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2 South L.A. women concoct scheme to hide torturous child abuse, authorities say
Starkeisha Brown, left, and Krystal Matthews
2 women arrested in 'unbearable abuse' of 5-year-old boy
LA agency under scrutiny in child abuse case
By RAQUEL MARIA DILLON Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 06/19/2008 02:31:18 AM PDT
LOS ANGELES—Social workers investigated abuse allegations nearly three years ago involving a now 5-year-old boy said to be the victim of starvation and torture, but deemed the probe "inconclusive," according to a government report.
The child, whose case came to police attention last week when he was abandoned on a Compton street, was first investigated by social workers when his mother, Starkeisha Brown, was arrested for shoplifting, according to a Department of Children and Family Services report prepared for county supervisors.
A tipster who called the department's child protection hotline in fall 2005 said the boy was neglected and at "substantial risk," the report said. But an investigation, which included a check on the child when he was staying with his grandmother while his mother was in jail, was "deemed inconclusive," according to the confidential report obtained by The Associated Press.
Social workers closed the boy's case file and didn't check on him again until someone else called the hotline on June 4.
The tipster saw the boy with his mother and another woman at a subway station and said he told her his mother "put my hand on top of the stove," the report said.
Children and Family Services officials met Wednesday afternoon to review the ddecisions made in the 2005 investigation and in the recent probe.
Brown reunited with her son last year, beginning what police described as "unbearable psychological and physical abuse."
Prosecutors said the boy had cigarette burns to his body, including his genitals, and he remains hospitalized after suffering kidney failure due to malnutrition.
Authorities alleged Brown, 24, and her friend Krystal Matthews, 21, tried to cover up the abuse when they were ordered to meet social workers on June 9. The two brought their baby sitter's 4-year-old son and daughter and tried to pass the healthy boy off as Brown's son.
Prosecutors said Brown and Matthews fled when a social worker questioned whether the boy was really hers.
Around that time, someone called 911 to report that a sick boy with bruises was left with a homeless person near the Children and Family Services office where the meeting was being held.
The two women were arrested several days later. They were charged Tuesday with torture, child abuse, dissuading a witness and other counts. Both face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
The baby sitter, LaTanya Jones, was arrested in the case Tuesday, and her children were taken into protective custody.
Jones, 26, was charged with child abuse, corporal injury to a child, conspiracy and conspiracy to dissuade a witness. Authorities alleged she disfigured the 5-year-old's hand by burning it on a stove.
When Jones was arrested for narcotics possession in 2003, she was reported to social workers for leaving her 11-month-old child with a stranger at a hotel, the report said. The case was dismissed at a pretrial hearing.
Brown received treatment for mental illness from the county about 10 years ago, the report said.
Matthews, who authorities described as Brown's live-in girlfriend, was a foster child. She was charged with grand theft auto in January 2005, the report said.
As for the 5-year-old, medical records summarized in the report describe him as withdrawn and shy but plays with people he trusts. He has a healthy appetite and began walking over the weekend with a slight limp. His burnt hand is healing well and regaining its range of motion.
Link to this story -
LA agency under scrutiny in child abuse case - San Jose Mercury News