Indictments in girl's starvation death

July 31, 2008 4:45:00 PM PDT
The parents of a disabled teen who wasted away from neglect, and four social workers assigned to monitor her well-being, were charged Thursday in the girl's starvation death. Authorities also charged three family friends who they say lied about the horrific suffering of Danieal Kelly, 14, whose 42-pound body was found in her mother's squalid house covered with bone-deep, maggot-infested bedsores in August 2006.

In releasing in a 258-page grand jury report recommending the charges, District Attorney Lynne Abraham assailed the city's Department of Human Services, calling the agency's handling of the case "callous, indifferent, unconscionable" - and all too familiar.

"Danieal did not fall through the cracks," Abraham said. "It was a failure of institutional inclination. Saving Danieal was just too much trouble."

Warrants were issued for all nine defendants Thursday. Andrea Kelly, the mother of Danieal (pronounced "Danielle"), was charged with murder and father Daniel Kelly, who did not live with the family, was charged with child endangerment.

Andrea Kelly, 39, not only refused to get her daughter food, water and medical treatment, the grand jury report said, she repeatedly prevented one of her other children from calling an ambulance "for his obviously dying sister."

A listing for Andrea Kelly's attorney, Vincent Giusini, rang unanswered Thursday. It was not immediately clear if Daniel Kelly, 37, had an attorney.

The report describes an incomprehensible situation in which two DHS workers, two workers from a private social services agency and three of Andrea Kelly's friends either saw or were told of what was happening to Danieal, yet did nothing until after she died. That's when they scrambled to cover-up their inaction, authorities said.

Department of Human Services commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, who has only been in office a month, said she is intent on improving child safety and worker accountability in an agency that has repeatedly been accused of failing to protect children.

"Many, many things have changed and will continue to change," Ambrose said at a news conference. "We're moving in the right directions."

Still, she briefly broke down when asked if she had seen pictures of Danieal in the report. One is a gruesome photo of her corpse.

Ambrose said the two employees charged in the grand jury report have been suspended with intent to dismiss.

City social worker Dana Poindexter was charged with child endangerment. The grand jury accused him of "less than meager" efforts to look into several reports over three years that Danieal, who had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair, was not receiving medical care, social services or schooling.

"He did not complete a single investigation or risk assessment," the report said. "Indeed, his file on the family was buried at the bottom of a filing cabinet-sized box, beneath food wrappers and unopened envelopes relating to other children's cases."

A message left for Poindexter's attorney was not immediately returned Thursday.

Another city employee, Laura Sommerer, faces a child endangerment charge. She wrote in a report five weeks before Danieal's death that "the children appeared safe and comfortable" in the Kelly house in the Parkside neighborhood, according to grand jurors.

Sommerer's attorney, Lisa Dykstra, declined to comment Thursday.

Two employees of MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, a now-defunct company that DHS hired to provide social services to Danieal, falsified documents to cover up the fact they rarely, if ever, checked on her, the grand jury said.

Julius Murray and Mickal Kamuvaka were charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with public records. An e-mail sent to Kamuvaka was not immediately returned. Contact information for Murray could not immediately be located.

Also charged were Andrea Miles, Marie Moses and Diamond Brantley, all of Philadelphia, who were friends with Andrea Kelly.

The report accuses them of perjury for telling grand jurors that Danieal had been fine on Aug. 3, 2006, the day before her festering remains were removed from a filthy mattress in the stifling house.

It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.

The grand jury's report should "outrage the entire Philadelphia community" and bring about "earth-shattering, cataclysmic changes" at the Department of Human Services, Abraham said.

Too many reports have repeatedly documented the same problems at the agency, which Abraham said has given only "lip service to halfhearted corrective action" over the past 20 years. At least 55 children have died under the agency's watch, she said.

"The DHS agency has been ... in total meltdown and free fall," Abraham said. "You can't continue to bury these children and say things are getting better when they're not."

--- On the Net: Grand jury report: http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/pdfs/Grand-Jury-DHS-new.pdf (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-07-31-08 1849EDT

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