



Myls Dobson died after being starved, beaten and tortured for a week in 2014. (Facebook)

The girl, starved and beaten, was often drugged and tied to the bed by her addict mother. Carlotta Brett-Pierce was found guilty of her murder in 2012. For the first time, the city also charged two ACS caseworkers, holding them criminally responsible for the death of a child.

* On Jan. 8, 2014, an adorable 4-year-old boy died after being starved, beaten and tortured for a week, allegedly at the hands of his father’s girlfriend.

Myls Dobson was removed his mother’s custody by ACS in 2012, and placed with his loving, jailbird dad who had a long rap sheet. Caseworkers visited the boy’s home nine times without realizing his father was behind bars.

Myls’ accused attacker, Kryzie King, who has yet to stand trial, was charged with his death.

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http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-york-city-history-failure-prevent-fatal-child-abuse-article-1.2810934