Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oklahoma Department of Human Services worker testifies in trial concerning foster child's death

Edmond foster parent has been charged in the death of a child she was caring for in 2009.

Published: September 23, 2011

GUTHRIE — Attorneys cross-examined a state child welfare worker Thursday in the child abuse trial of Amy Holder. Holder is accused of abusing Naomi Whitecrow, 2, who died after four months in foster care with Holder, of Edmond.

Holder has been charged with felony child abuse in connection with the death. Investigators said Naomi had been living with Holder for four months before her death on January 20, 2009, at 7751 Prairie View Road in Edmond.

The Oklahoma medical examiner's office found recent scrapes and bruises on Naomi's face, chest, back legs, right buttock and head, as well as old and new scabs.

Her death was first ruled undetermined, but an Indiana pathologist was able to review the evidence and reported the girl died of blunt-force injury to the head, abdomen and extremities.

The trial for Holder began this week with jury selection Tuesday and opening statements Wednesday.

Prosecutors called Lashelle Humphreys, a Department of Human Services worker, to the stand Thursday to talk about her interaction with the child and her foster parents.

Humphreys said she became involved in the case in 2008 when DHS was asked to intervene when a baby boy tested positive for cocaine at a hospital.

She said the mother, Kayla Whitecrow, also had cocaine and marijuana in her system, according to medical staff.

As the primary worker on the case, Humphreys said Kayla Whitecrow's two children, including Naomi, were removed from the household in February 2008. They were placed with foster parent Alicia Taylor in Garfield County, she said.

When Kayla Whitecrow checked into the Chi Hullo Li Rehabilitation Center, a Choctaw Nation substance abuse facility, to receive treatment, her two children were placed there with her, Humphreys testified.

A facility worker testified Thursday that Naomi seemed healthy when she was placed there. With only two incident reports of her smashing her finger and hitting her head on a water fountain, the woman said she seemed like a normal child.

Another worker who used to interact with Naomi said she didn't have a problem eating or walking.

“She would play with her little brother and put her face on his,” the worker said. “She was a sweet little girl.”

Humphreys told the jury many times that DHS has a policy to try to reunite families; therefore, she made a plan to help the parents receive treatment.

Scott Adams, Holder's attorney, said that his client began fostering Naomi in September 2008 after Kayla Whitecrow left the facility and abandoned her children.

He said Holder believed the girl might have been abused because she would shake and act distant. Adams said this was made known to DHS, however, they proceeded to try and reunite the girl with their birth mother.

Humphreys testified that dealing with Holder was often difficult because of her demands. She said she tried to organize visits between Naomi and her biological mother, but Holder would always cancel the plans.

Adams said that Holder was caring for three other children at the time and needed more notice to plan visits.

He questioned Humphreys' concern for Naomi, asking why she never visited them.

She testified that she only spent five minutes with Naomi at a Christmas party in December 2008, but noticed that her body language seemed distant.

“She kind of looked through me,” Humphreys said. “Her eyes looked hollow. She looked sad.”


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