Prosecution: CPS failed to protect 6-year-old

-A A +A

Investigator testifies she violated protocol

By Bob White



ELIZABETHTOWN – Mar’riel Lucas’ kindergarten teacher said Thursday that the child told her he had been hit by Antwan Hayes because he had received a warning for excessive talking at school.

“He told me (Hayes) knocked him down and kicked him in the butt and hit him in his stomach,” said Deborah Ferrell, a teacher at Helmwood Heights Elementary School. “I asked if he was kicked in the face and he said he was.”

Much of day two in the Danielle Marie Lucas, Antwan Hayes murder trial Thursday in Hardin Circuit Court focused on claims that the child had been beaten in the days leading up to his death.

Three months prior to Lucas’ death, Ferrell had reported to Child Protective Services that Mar’riel had a swollen ear, lip and cheek.

Mar’riel told school workers he’d been beaten for “coming home on yellow” the day before. He’d been talking too much in school the day before and was disciplined by receiving a yellow crayon, instead of a green crayon, which represented good behavior.

The school called CPS, but the investigator never questioned Ferrell about Mar’riel’s injuries or the yellow-crayon form of discipline.

Against protocol, CPS investigator Christy Riley waited for a month to visit Mar’riel’s home. She said she was unaware of protocol, even though she’d worked for CPS for four years and was trained in social work.

“He made some alarming statements about being picked up the wrong way, kicked in the butt and punched in the stomach,” Christy Riley testified. “The more we talked, it came out that those things happened when they were wrestling and playing around.”

According to Riley, Danielle Lucas vouched that no abuse occurred at the home.

She asked the mother and Hayes to clean the home and not to spank Mar’riel with anything but their hands and the case was closed – claims of abuse were unsubstantiated.

Mar’riel died two months later, the result of 38 inflicted blunt force injuries to his 6-year-old body.

LeShea Smith, prosecutor in the murder and abuse cases against Lucas and Hayes, scrutinized Riley’s work during Thursday’s proceedings.

Smith noted inaccuracies in the unsubstantiated claims letter sent to Hayes, her lack of knowledge of CPS protocol and her entire investigation.

Helmwood Heights Elementary Principal Michelle Hart said staff there saw no further signs of abuse after the May incident was reported.

In the early hours of Aug. 29, 2007, according to court testimony, after calling 911 using an inactive cell phone he’d found in an old purse, Hayes waited for help outside the home at 545 Vista Drive.

Paramedics arrived to find Mar’riel lifeless in Hayes’ arms.

Earlier that night, attorneys say Hayes had asked Mar’riel’s mother if help should be called for the child after he’d passed out in the bathroom, but the mother said “no,” then left the home taking the only active phone and only car.

When Mar’riel was found unconscious and gasping for air next to a toilet, Hayes made the call, according to testimony.

Upon arrival, emergency crews scooped the child from Hayes and rushed him to the ambulance. With injections of atropine and epinephrine, and CPR chest compressions, they worked to bring life back into Mar’riel.

“I asked what happened,” said Tracy Smith-Chytla, a Hardin County paramedic. “I never got an answer. I asked again. ‘What happened to this baby.’ Six-year-olds just don’t die in the middle of the night. They just looked at me.”

Danielle Lucas had arrived at the home as the ambulance was en route. Smith-Chytla said she eventually was told Mar’riel was found on the bathroom floor, unconscious.

Smith-Chytla and other EMS staff said they noticed a bruised knot on Mar’riel’s belly about the size of a baseball.

Neither Lucas nor Hayes rode with Mar’riel to the hospital.

Mar’riel was transferred to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville for more intensive treatment and emergency surgery to relieve his swollen abdomen.

It later was found that Mar’riel had tears in his intestine, a rip in his liver and more than three dozen other injuries. The release of toxins from his belly into his bloodstream led to septic shock and death, according to testimony

Lucas and Hayes are being tried on murder and criminal abuse charges. CPS also is being scrutinized for failing to stand between Mar’riel and his accused abuser, Hayes, according to police and prosecutors. Lucas is accused of allowing abuse and failing to render aid to her dying son before leaving the home to meet her sister hours before Mar’riel died.

“He was full of love. He was full of joy,” testified Carolyn Carpenter, his paternal grandmother.

The trial of Lucas and Hayes is expected to last into next week. Both could face life imprisonment if convicted of the charges against them.

Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.