Toddler's death sparks war of words between sheriff, DCS

Published: Jun. 9, 2016 at 8:48 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2016 at 10:32 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Erick Henry (Source: Pima County Sheriff's Department)
Erick Henry (Source: Pima County Sheriff's Department)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The death of a toddler allegedly at the hands of his uncle is stoking a war of words between Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos and the agency entrusted with keeping children safe in their homes.

One day after an arrest in that child murder case, the sheriff tried to tone down his criticism of the Department of Child Safety, but he still has some strong words for the agency.

Nanos said on Wednesday, June 8, if DCS had been doing its job "checking on this child, this child might very well still be with us."

However, according to DCS, the agency conducted dozens of checks.

READ MORE: Sheriff calls out DCS after toddler's death in Pima County

DCS said Thursday, June 9, that the agency took 20-month-old Adam Mada away from his mother in 2014, just days after he was born, because he was substance-exposed, meaning exposed to narcotics.

In response to Nanos' criticism, DCS sent Tucson News Now a written statement also on Thursday, June 9.

All of us at the Department of Child Safety were deeply saddened over Adam's death, but we're heartened to learn that justice for his killer is on the horizon.

In 2014, DCS received an allegation that Adam was born exposed to narcotics.  That allegation was substantiated and the infant was removed from his mother's care.  Through the juvenile courts process, he was placed in the care of a family member and  the process of severing parental rights was underway.

During this period DCS conducted or facilitated a total of 88 visits with Adam, his parents, his mother or caregiver, the most recent being February 3, 2016.

Since the 2014 placement with the family member, DCS received no subsequent allegations regarding Adam's safety prior to his death and no allegations were received involving the suspect in this case.

The baby died in March, about a month after DCS says it met last with the family and saw that the baby was okay.

However, Nanos said he had learned that at some point the mother had taken her son back, and the person who had been appointed guardian had not seen the baby in the three months before his death.

Nanos says he understands the DCS has a huge caseload, but that the baby never should have been placed with anyone in that family because the family had at least a 15-year history with DCS.

Nanos could not be specific about which family members were involved with DCS.

"15-plus years of information about this family," Nanos said. "It's not good information. Why would I ever trust or believe that I could leave an infant in the care of this family, thinking it's going to be OK?"

During the investigation into the child's death, Nanos says it took him and his detectives five minutes to figure out the entire family was problematic.

Nanos said the baby was placed with the biological mother's sister, who already had five children of her own and not a lot of resources.

"And you're asking this (of) a mom that can't have contact with her husband for a variety of reasons, can't have contact with her sister, the biological (mother), for a variety of reasons, can't have contact with the grandma," Nanos said. "I mean and they all live within a mile of each other, within a quarter of a mile of each other."

According to the autopsy, little Adam Mada had suffered blunt-force trauma to his head and torso and had several broken ribs.

His uncle by marriage, 23-year-old Erick Henry, is charged in the case.

READ MORE: Man arrested, accused of killing toddler

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.