I-Team: Review of child deaths raises questions

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The I-Team has been exposing failures at Child Protective Services and how abused children sometimes fall through the cracks. But a state review of CPS paints a different picture.

The families of 27 children who died and 24 others who nearly died in 2017 and 2018 in the state of Nevada had previous contact with child welfare agencies.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau which reviews state agencies to make sure they’re working like they should, zeroed in on the deaths, and near deaths — a combined 51 cases.

The end result was they found no system failures.

“You couldn’t possibly come to that finding realistically,” said attorney Marjorie Hauf.

This memo states:

“Based on our review of the case files provided to us through December 31, 2018, we found no evidence that the fatalities and near fatalities were caused by the agencies not complying with state and federal laws.”

But 13-year-old Aaron Jones died during the time period the LCB claims it reviewed. He was placed with his father who was already on probation for felony child abuse. Months later, the child was dead.

Aaron Jones, 13, died while in the care of his father. (KLAS-TV)

Hauf is representing the child’s mother in a lawsuit filed against Clark County’s Child Protective Services which according to court documents, alleges the county and CPS workers could have prevented Aaron’s death.

“It’s hard to believe my son is dead. It’s not something that I would ever understand,” said Aaron’s mother, Dijonay Thomas, during a Feb. 25 interview with the I-Team.

Dijonay Thomas is the mother of Aaron Jones. (KLAS-TV)

Two days later, a letter summing up the results of the review of child welfare agencies became official.

“I was not aware of this Legislative Counsel Bureau audit letter until you had brought it to my attention,” Hauf said.

Reporter Vanessa Murphy: “And now that you’ve read it, what do you think?

Attorney Marjorie Hauf: “Now that I’ve read it, I think it’s extremely surprising and inaccurate.”

Here is what is known about the Aaron Jones’ case:

In June of 2016, the 13-year-old boy was removed from his mother and placed with his father and a court record states the respondent was awarded custody by CPS.

Dijonay 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.

Paul Jones is facing charges for the death of his son, Aaron Jones. (KLAS-TV)

The father, Paul Jones, was on probation for felony child abuse for hitting his stepdaughter with a cable the year before.

He also lived in a one bedroom apartment with his wife and 11 other children, according to court records.

By Dec. 2016, Aaron was missing, but no one told police. According to detectives, Jones kept cashing Aaron’s Social Security checks. 

In April of 2017, the boy’s bones were discovered and soon after, Paul Jones was accused of murder. He is scheduled to go to trial in January 2020.

“There is obviously a hole in the system somewhere,” Hauf said. “There is some systematic failure that a case like my client’s could fall through a crack and say that that was not a preventable death or violation of any statute or state or federal statute.”

Hauf believes CPS didn’t do a background check on Jones before Aaron was placed with him and says no CPS workers checked on Aaron after he was placed with his father.

Hauf, along with I-Team sources, question whether the LCB reviewed complete case files including Aaron’s.

The I-Team asked the LCB and in an email, a legislative auditor wrote: “… staff review all documentation relevant to the specific circumstances of the case.”

“We need to demand an explanation as to why certain cases, and I’m sure my client’s isn’t the only one, are missing from documents like this” Hauf said. “I mean three pages is not enough to determine what happened to these children.”

An arrest report describes what police say happened to Aaron. 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.

Hauf says CPS could have protected him but there’s no mention of that in this review.

If Aaron’s case wasn’t included in the review, it begs the question — could there be others?

The I-Team’s request for an interview with the head of Child Protective Services in Clark County was denied.

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