By Marisa Kwiatkowski, IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 23, 2015)– The Indiana Department of Child Services is investigating an allegation that one of its employees lied in court during a case of suspected child abuse, according to our partners at the IndyStar.
DCS family case manager Marshall Despain told a court he did not have medical records about a 2-year-old with extensive bruising, said attorney Tim Stoesz, who is representing the 2-year-old’s mother.
But emails and faxed documents obtained by The Star indicate Despain had copies of those records at least a day and a half before the Jan. 16 hearing in Hamilton Superior Court. Despain forwarded copies of the records on Jan. 14 to an officer in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, email records show.
Despain had released the 2-year-old to his father on Jan. 14 over objections from hospital officials, who said they could not determine who had caused the facial bruising and a tear in the toddler’s mouth.
A hospital social worker said officials there “could not rule out mom or dad as perpetrators and did not feel comfortable” with the boy going with either parent, according to a report dated Jan. 14.
The Star agreed not to name the parents because doing so would identify the boy, who may have been the victim of child abuse.
Two days later, Despain and others appeared in court to discuss placement of the child.
“During direct testimony, Mr. Despain indicated that the IU-Riley medical records had been requested but that he did not have them,” Stoesz said. “Based upon the documents I have been provided by sources other than DCS, it does not appear Mr. Despain’s testimony was truthful.”
DCS spokesman James Wide said the agency is looking into the allegation. If the employee is found to have lied in court, he would face disciplinary action, Wide said.
When contacted by The Star, Despain declined to comment on the case. “I need to let you go,” he said.
Whether Despain told the truth in court is important because judges rely on information provided to make decisions for the safety of a child.
Carey Haley Wong, a former DCS attorney who now works at Child Advocates, said if a judge doesn’t receive all available information in a case, it could “hugely impact” the court’s decision, potentially put the child at risk and affect the credibility of the entire investigation.
“It’s crucial because a 2-year-old can’t speak up and protect himself,” Haley Wong said.
In the medical records obtained by The Star, hospital officials said they preferred the boy be placed in foster care pending further investigation.
The boy’s parents, who are no longer together, both denied abusing their son, police and medical records show. They also said they did not believe the other parent would intentionally hurt him.
No criminal charges have been filed. The case is still under investigation, Carmel police Lt. Joe Bickel said.