State lawmakers are asking for an independent review of how Dayton 10-year-old Takoda Collins died after “extreme abuse” despite multiple notifications to Montgomery County Children Services and Dayton police that the child was possibly being harmed.
“People reached out to help, and it doesn’t seem like anything was ever done, and the final product is we have a 10-year-old dead,” said state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., in an interview last week with the Dayton Daily News.
Plummer said that after reports in the Dayton Daily News and other media of what happened, some sort of independent review of this case “has to be done.”
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, also supported the idea of an independent review.
“It just doesn’t seem like enough to say, they did the best that they could,” she said. “Part of the frustration here was that people saw this so clearly. The teachers at the school – multiple teachers saw it and made multiple calls.”
“Children Services can make mistakes just like anyone else. But unfortunately, when a child’s life is on the line, mistakes really can’t be tolerated. It is incumbent upon them to look at exactly what happened here, and if they weren’t as persistent as they needed to be, then hopefully they’ll learn from it … unfortunately at the expense of this child.”
HAVE A TIP ABOUT THIS STORY?
State Rep. Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, said employees at Children Services have a tough job and are under pressure to get every case right. He noted that the agency’s mission is to keep families together.
“I’m not going to jump down Children Services’ throat until we know all the facts,” Strahorn said. “But we do need to look at the entire existing system and see what happened and what’s going on.”
He wants to know if the Children Services system in Ohio can be improved.
“I’m saying we need to take a breath and look at the current system and see if there are glaring problems,” he said. “You fix them and make sure this never happens again.”
Prior reports to children services, police
Children Services officials said when Takoda Collins died Dec. 13 the agency didn’t have an open case on the boy, though Dayton Public Schools teachers say they reported potential abuse multiple times to Montgomery County Children Services.
School officials and teachers at Horace Mann Elementary School say they reported suspected abuse multiple times over multiple years. One teacher suspects it led Collins’ father, Al-Mutahan McLean, to withdraw Takoda from school in 2018.
It’s unclear what Children Services did in response to these reports. Officials say reports are confidential under state law and won’t answer questions about the case citing the ongoing criminal probe.
Dayton police were at the Kensington Drive home where Takoda was allegedly being abused three times in the last two years, according to Montgomery County dispatch logs obtained by the Dayton Daily News.
Two of these calls were in response to abuse concerns. In May 2018 police visited the home after concerns were raised by both a teacher and children services caseworker, according to dispatch records that say they closed the call after no one answered the door.
Dayton police officials said in a statement Friday that they relayed to a Children Services worker at the time that they could not confirm anyone was at home when they visited.
“As a department, we are conducting an administrative review to evaluate all of our previous contacts with Takoda, Mr. McLean (and the women living there),” said a statement Friday from Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl.
In May 2019 they visited again after Takoda’s mother Robin Collins, who lives in Wisconsin, said she feared he was being abused. She told the Dayton Daily News after he died that she had called multiple times.
“Continuous problems w/child’s mother,” the Dayton police officer wrote in a field interview report obtained by the Dayton Daily News. “McLean was cooperative w/ us & explained that Takoda has behavioral issues & Collins continues to make promises to Takoda she never follow through w/. Takoda was good health.”
The records don’t say whether officers spoke to Takoda alone, as the mother requested.
In November 2018 — during the period of time McLean is accused of abusing Takoda — police responded to a call from McLean and Amanda Hinze complaining that Takoda, then 9, was being unruly. McLean wanted Takoda taken to the Juvenile Justice Center.
“(Takoda) has been disrespecting father and defecating all over house,” the officer wrote in a field interview report. “Was put in cuffs to be taken to JCC. After he was put in cruiser father changed mind, wanted to take him to hospital.”
The report ends with the words, in quotes: “‘Sees blood everywhere,’” with no explanation of who the statement was attributed to.
McLean, 30, is currently charged with endangering children, assault and rape. Also charged with endangering children are two women who lived in the home: Hinze, 28; and her sister, Jennifer Ebert, 25. Police say they kept Takoda locked naked in an attic where he was abused emotionally and physically for years and died with numerous bruises and cuts on him.
No one is currently charged with killing Takoda and his cause of death has not been determined. The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office is waiting for Dayton police to conclude their investigation before deciding if additional charges should be added.
Mayor, county commission respond
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she trusts Chief Biehl will take the necessary steps to look into what happened.
“First, we are heartbroken about this little boy, and we are going to ask a lot of questions,” Whaley said. “The first question is: did everybody in the system, and I’m talking in the broadest sense, Children Services, police, Dayton Public (Schools), did they do what they are supposed to do? And to find that answer, it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
“If the answer is yes, then the system itself needs to be evaluated. If everybody did what they are supposed to do and this little person fell through the cracks, that’s wrong. The system needs to work for children like him,” Whaley continued. “That is going to require multiple organizations to come together and look at it, and it may involve state change as well.”
Biehl’s statement Friday said: “Dayton Police Department Homicide Detectives are investigating the tragic death of Takoda Collins and pursuing all evidence, to include prior contacts by our agency and other agencies and organizations, to ensure criminal prosecution of those responsible for Takoda’s death.”
“Once we have a complete understanding of all contacts and if proper procedures were followed during and after those interactions, we will determine if an internal investigation or policy revision is warranted,” he said.
Montgomery County Children Services is overseen by Job and Family Services, which is managed by Montgomery County commissioners. Commission President Judy Dodge declined an interview for this story but issued a statement.
“We are absolutely horrified and saddened by what happened to this young child. County staff will be working alongside law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office as the case progresses,” she wrote.
Child fatality review process
Asked what kind of oversight Montgomery County Children Services is subject to and if they are conducting a review of this case, Montgomery County JFS spokesman Kevin Lavoie said: “This is an ongoing investigation, but Montgomery County always welcomes review and oversight by regulatory agencies. Regarding (Ohio Department of Job and Family Services) processes in review of our cases, we recommend that you reach out to them.”
ODJFS officials said they conduct an on-site review of local Children Service agencies for compliance with state laws every two years. This involves reviewing case files and results in a final report that can include findings that must be corrected. The Dayton Daily News has requested the most recent report under Ohio public records law.
State officials also review every child fatality in Ohio and can follow-up with an administrative review of how the case was handled locally, according to ODJFS spokesman Bret Crow. This review can include looking into how Children Services handled the case — though it does not at this point.
“We will issue a summary report with findings and recommendations,” Crow said.
Rep. Plummer suggested an independent review be handled by the sheriff’s office or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. He said when he was sheriff and problems would emerge, there would be an independent investigation, people would be held accountable, policies were reviewed and changed if necessary.
“How do we fix the system that didn’t work without an independent review?” he said.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.