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13-019 Investigation Underway Into Death Of Child In Foster Care Following Removal By CPID; Sheriff Announces Review Of CPID Policies and Procedures

Who:
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
Investigative Operations Bureau
-Crimes Against Children Unit
-Child Protection Investigations Division (CPID)

Elizabeth Holder (Deceased)
DOB: 11/19/2007
Address: 2381 Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Lot 419 Clearwater

Stephanie Judah (Mother of Elizabeth, Arrested For Child Neglect)
DOB:04/13/1978
Address 2381 Gulf to Bay Boulevard Lot 419, Clearwater

What:
During a press briefing on January 24, 2013, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that an investigation is underway into the death of a 5-year-old girl, who died while in foster care after being removed from her home by Sheriff’s Office Child Protection Investigators. The Sheriff also announced that during the course of the death investigation, he also initiated a review of policies and procedures surrounding child removal, – this due to the fact that the deceased child did not receive a medical screening within the 72 hour period after removal as required by law.

The Sheriff added that while it is not known and may never be known if the death of the child could have been prevented with the medical screening, a review of the internal policies was the appropriate course of action in order to ensure that medical screenings of children will be done in compliance with the law in the future.

When:
The child passed away on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

The child was removed from her home; and the mother was arrested on January 11, 2013.

Where:
The child passed away in a private residence in Pinellas, while in the care of a babysitter.

The child was removed from her place of residence located at 2381 Gulf To Bay Boulevard, Lot 419, a mobile home park in unincorporated Clearwater.

Why/How:
According to investigators, on January 11th at about 1:00 p.m. deputies responded to 2381 Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Lot 419 in Clearwater, after receiving reports that a small child had been seen wandering around the Mobile Home Park unattended. When deputies arrived on scene they discovered the mother of the child, identified as 35 year-old Stephanie Judah to be under the influence of prescription drugs; and the home to be unkept and unsuitable for the well being of the child. Judah was arrested for child neglect and transported to the Pinellas County Jail without further incident.

Sheriff’s Child Protection Investigators were summoned; and the child identified as 5 year-old Elizabeth Holder was removed from the home and placed into the care of a foster care family. On January 18th, the foster parent was unable to take care of the child and delivered the child to a babysitter for care. On January 19th, the child awoke, played and watched TV. Later the same day the child passed away after she suddenly grabbed her head and began yelling that it hurt. The babysitter called 911, the child was transported to a local hospital and pronouced deceased at about 5:00 p.m. the same day. An autopsy is being conducted by the Medical Examiner’s Office to determine cause and manner of death.

Crimes Against Children Detectives began the investigation into the death of the child. During the course of the death investigation, which is currently underway, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also launched a self-initiated parallel investigation to review the policies and procedures surrounding child removal of the Sheriff’s Child Protection Investigations Division. The initial results of this investigation have yielded that the Sheriff’s Office failed to comply with statute 65c -29.008 which states that a child must receive a health screening within 72 hours of being removed from a home.

As a result of this finding, the Sheriff also announced during the press briefing on January 24, 2013 that the office is working on putting various procedures into place to ensure that medical screenings of children will be done in compliance with the law in the future.

An internal affairs investigation has also been opened.

The investigation continues.

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