A state lawmaker with a long history of looking at Department of Children Services (DCS) cases says court-ordered documents just released about child deaths and abuse at the state agency raise questions about prosecution and autopsies.
As Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville digested parts of the nearly 1,600 pages given to media outlets on Sunday, one thought struck her case after case.
“I am really surprised at the number that don't seem to be prosecuted,” she told Nashville's News 2 on Monday at her state capitol office.
“And in some cases they did not take this on to prosecution where a child has been hurt, and a hospital can tell its been over a period of time,” Jones continued.
A DCS spokesperson said, “District Attorneys sometimes choose not to prosecute once DCS investigations are complete.”
But there is likely another issue that is hindering investigation that Rep. Jones noticed in Case #2 of the 42 files released by Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy.
“The autopsies are taking forever,” said Jones, who pointed out that in Case #2 the document itself indicated autopsy “was extremely overdue at 200 days.”
Other documents from DCS previously obtained last Fall indicate several child death cases with notations like “case remains open pending autopsy” and “will not know until the autopsy comes back.”
“In some cases its been nearly a year,” added Jones.
The issues of prosecution and autopsies weren't the only things that struck Jones.
She said the files released are really just “notes from the case manager when they talk to the parents or the family.”
Names and locations of the child deaths or abuse are blacked out in the case notes per the court order.
The 42 death or near-death cases released on Mother's Day come after statewide media outlets sought the documents, hoping for answers about kids dying in state custody, or complaints about abuse investigated by DCS.
Another batch of documents related to investigations of children's deaths or abuse are scheduled to be released on June 7.
Around 200 cases have been sought by media lawyers.