March 1, 2012

DCF let Deerfield RV park killer keep sons despite molestation allegations, report says

By Carol Marbin Miller, The Miami Herald

9:10 p.m. EST, February 21, 2012

William DeJesus' youngest son called him the "Monster."

At a Polk County foster home, the boy shrieked from nightmares and insisted the Monster was hiding under his bed.

He had good reason to fear: DeJesus had been accused of beating, stabbing and raping the boy's mother, who, in turn, once told authorities the couple had repeatedly molested the boy and his older brother.

But the "Monster" didn't remain under the bed.

Two weeks ago, DeJesus, 41, drove his family to a Deerfield Beach trailer home, killed the occupant and held police at bay for seven hours while he stabbed each member of his own family before killing himself. DeJesus' oldest son, 9-year-old Jeshiah, was pronounced dead at the scene; born disabled, he never uttered a word in his short life. His brother, 7, was hospitalized with a knife blade stuck in his head. He remained impaled for a day before a surgeon could remove it.

The youngster and DeJesus' wife, 37-year-old Deanna Beauchamp, are now recovering.

In the weeks since Jeshiah's death, Broward Sheriff's Office detectives have tried to figure out why DeJesus chose to execute the man in the quiet Broward neighborhood and why he tried to wipe out his own family.

But there is also this question: How could state child-protection administrators' actions toward the family have ended so tragically?

The inquiry centers on a petition the Department of Children & Families filed — and later withdrew — seeking to permanently sever the rights of DeJesus and Beauchamp to their young sons.

A foster mother had warned darkly that she was "afraid for the children if they are returned."

But returned they were.

Said Joe Follick, the Department of Children & Families spokesman: "Obviously this is a terrible tragedy. Our immediate focus is in ensuring that the surviving child receives everything he needs."

Records of the case — 500 pages of which were given to The Miami Herald under the state's public records law — paint a picture of an agency acting swiftly to strip DeJesus and Beauchamp of all parental rights until an abrupt about-face in May 2009. Then, agency workers were equally determined to keep the family intact — even in the face of warnings that the boys were in danger.

The surviving child is not being named to protect his privacy.

DeJesus' involvement with child-protection workers actually began several years earlier, when New York state permanently severed his right to children from a prior marriage. Records show DeJesus had been accused of abusing his former wife and molesting their children. The wife obtained an order barring DeJesus from contacting her or the children for five years.

By 2007, DeJesus and Beauchamp were raising two boys in Florida. Jeshiah was 4 and suffered from autism. His brother was 2 and was also being tested for a developmental disability. DCF's child-abuse hotline received a report on Sept. 18, 2007. During a drinking binge, DeJesus had choked his wife and punched his children's bedroom door, leaving a hole.

A police report on the incident said DeJesus had a handgun on the couch when officers arrived. Beauchamp was crying. "Thank you, thank you," she said. "You saved me."

The abuse had gone on, Beauchamp said, for eight years, and she showed an investigator scars to prove it. Beauchamp said DeJesus had stabbed her, punched her in the stomach, causing a miscarriage, and pushed her in the bathtub, leading to a back injury.

DCF filed a dependency petition in court, asking a judge to order the family to accept the agency's help and supervision, but the children were not taken into protective custody. "No evidence of physical or sexual abuse to the children, nor is any suspected," an investigator wrote.

But the evidence soon followed. In February 2008, after Beauchamp left DeJesus and went to a domestic violence shelter, she told authorities that both parents had been molesting the children.

"She stated that he had told her that his family had shown their love by touching the children's privates," a report said. "He had made her believe that this was the way to show the children their love."

And, she told investigators, there was another reason she molested her own children: "She was afraid William would kill her if she refused."

A child-abuse investigator took custody of the boys immediately.

While the children were in foster care, new allegations arose. A therapist and a court-appointed guardian both reported seeing DeJesus repeatedly touch the boys between their legs while engaging in "rough" play during a supervised visit.

But the agency soon confronted a serious obstacle: Beauchamp was once again living with DeJesus and she now recanted the molestation allegations.

Records provided to The Herald do not make clear why the children were returned to Beauchamp and DeJesus, but a July 2009 notation in the file says the agency required "clear and convincing evidence" that the parents were unfit." Follick, the agency spokesman, said: "The mother recanted her accusations. …Within the bounds of the law, there were no grounds to remove the children at that point."

Having decided to reunite the family, child welfare administrators and a judge in Daytona Beach, where the family was living at the time, turned to another thorny question: how to begin visitation as the children transitioned back to their parents. A therapist for the boys testified in court that the children's odd behavior did not result from their disabilities, but "was due to severe abuse and neglect." She also warned that "exposing" the boys to their parents again would be "traumatic for them."

For the next two years, the couple was given, first, supervised visits with the children, and, later, unsupervised contact while completing parenting classes and counseling.

When the visits began, there were, once again, troubling signs: In August 2009, the younger boy told his foster mother that the "Monster" was going to kill him. The younger boy experienced a "significant decline" in his behavior. Both a therapist and court-appointed guardian reported the two children were "terrified" of their father.

DCF ended its involvement with the family on Dec. 20, 2010. An Oct. 9, 2010, notation said the couple was receiving help to cope with the boys' "tantrums and manipulations."

"They show love for the children," a worker wrote Oct. 29, 2010.

Original Article

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