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The Journal Gazette

  • Malakai

Sunday, April 08, 2018 1:00 am


Child deaths reveal holes in society's safety net

Family and community members gathered last week to mark the 30th anniversary of April Tinsley's abduction and death. Witnesses said they saw a man force a girl into a blue pickup truck near the 8-year-old's home on April 1, 1988. Three days later she was found dead in a DeKalb County ditch – sexually assaulted before being suffocated.

It's too soon to mark the anniversary of a Huntington infant's death. The two-month-old girl died Tuesday. Her father, Kevin Neal Tucker, is charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death and aggravated battery resulting in death.

So, too, for 10-week-old Lxzander Carrillo, who died March 12. His skull was fractured and he suffered multiple strikes to his head, according to court documents. His father, Julio Carrillo, was charged with murder.

Today marks just one month since Benjamyn Otto McKinley Frederick arrived at the hospital showing evidence of severe abuse. He died March 10 from neck compression and blunt force trauma. Danial Tyrell Pope, 28, is charged with murder in the 5-year-old's death.

It's been only three months since2-year-old Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher, was found unconscious in a home on East Butler Street. She was pronounced dead at the scene. No charges have been filed, pending toxicology reports.

It's been less than five months since Malakai Garrett, 2, died from severe internal injuries. His mother is charged with neglect and her boyfriend faces a murder charge.

April Tinsley's murder is notable because it remains unsolved three decades later. But the disturbing frequency of violent child deaths in northeast Indiana demands attention as well.

Indiana's most recent child fatality report – for the one-year period ending June 30, 2015 – showed eight neglect-related deaths in Allen County; none related to abuse. The previous year found just two neglect-related deaths.

But five of the child deaths reported in northeast Indiana in the past six months will likely be recorded as child-abuse fatalities on the 2018 state report.

They don't include the accidental shooting death of an 8-year-old Grabill girl or the death of an unborn child killed when his mother and another woman were shot to death on Lillie Street in Fort Wayne.

Something is seriously wrong when infants and young children are dying at such an alarming rate. A report due in late June might determine whether the Indiana Department of Child Services is part of the problem. Its former director, Mary Beth Bonaventura, quit in December, warning that decisions made by the governor's staff to cut funding and services in the midst of the opioid crisis resulted in circumstances that, if continued, “all but ensure children will die.”

“Most of the recent deaths are at the hands of young/first time fathers or boyfriends with the appearance of not having experience with young children,” wrote Deanna Szyndrowski, CEO of SCAN, the region's child abuse and neglect prevention agency, “All of these deaths could have been prevented by reaching out for support when frustrated, knowing your own emotions/strengths and understanding the fragile child

“We, as a community need to utilize the number of prevention programs in our community to support parents,” she added in an email.

The tools to protect children exist, but there are clearly holes in the safety net when so many children die. We must find out why and step up to protect them.