The father of a 2-year-old girl beaten to death in Tacoma three years ago has sued the state Department of Social and Health Services, contending the agency did not do enough to protect his daughter from her mother’s boyfriend.
Dennie Lowe seeks unspecified damages for himself and the estate of his daughter, Najaiyla Lowe.
“Despite numerous referrals, DSHS failed to protect Najaiyla Lowe from the abuse occurring inside the home … and failed to properly investigate incidents of reported and suspected abuse where Najaiyla Lowe was the victim, among other failures,” the lawsuit contends.
Attorney Anna Price filed the suit last week in Pierce County Superior Court.
DSHS spokesman John Wiley issued a statement Friday.
“We are gratified to know that the man who killed this child was convicted of first-degree assault of a child and first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 29 years in prison,” Wiley said. “Prior to May 2011, Charles Mann had no reported history of abuse or neglect with the department.”
Najaiyla died in May 2011 after suffering a violent blow to the abdomen that caused massive internal bleeding.
Pierce County prosecutors charged Charles Mann, Najaiyla’s mother’s live-in boyfriend, with killing the child.
Mann, now 30, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to first-degree manslaughter and first-degree child assault and was sentenced to 29 years in prison. He later appealed his conviction, saying his plea was involuntary, but the state Court of Appeals upheld it.
The lawsuit contends DSHS received “multiple referrals regarding the safety and welfare of Najaiyla and her older sibling” between 2005 and 2009 but did little to investigate them.
Another referral was made to the agency in February 2011, state records show.
“The state of Washington … negligently failed to investigate the child-abuse reported by the child care provider and took no precautions to protect Najaiyla Lowe from child abuse, particularly from the likelihood of dangerous child abuse presented by convicted felon, Charles Mann,” according to the lawsuit.
An “executive child fatality review” conducted by a DSHS-appointed committee in the wake of Najaiyla’s death found social workers could have done a better job of monitoring the girl’s well-being.
A state social worker did a face-to-face interview with Najaiyla within 72 hours of the agency receiving the February 2011 report that the girl was being abused, the review found.
“However, the committee noted the lack of a thorough and comprehensive investigation as several investigative standards and requirements were missed,” the review states. “During the discussion it was pointed out that there was minimal investigation of all the allegations identified in the intake.”
Those included reports that Najaiyla showed up at day care on one occasion with a black eye, among other things.
“The child care provider identified other concerns, including (Najaiyla) coming to the day care dirty and with diaper rash, the mother asking others for money to purchase food for the home and concerns regarding the mother having (information redacted) and not taking her medication,” the review showed.
The review committee also expressed concern about the “lack of supervisory oversight on this case as the case remained open past the 45-day mark without a supervisory review to determine what additional investigative activities or actions may have been needed to complete the investigation.”
A supervisor with Child Protective Services told the committee “an extremely high” workload in her unit made timely resolution of cases difficult.
“The supervisor spoke to the difficulties social workers have, in general, finding time to complete comprehensive investigations within the 45-day time frame, particularly when front-end case assignment is high,” the review showed.
Wiley said last week that DSHS received more than 77,800 reports of abuse in 2011 and found nearly 38,000 of those warranted further investigation.
That’s little comfort to Dennie Lowe and his daughter, the lawsuit contends.
“As a direct and proximate result of those failures and breaches, Najaiyla Lowe suffered physical and psychological abuse, pain, suffering and pre-death terror,” the suit states. “As a direct and proximate result of those failures and breaches, Dennie Lowe has suffered indescribable emotional and psychological injuries, including … damage to his relationship with his daughter.”