School picture showed abuse to Seth Ireland

January 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A Fresno police officer who took a report of abuse on Seth Ireland gave one example Tuesday of -- what the boy's father believes -- were missed opportunities to save his life.

In fact, CPS had at least four chances to save Seth -- possibly a dozen -- according to attorneys for the boy's father.

But opposing attorneys say the agency only had a couple concrete reports in the months before his death and not enough to remove him from his home.

Seth Ireland had a black eye when he took his school photo at Kirk Elementary just a few months before his death. The picture shows a swollen left eye and a bruise on his forehead. But even though his principal called Child Protective Services in November, the last time his case worker saw him alive was a month earlier, when a neighbor reported abuse.

In December, Lebaron Vaughn beat Seth to the brink of death. He was dead within a couple weeks.

"At the time of his arrival, his level of consciousness was so low that he wasn't protecting his airway," said Community Regional Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Lawrence Sue. "In other words, he ran the risk of aspirating, the risk of not breathing."

Doctors and a paramedic testified Tuesday that Ireland had so many bruises, they were hard to count. But many of the bruises were older -- inflicted on him as long as ten days before he was hospitalized. During that time frame, Vaughn and Ireland's mother had tried to drop off Seth and his half-brother at the Fresno County jail, where a deputy also called CPS.

Attorneys for Seth's father -- Joe Hudson -- say the agency's own policies require the case worker to make 'in person' contact with children within ten days of certain reports -- like the principal's. But a CPS supervisor had a different understanding of the policies.

"My understanding of this when it says 'in person' doesn't necessarily mean you have to see that person in person, but that the social worker goes out and tried to see the family," said Kim Desmond.

CPS records show Seth's case worker left a business card at his home a week after the black eye report and was there again on the day he was killed.

Fresno County reviewed its own actions in the wake of Seth's death and changed some of its policies.

The lawsuit could force the county to pay for his death as well.


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