DCF Records On Delray Canal Children Released
DELRAY BEACH (CBS4) – The Florida Department of Children & Families released details about the time leading up to the bodies of Jermaine McNeil, 10, and Ju’Tyra Allen, 6, being found in a Delray Beach canal.
According to the report, Jermaine McNeil was born in 2000 to a teen mother who had been a foster child and an abuse victim. He lived in disgusting conditions, surrounded by violence. He was removed from his mother’s care in 2002.
His half-sister, Ju’Tyra, was taken from her mother’s care upon her birth in 2004.Such a horrific start would doom many families, but according to DCF, Jermaine and Ju’Tyra were fortunate. Their mother, Felicia Brown, loved them and worked hard to regain custody.
“She was young and came from a very problem background but she had a heart and she loved her kids,” said attorney John Walsh, who represented Jermaine at his adoption hearing.
Walsh said Brown became sober, found a steady job and completed the classes and therapy necessary to earn her kids’ back. However, Brown and her children could not escape a cycle of violence.
Earlier this month, the bodies of Jermaine and Ju’Tyra were discovered stuffed inside bags in a Delray Beach canal. That discovery led to the identification of Brown’s body, which had been recovered in a West Palm Beach landfill in August 2010.
“It’s very tragic and senseless how this ended up for this family,” Walsh said.
DCF officials released dozens of pages of records in the family’s case Tuesday in hopes of painting a picture of a family that overcame significant odds to be whole again.
Records show that when Jermaine McNeil was born in 2000, Felicia Brown was only 14 years old. DCF was called to the home she shared with her mother on five occasions.
Reports show the home they lived in was “roach infested” with “holes in the bathroom walls” and “no running water in the kitchen.”
During one call, an investigator found Jermaine “dirty” and with “body odor.”On another occasion, an investigator found Jermaine with a ” diaper which was soaked through.”
Investigators say Brown suffered verbal abuse at the hands of her mother and also got into fights with her mom, CBS4’s Carey Codd reported.
Jermaine and his mom were placed into foster care in 2001.
By 2002, Brown had given birth to a second child at a substance abuse treatment facility but ran away with the child.
Later that year, both children were removed from her custody.
Attempt to Reunify Fails
In 2004, DCF allowed Brown to have custody of Jermaine again. But he was quickly removed after a violent incident in Brown’s home. Her ex-boyfriend was accused of punching her in the stomach and hitting her in the arm with a crowbar.
Brown was 8 months pregnant at the time. She soon gave birth to Ju’Tyra and investigators placed the newborn with her paternal grandmother.
Months later, Brown surrendered her parental rights to Jermaine.
DCF said Brown then began turning her life around. She completed numerous therapy programs and became clean and sober. She was reunited with Ju’Tyra in 2006.
Brown worked on regaining custody of Jermaine as well.
In November 2008, a photo at the Palm Beach County Courthouse on National Adoption Day shows Brown and Jermaine beaming.
An attorney representing Jermaine — Jennifer Gardner — called it “one of the happiest days” of Brown’s life.
“Jermaine was never happy when he was in foster care,” Gardner said. “He was finally happy being home.”
DCF Regional Director Perry Borman said the agency backed the decision to reunite the family.
“Felicia Brown had demonstrated that she deserved the chance to have her children back,” he said. “That’s the decision that we supported.”
DCF supervised the family for 9 months and did not see any reason to be concerned. A photo of a smiling Jermaine in his Boca Jets football uniform shows the happiness that consumed him.
At the time, child welfare investigators said Brown was living in Boynton Beach with a stable boyfriend of two years. They did not know of Clem Beauchamp’s role in Brown’s life.
Brown’s sister, Margaret Gissome, said she lost contact with her sister around this time but is aware that her sister began a relationship with Beauchamp around the end of 2007 or beginning of 2008.
Brown even testified on Beauchamp’s behalf during a custody battle he was involved in with Michelle Dent, the mother of his three children.
DCF investigated the Beauchamp home but was not aware of Brown’s involvement.
“Felicia Brown’s children were never present in any past investigation that may have involved Michelle Dent, Clem Beauchamp or Felicia,” Borman said.
At some point, Brown and her children moved into Beauchamp’s home in Delray Beach.
In 2009, Beauchamp was investigated for having a gun silencer in his car. A federal prosecutor has said that Brown was a witness in the case.
Several months later — in August 2010 — Brown went missing. Neighbors said when they asked where Brown was, Beauchamp would tell them that she was in jail.
According to DCF, after their mother’s disappearance Jermaine and Ju’Tyra continued living with Beauchamp in his home while attending Pine Grove Elementary. The last day the children were seen in school was February 18.
Less than 2 weeks later, the bodies of Jermaine and Ju’Tyra were found stuffed inside a suitcase and a duffel bag in a canal a short distance from their home.
DCF Backs Decision
In light of the murders, DCF Regional Director Perry Borman admitted there has been discussion over whether the agency and its’ partners made the right decision by bringing Jermaine and Ju’Tyra back to their mother.
“The fact is that no matter what job we do sometimes even when we do the best job it ends up in tragedy,” he said.
When asked if DCF planned to review any of its’ protocols or procedures because of the events that unfolded in the Brown case, Borman said no.
“We did our job,” he added.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4’s Carey Codd contributed material for this report)