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DCF Case Worker Overlooked Missing Baby

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Dontrell Melvin. (Source: Pete Abut)

Dontrell Melvin. (Source: Pete Abut)

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South Florida Crime

HALLANDALE BEACH (CBSMiami) – A Department of Children and Families investigator who went to a Hallandale Beach home in September to check on reports of abuse apparently didn’t notice that a 5-month-old baby was missing.

According to documents released late Monday, the investigator only checked on the older children in the home and didn’t ask about five-month-old Dontrell Melvin. A month later, Brittney Sierra told police Dontrell hadn’t seen her baby in more than a year.

A neighbor described what she saw at the house where Melvin, Sierra, and his grandparents and family lived.

“Terrible, she said, “that’s all I can say, terrible.”

The neighbor described a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking Sierra and a hot tempered grandfather.

“What kind of things would she say to her kids?” asked CBS4’s Ted Scouten.

“I don’t want to say those words,” the neighbor told Scouten.

The description is similar to what an anonymous called told DCF in a call to their hotline a week ago.

The hotline call last week prompted the investigation that eventually led to the discovery of the remains. That caller told hotline operators that people in the home smoked drugs in front of the children and that a two-year-old was running down the road naked and without shoes.

“She just smokes marijuana in front of her kids,” the caller told the hotline operator. “She call them all kinds of them nasty curse words that the stepfather does and she always, she got about four or five men in and out of the house smoking drugs and having sex with them.”

The unidentified caller said the mother’s boyfriends are always around the house and that one hits the children, according to the call.

An investigator visited the home after that and asked where baby Dontrelle was. The father said the baby had been living with his parents about 20 minutes away, but they said that was untrue.

When investigators went back to Melvin’s home, he had disappeared. He went to the police station last week to be interviewed and was later arrested. Police said he has changed his story several times and at one point said he dropped the child off at a fire station.

It wasn’t the first time DCF had been called on to the home.

A child welfare investigator went to Sierra’s home after someone complained to the state abuse hotline that the children were dirty and smelled and that Sierra’s younger sister brought a pornographic magazine to school after taking it from her father.

Officials said Sierra and her two other children live with her mother and Sierra’s four younger siblings.

The investigator also visited the children at school, interviewed them and determined there were no signs of abuse or neglect, only that the house did smell a bit. The children said they were fed and well cared for, according to records released by the Department of Children and Families.

But the “younger children were not seen,” according to the report, including five-month old Dontrelle.

In all, the DCF records indicate the agency had 30 prior contacts with the Melvin family.

In 2011, a caller complained that several of the children were riding a city bus alone to school each morning, but are picked up in the afternoon by their mother.

Three months earlier, a Hallandale Police officer called the hotline to say Sierra did not know where her child was, just saying he was with his dad, Calvin Melvin.

“Every time she asks about that baby, he is just always making excuses and never brings the baby by,” the officer reported. “So she doesn’t even know, I mean, whether the baby is even alive or not.”

At the point DCF was called, they did not investigate because they called it a missing person’s case, a police matter. Police said it was a custody issue between parents, so it was a DCF case.

As for the comment about the child possibly “not being alive,” the Hallandale Beach police chief said that was more symbolic; that the mom just didn’t know where he was.

“In the context of that conversation,” explains Chief Dwayne Flournoy, “it wasn’t him, he was relating what the mother said that, “I haven’t seen my child. I just haven’t seen my child,” not that the child was injured.”

Remains that are believed to be Dontrelle Melvin were unearthed Friday in the backyard of the home Sierra and the baby’s father Calvin Melvin shared at the time.   Sierra and Melvin, who are not married, have an on and off relationship.

“We didn’t see anything that would indicate signs of trauma or broken bones or anything that would indicate blunt force trauma,” said Chief Flournoy.

We’re also finding out more about Dontrell’s mom. During her court appearance, she was dressed in an outfit used to prevent an inmate from hurting themselves. A member of Calvin Melvin’s family described her as suicidal in the past.

The parents remain in the Broward County Jail, detectives say as the investigation reveals new information more charges could be filed against them.

Meanwhile, DCF has taken the baby’s two siblings into custody and four of Sierra’s younger siblings.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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