CPS accused of ignoring warning signs before boy's murder

January 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno County's Child Protective Services stands accused of ignoring warning signs, and letting a man murder his girlfriend's 10-year-old son, while another boy watched.

Lebaron Vaughn murdered Seth Ireland four years ago and he's now serving a life sentence. But Ireland's father says it didn't have to happen and he's suing CPS for letting Vaughn do it.

Child Protective Services got several calls reporting abuse against Seth Ireland and his half-brother Jervon. But attorneys for Seth's father say the agency missed at least four chances to step in and save the boy's life.

Ireland's short life came to an abrupt end inside a Southwest Fresno home four years ago, at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, Lebaron Vaughn.

The 10-year-old had been a good student and an active reader, but his life changed drastically when Vaughn moved in with his family in 2007.

"The minute he moved in is when the problems began," said Warren Paboojian, who represents Ireland's father, Joe Hudson.

Paboojian laid out a series of problems reported to CPS, starting in august 2008, when Seth's dad spotted bruises on his son. Two months later, a neighbor called CPS and police to report abuse in progress. And a month after that, a school principal told CPS Seth had a black eye. After each report, Paboojian says CPS did not enough, or nothing at all.

"It's my belief -- and I believe this is what the evidence is going to show -- that CPS ignored all the warning signs and they didn't listen to what went on in this case," Paboojian said.

CPS got one last chance to save Seth Ireland, the day after Christmas in 2008, when his mother and Vaughn tried to drop off Seth and his half-brother at the Fresno County jail.

A deputy again called CPS, but the woman who took the call took no action, other than sending an email to Ireland's case worker. Three days later, Vaughn gave Seth the beating that ended his life. Vaughn got his punishment in a criminal court. Now Seth's father and his attorney want CPS punished as well.

"It's the loss of his only son," Paboojian said. "No Christmas. No birthdays. No future. No graduation. No wedding. No grandchildren."

Lawyers for CPS will make their opening statements Tuesday. But in previously filed documents, they deny ignoring Seth's case. They say social workers are required to analyze the available information, but not to reach a decision to remove a child.

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