By Craig Schneider, AJC
Details emerged Wednesday about four children who died within a three week period after their families had come to the attention of the state’s child welfare agency.
None of the children were in the custody of the state Division of Family and Children Services when they died, but all their families had prior contact with DFCS. The agency was in the process of removing one of the children when the death occurred.
DFCS has refused to identify the children, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has pieced together information about their identities and the circumstances of their deaths from law enforcement agencies and officials familiar with the DFCS probe.
DFCS, the state agency that investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the deaths of the four children.
Holden Young, 2, of Rabun County
DFCS was in the process of trying to remove Holden and his sister when their mother fled with the children in a car. The mother had failed a drug test. In the past, DFCS had taken steps to protect Holden’s sister, who had been abused in the mother’s home.
On Jan. 27, a DFCS caseworkers knocked on the door of the grandmother’s home, intent on removing the children and placing them in foster care. When no one answered the door, the DFCS worker drove down the street to obtain cell phone service. The mother then fled in a car with her children. She crashed the vehicle, killing the boy.
The mother, Misty Bleckley, 24, has been charged with DUI, reckless driving and homicide by vehicle, according to Gerald Johnson, chief investigator with the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office. She is being held without bail in the Rabun County jail.
Isaiah Jackson, 6 months, of Chatham County
DFCS began an investigation after Isaiah, who was classified as “medically fragile” was brought to a hospital suffering from a low blood oxygen level. Medical personnel told the agency they feared that the parents would not follow the medical plan for the child. It was at least the second time concerns had been voiced to DFCS regarding Isaiah.
In both instances, the agency determined that the child was not in sufficient danger to remove him from the home — a practice called diversion. The hospital released the boy back into the care of the parents and provided a visiting nurse and other in-home services.
Isaiah died on Jan. 27. Autopsy results are pending.
Austin Edwards, 5 weeks, of Coweta County
DFCS was called in over concerns that the parents would not follow a medical plan for the boy, said Rachelle Carnasale, DFCS director. Austin was placed in the residence of his grandmother, with the parents permitted to live in the same residence. The parents were living with the infant in a pool house on the premises of the grandmother’s home.
Austin died as a result of injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome, said Major James Yarbrough of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. Doctors found broken bones and internal bleeding. Austin’s father, Johnny Lee Edwards, 21, has been charged with murder, child cruelty and battery.
Justin Walker, 3, of Hogansville in Troup County
Justin died Jan. 28. DFCS initially intervened with the family in 2009 after a domestic dispute involving a knife. The parents have since split up, and Justin was living with his mother in a residence with several other people.
Police have arrested the mother’s roommate, Lakeivius Rosser of Hogansville, and charged her with child cruelty and murder.
Rosser was watching the boy while his mother was out, said GBI spokesman John Bankhead. The child died of a physical assault and the GBI has ruled the death a homicide.