Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dyersburg, TN: Mother of girl killed in murder/suicide sues state

Saturday, July 31, 2010
Dyersburg State Gazette
The mother of a 15-year-old girl who was killed in a murder/suicide last year is seeking $300,000 from the state of Tennessee.
Jessica L. Readen of Oregon claims that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services failed to protect her daughter in Dyersburg. DCS had placed the girl with a foster family after she complained that her father, Chris Milburn, was touching her inappropriately.

A police investigation revealed that Chris Milburn shot his daughter; her foster parents, Todd and Susan Randolph; and himself Aug. 2, 2009, on Blake Cove. Only Susan Randolph survived.

On Wednesday, a liability claim against the state was filed on Readen's behalf in the Tennessee Division of Claims Administration in Nashville. It will be forwarded to the Attorney General's office for investigation and litigation in the Tennessee Claims Commission.

According to the claim, the teen told a DCS caseworker late July 30, 2009, or early July 31, 2009, that her father had abused her. DCS placed her in the Randolph home, just a few houses away from her father's house on Blake Cove.

DCS administrative policies specify that caseworkers are obligated to share all known medical and behavioral history about the child with the foster parents. Readen's claim indicates the caseworker failed to tell the Randolphs about the alleged abuse.

"As a direct consequence of the failure of the Department's compliance with its own rules and regulations to provide the minor child's caretakers with any and all relevant information, Todd Randolph and Susan Randolph were unable to fully understand, appreciate and subsequently protect the (the girl) from the dangers associated with her placement in their home."

The claim asserts that DCS allows a child to be placed with non-relatives only if those persons can ensure the child's safety and that the foster parents can resist the parent's attempts to see the child. DCS instructed the Randolphs to supervise Chris Milburn's visits with his daughter, but provided no training or advice on what to do if problems arose, the claim said.

Readen claimed that putting her daughter in the Randolphs' home violated department policies.

"This is due to the fact the Randolphs lived too close to Chris Milburn (approximately three houses separated the Randolph and Milburn residences) and were connected to Chris Milburn by an existing relationship of friendship such that, given all of the circumstances which existed in late July 2009, placement of the minor child with the Randolphs was inappropriate and was obviously not safe," the claim said.

DCS is required to prepare an Immediate Protection Agreement to ensure a child's safety while in state custody. If an IPA was prepared in this case, the claim said, it did not provide the Randolphs with enough information to protect the girl.

The Randolphs called a DCS caseworker's cell phone repeatedly on Aug. 1-2, 2009. They were concerned about Chris Milburn's behavior and wanted to know how to restrict or terminate his visits. The caseworker never answered the phone and there was no way for the Randolphs to leave a message, the claim said.

Readen claimed that even though the teen had provided DCS with graphic details about her abuse, no one filed a petition in Dyer County Juvenile Court for the girl's emergency removal from her father's custody.

"The Tennessee Department of Children's Services (by and through the negligent conduct of its employees) breached their duty to the (the girl) by failing to properly provide for her safety," the claim said.

Readen valued her daughter's pain, suffering and mental anguish at more than $500,000; the value of her daughter's life in excess of $750,000; and her funeral expenses at $6,000. She won't receive that much. State law limits claims to no more than $300,000.

This is the second claim filed by the teen's family in the Division of Claims Administration. Director Anne Adams said the family was award $6,000 for funeral expenses through the Criminal Injury Compensation Fund. Convicted state and federal felons finance the fund through fines. Innocent victims of violence may file for medical expenses, loss of support, loss of wages, disability, funeral expenses and crime scene cleanup if the crime happened in the home.

St. Mary's Episcopal Church, which the Randolphs attended, also set up a fund last year to help pay for the teen's cremation and transportation of the cremated remains to Oregon.

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