Lawyers: Not seeking riches for girl's parents - Philadelphia News

August 19, 2008 8:04:06 AM PDT
Responding to a furor over their wrongful-death suit, lawyers for the estate of a disabled girl who died of starvation said they did not sue Philadelphia officials in an effort to enrich the parents. The lawyers say the suit against the city's child-welfare agency and others is designed to benefit Danieal Kelly's 11 siblings, eight of whom are now in foster care.

However, the lawyers acknowledged at a press conference that parents Andrea and Daniel Kelly could win damages if they are cleared of criminal and neglect charges in their teen daughter's death.

The parents have pledged to turn over one-third of any settlement a judge might award them to the siblings, lawyers Brian Mildenberg and Eric Zajac said.

The lawyers demanded an apology from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who has called the suit "insane, obscene and disgusting," and from District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who suggested the "money-grubbing" parents want to get rich from Danieal's grim death.

Abraham's office issued the harrowing, 258-page grand jury report last month that charged the parents, four city social workers and three family friends with criminal wrongdoing. Andrea Kelly, 39, is charged with murder in her daughter's death, while noncustodial father Daniel Kelly of Darby is charged with child endangerment.

Danieal Kelly, 14, who suffered from cystic fibrosis, was denied food, water, medical care and education, and was overlooked by case workers assigned to monitor the family, the report charged. She weighed just 42 pounds and had bone-deep, maggot-infested bedsores when she died in August 2006 in her mother's squalid home.

The civil suit was initially filed last year by the parents in their role as administrators of Danieal's estate. However, a retired city judge is now expected to become the estate trustee and pursue the claims against the city, the state welfare department and others.

Lawyer George Bochetto, who represents Mildenberg and held Monday's press conference, said the parents will not collect any money if they are convicted of neglect.

The lawyers said they have received death threats and suggested they might file a defamation suit unless the mayor and prosecutor apologized.

The mayor's spokesman said he had no such plans but noted that the comments were directed at the suit, not at the lawyers themselves.

"This entirely sad and sickening legal circus deserves no further attention or comment," Nutter said through the spokesman Monday.

Abraham, in a statement, declined comment.

The case has led to the firing of two city workers, one resignation, one retirement and six suspensions.

Social workers Laura Sommerer and Dana Poindexter, charged by the grand jury for failing to check on Danieal despite reports of abuse, were fired. Poindexter's immediate supervisor, Janice Walker, retired before the investigation was completed. City officials said they would have fired her otherwise.

Acting city health commissioner Carmen Paris resigned after the grand jury report concluded that she interfered in the investigation of the girl's death.

Most recently, the city on Monday said two Department of Human Servies managers Pamela Mayo and Wesley Brown, who supervised workers implicated in Danieal's death, would be suspended without pay for two days and 10 days respectively.

Four more suspended workers remain under investigation.

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On the Net:

Grand jury report:

http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/pdfs/Grand-Jury-DHS-new.pdf

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