WARREN - The state agency that uncovered back-dated record filings in the case of a 13-month-old girl that allegedly was raped while at Trumbull County Children Services ordered an immediate and more extensive investigation into the agency's procedures in other cases.
Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Michael B. Colbert, in a Dec. 2 letter to Trumbull County Children Service Board president Rev. Alton Merrell Sr., said employees in his office will conduct a more thorough investigation into the agency because "the allegations in this case are extremely disturbing."
Children Services executive director Nick Kerosky said the investigation was expected and investigators will fully examine 20 cases instead of the usual 10 at Colbert's request.
"We expected an audit," Kerosky said. "It's fine and we are committed to helping out in any way. We will do anything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again."
The investigation stems from allegations that the girl was raped in April by relatives Cody A. Beemer and Felicia Banks Beemer, both of Austin Avenue, who face life in prison on several charges. In addition to that alleged rape, they are also accused of raping an 18-month-old male relative, and investigators said the couple recorded both incidents on a cell phone camera eventually found by the 13-month-old girl's grandmother.
They also face new charges alleging they reproduced depictions of bestiality and other obscene images with minors as either on-lookers or participants.
The indictment says the Beemers "with knowledge of the character of the material or performance involved, did, in a montage of obscenity and bestiality, create, reproduce or publish 532 photographs and depictions of obscene material that have minors as participants and observers."
The charges also allege that the couple controlled, purchased, possessed or procured the images.
Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Felicia Banks Beemer will be arraigned on the new charges Dec. 14.
The allegations are the fourth serious offense involving a child handled by Children Services since 2003, including the 2009 death of a relative of the 13-month-old.
Tiffany Sue Banks, the third of Felicia Banks Beemer's four children, was immediately taken into custody after her birth in June 2007.
CSB allowed the girl to be placed in the foster home of Bonnie Pattinson of Newton Falls. Pattinson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2009, after initially being charged with murder, when police found Banks, who was 21 months old at the time, dead from asphyxiation with multiple blunt traumatic injuries.
Pattinson was sentenced to serve nine years in prison.
In 2003, two toddlers that were living in the care of people approved by the agency are now in the midst of long prison sentences for murdering those children.
In January 2003, Logan Gyton, 4, was murdered by Michael Legdger, whom Children Service agencies in both Mahoning and Trumbull counties approved as the boy's guardian. Ledger is serving a 15-year-to-life sentence after pleading guilty to murder.
Later that year, Auntavia Atkins, 3, was murdered by foster mother Ethel Wilbert-Bethea, who shook the baby to death and is serving a 21-year prison sentence for murder.
The most recent allegations set off a storm of litigation and investigations. Several lawsuits were filed against Children Services, including a federal lawsuit brought by Tiffany Sue Banks' father, Thomas Cross.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation also is investigating CSB to see if any employee was criminally negligent, and ODJFS finished its review of the 13-month-old girl's individual case on Nov. 18, which came at Kerosky's request.
The investigation revealed the parental visitation activity logs from November 2010 to October 2011 were not filed in the statewide filing system as mandated by law until October 2011. The investigation also recommended camera monitoring should be provided in the nursery and noted technical errors in the documentation relative to the safety factors and safety re-assessments.
ODJFS gave the CSB until Dec. 16 to file a "corrective action plan" to cure those issues.
Colbert wrote those findings "show significant concerns and require immediate corrective compliance."
Because of the first investigation, Colbert ordered a second, more wide-ranging investigation in to the day-to-day practices of CSB, said ODJFS spokesman Ben Johnson. Colbert wrote that he will order investigators to pull twice the number of cases than in a typical CSB investigation.
"We thought the findings in the first review raised enough concerns that we should expand the review," Johnson said. "The second review is to pull more documentation and pull additional cases. We want to get a better picture of what the day-to-day operations are like in Trumbull County."
Johnson said the state agency has not discussed a possible ODJFS takeover of the local agency.
Kerosky said he believes ODJFS is making the right decision in conducting the more expansive review of his agency.
"From my perspective, I welcome it," Kerosky said. "Like I said, we'll do anything to keep this from ever happening again."