Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In Re Mia Z. (Cal. Ct. App. - April 20, 2016)

"At some point during the day on May 12, 2014, [a three-year old child named] Destiny walked away from Mother’s apartment and ended up about 120 feet away, in a well-trafficked alley fronting a commercial parking lot. While Destiny was standing in the alley, a heavy metal rolling gate at the access to the parking lot fell off its track and landed on Destiny, striking her in the head. Paramedics responded to the scene and transported Destiny to a local hospital, but doctors could not save her. Destiny was pronounced dead in the mid-afternoon. . . .

Destiny’s accident occurred in an alley in front of a commercial parking lot that was 'very far' from Mother’s residence. Further, Detective Martinez reported that video surveillance showed Destiny and two boys in the parking lot for several minutes before the accident. The boys began pushing and pulling on a black metal gate, and, while Destiny was out of the camera’s view, the gate fell over into the alley where she was apparently standing. Beyond the details of the accident with the gate, the detective reported that the alley where Destiny had been playing was a high traffic area through which cars traveled at a high rate of speed. Detective Martinez stated that she was aware of a child neglect report involving the family in mid-September 2013 for leaving children unsupervised. Detective Martinez stated that it was her belief that Mother had a history of leaving her children unsupervised. . . .

The social worker then went to Father’s address where a tenant in his building (who wished to remain anonymous) reported that Mother, Destiny and Mia had moved out about a month earlier. The tenant had known the family for many years. He said there had always been concerns about the parents’ lack of supervision of their children. The tenant explained that on a daily basis the children were observed by various tenants to be on the apartment balcony, in the hallways, on the sidewalk, or in the lobby alone and unsupervised. This typically occurred during daytime hours when Father was at work and Mother was home with Destiny and Mia. The tenant said he had talked to the parents about the lack of supervision on more than one occasion. Mother would say things to the effect that she did not know how the children got out of her eyesight. The social worker learned that the building had several video cameras, and was shown a video taken in September 2013, when Mia and Destiny left the family apartment, went down the stairs, and exited through the lobby out onto the street. The tenant said he had several videos depicting the children wandering around the building unsupervised. When asked why he kept the videos, the tenant answered that he had almost hit Destiny with his car once when she 'darted into the street.' According to the tenant: 'Her parents didn’t know where she was or what had happened. But that was always the case. There were several times where the girls [were] in a situation where something tragic could have happened because their parents did not care.' . . .

An anonymous reporter told DCFS that Destiny and Mia regularly would leave the apartment and go to the balcony, hallways, and the outside of the apartment building, and were often observed running around the building without supervision, diapers, or clothes. According to the reporter, a number of tenants had acted to protect the children when they were outdoors alone, and had confronted Mother about her lack of supervision.

Martin B., the parents’ landlord, told DCFS that he often saw Destiny and Mia wandering around without supervision. He said Mother usually left her door open when the children were playing outside, but 'the supervision was not there.' He also said there were 'many times' when he told Mother that both girls had gone into the apartment of a single male. Martin B. said that many tenants had brought to his attention the fact that the children were not being supervised. When asked how many times he saw that the children were not being supervised, Martin B. replied, 'at least 20 times.' He added that he once found the children on the fire escape stairs, which was extremely dangerous because the family lived on the third floor.

Tony B., who managed the family’s apartment building until 2012, told DCFS he noticed the parents were not adequately supervising the children, which he brought to Mother’s attention two or three times. He often saw Destiny at the top of the third floor staircase while mother was inside cooking with the door open. Tony B. described one incident where Destiny and Mia made it all the way to the emergency exit of the building, which had a large hole to the first floor. He took the children back to Mother’s apartment and explained the risk that the girls could fall into the hole.

During the parents’ further interviews, Mother denied ever placing the children at any risk, and claimed she was providing adequate care. She said that many of the children in the apartment complex played outside and other parents would supervise her children. Father said he and Mother had come to believe that Destiny’s death was her 'destiny,' and added that accidents can 'happen in a breeze and there are accidents that can’t be prevented.'"

Usually, when you've got facts like these, the parents have an underlying drug problem.  But that does not seem to be the case here (or at least there's no evidence of it).  The facts are what they are.  And they are distressing indeed.  Not only for the now-deceased three year old, but for her siblings as well, who are now four and one years old.