A Las Vegas mother is trying to hold Child Protective Services, or CPS, accountable after the death of her son.
She says CPS could have helped prevent his murder.
Paul Jones was on probation for child abuse when his son and daughter were placed in his care. Months later, Jones would be arrested for the murder of his son, 13-year-old Aaron.
“It’s hard to believe my son is dead,” said Dijonay Thomas, mother. “It’s not something that I would ever understand.”
She and her attorney, Marjorie Hauf sat down with the I-Team.
“We have a situation where the county chose to take Dijonay’s children out of her care and place them with their natural father,” said Marjorie Hauf, attorney.
Thomas says Aaron and his sister were removed from her care by CPS because she could no longer take medication for mental health needs due to a pregnancy.
She claims Paul Jones had no prior relationship with the children before they were placed with him in June of 2016.
A court document states he was awarded custody by CPS.
He lived in a one bedroom at the Siegel Suites with his wife and according to a police report, 11 other children.
The year before, he was arrested for abusing his stepdaughter who claimed he hit her with a cable.
Court records reveal he didn’t even follow the rules for probation.
“He ended up doing it again,” Thomas said. :”This is why CPS shouldn’t have never trusted that.”
According to an arrest report, Jones did do it again, this time to Aaron. Detectives say they learned from several people, Jones would punish Aaron by making him stand against wall with his arms up while other children were encouraged to hit him with anything they chose.
Aaron wasn’t allowed to protect himself.
By Dec. 2016, Aaron was missing, but no one told police and according to police, Jones kept cashing Aaron’s Social Security checks.
In April of 2017, family members began a search of their own near the Jones home and discovered human remains.
“That’s when they called the cops because they were like what is this, what is this figure under this rock? Or whatever and come to find out when the tested the bone, the teeth, it was my son,” Thomas said.
Reporter Vanessa Murphy: “That’s really hard to think about.”
Dijonay Thomas: “That is. That is.”
Paul Jones spoke with 8 News Now from jail shortly after his arrest in 2017.
It’s like all fingers are pointing at me when I didn’t do nothing to him,” Jones said.
Police say Jones later admitted to striking Aaron in the head and when the boy wasn’t responsive, he put his body in this desert area.
Now Thomas is suing Jones along with Clark County, CPS, and several employees and alleges CPS didn’t do a background check on Jones and never visited the two children after they were placed with him.
“Not a single follow up,” Hauf said.
Reporter Vanessa Murphy: Whose fault is that?”
Marjorie Hauf: “That is CPS’ fault. They should have put a plan, if they were gonna place these children with him, they should have put a plan in place to supervise their safety and supervise his care of them.”
Reporter Vanessa Murphy: “What about the argument that CPS didn’t harm the child. Paul Jones did.”
Marjorie Hauf: “CPS did harm the child. A child can’t decide where they are going to live or where they’re gonna be placed. CPS absolutely made the decision to take this child and his sister and put them in a dangerous environment. That was not their choice. It was not their mother’s choice.”
Two CPS employees are specifically named in the lawsuit. Both still work there. According to a CPS spokesman, Carole Falcone is a senior family services specialist making nearly $85,000 a year. Paula Hammack is the assistant director making nearly $123,000.
Siegel Suites is also a plaintiff.
“There’s no way these kids were going through the horror that they were going through without there being some alert to the people that own that property,” Hauf said.
The I-Team reached out to CPS about this case. A spokesman said he could not release specific information about how CPS handled Aaron’s case due to Nevada state law. He directed us to a child welfare disclosure form which reveals numerous contacts with the family since 2006.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking,” Hauf said.
She insists this lawsuit is aimed at fixing the system which could have saved Aaron.
“They’re failing at protecting our children,” Hauf said. “And if people like Dijonay aren’t brave enough to take em to task for it, it’ll continue to happen.”
The district attorney’s office is seeking the death penalty against Paul Jones.
Jones attorney is arguing that he is intellectually disabled and therefore cannot be given the death penalty.
A hearing to decide that is scheduled for March.