It gets very frustrating
when a person tries to help an abused child and no one listens. We are
told over and over to get involved, to help save the children who are
being abused, to make the calls, to do what we have to do and then when
we do what is supposed to be done, it seems all too often that those in
charge do not listen and a child ends up dead.
Sadly, the first caller attempting to help Alfredo Montes called almost
two years before he died. An anonymous called said that four year old
Rheyna and ten month old Alfredo Montes were not being fed properly and
their mother, Jeanna Lynn Swallows was heavy in to partying and drugs.
A Case Worker was assigned to the case and tried to visit, making a
note that she was unable to find the family.
Over the next two years many calls would come in and Child Protection
workers would visit the home, at times they would be able to see the
family and other times they would not. Visits to the home would
continuos until Alfredo would eventually die even when multiple calls
had been made in an attempt to save his life. Alfredo would die because
had an accident in his pants.
On the day he died, Erica Jones, an investigator with the Department Of
Families, falsified records in the case of Alfredo. On the day he died,
she wrote false information into a report about a call that came into
the abuse hot line:
"Mother is always high
on Meth amphetamine and acid. She hits the children when she is high.
week Alfredo had bruising on the top of his forehead and knots on his
head. The children
Erica's Falsified Notes
Erica said that on the day he died, she had seen Alfredo at home
with his sister. In the notes she said that Alfredo had no bruises or
marks on his body at all and that he was wearing clean clothes and was
a happy child. Police would later say that there had been no way for
Erica to have seen the children that day because they had been dropped
off at the home of some friends on June 28, a few days earlier.
Alfredo was reported missing by a family friend and the next day Jeanna
was arrested on a violation of probation warrant for having written bad
checks. A few days later a driver found Alfredo's body, wrapped in a
"101 Dalmations" bed spread on the side of the road. The children had
been left with 23 year old Richard Chouquer and 22 year old Amandy
Lawrence who lived in Auburndale and Richard was arrested and charged
with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse and Amandy was
charged with accessory after the fact.
Richard told Police that Alfredo had an accident in his pants and he
was disciplining him, having hit him at least five times in his face.
Richard said that the children never got any discipline and he had only
been trying to help. Alfredo soon lost consciousness and he died.
Richard and Amandy didn't call Police or try to get help, instead, they
loaded Alfredo's body into the trunk of their car and drove along the
highway until they found a place to dump him, sadly, they brought along
their own two children with them. Amandy had told Richard to make sure
he wrapped the body tightly in the bed spread, she was apparently
afraid he would get cold. Richard and Amandy, who had disappeared
shortly after Alfredo was found, were found in Utah and would
have to be extradited to Florida. Rheyna was placed into the custody of
her paternal Grandmother.
Governor Jeb Bush said that this case was heartbreaking:
"The Supervisor will be
fired and the Caseworker will be prosecuted for her actions.
We are going to prosecute now that the law has been changed. We're
going to prosecute
a case worker who, for whatever reason, as an investigator did not tell
the truth and put
the child potentially in harms way by that action"
Robert Mistretta was the supervisor over Erica Jones, the woman who
falsified documents after Alfredo died.
Secretary Kathleen Kearney said that Richard would be charged with a
third degree felony under a new law which had been enacted due to the
death of another child, Rilya Wilson. Kathleen made an odd comment:
"We do not believe this
Apparently Kathleen has NO CLUE
about how widespread child abuse deaths really are and she needs to
read up on the statistics about child abuse deaths. Apparently, this
was not the first time she had made these kinds of comments having said
similar things after the State had lost track of Rilya who had been
missing for 15 months before it was reported. Kathleen did admit that
the death of Alfredo was another blow to the agency which was still
suffering from the last case where 140 workers throughout the state had
lost their jobs for many reasons including failing to visit the
children who were in their care. Kathleen said that department was
upset about Alfredo's death:
the department have expressed both anger and grief to learn
what happened to little Alfredo. There are good, hardworking and honest
Children And Families whose hearts go out to this child whose life was
cut short by
DCF and Police said that even if Erica had been visiting the home,
Alfredo would have died anyone since he was not at his home anyway:
"The reality is this
mother chose to give her children to two very inappropriate caregivers"
It seems that Kathleen wants to make excuses for Erica, the liar! What
Kathleen fails to see is that if the abuse complaints had been taken
seriously and investigated properly from the beginning, it's quite
possible that the children wouldn't have been in the care of their
because they SHOULD
removed from their mothers care and placed in protective custody.
Luckily, Erica was eventually fired from the job she didn't deserve in
the first place. If Erica didn't care enough about children to do her
job the way she was getting paid to do it, she had no business being
there in the first place. Good riddance to bad rubbish as my Grammie
Erica had been the Case Worker for the case since December 26 and other
Case Workers had reported that they were unable to find the family and
reports said that neighbors and family members said that the children
were not being abused. Erica admitted to Police that she had lied on
the forms when she learned that Alfredo had died. Having been with DCF
for less than a year, Erica who was eight months pregnant, turned
herself in to the Police and was released after posting a $1,000. bond.
The new law that came about because of the Rilya's case would allow
those who falsify documents in relation to children, elderly people,
disable people or those in State care, would face a sentence of up five
years in prison. If there is a death in relation to falsifying records,
the charge could be a second degree felony which could put the person
in prison for up to 15 years.
Anthony LaSpada was representing Erica and said that he was not able to
comment on the case:
"Being eight months
pregnant, there's a lot of pressure on her right now"
, there was
a lot of pressure on those children as well. They suffered daily at the
hands of their mother because no one would listen to allegations made
by those calling in to try and protect them. Your client had not
problem with lying on legal forms and saying she visited the home, she
should pay the price for that, pregnant or not.
Montes, the biological father of Alfredo, was in prison for Meth
amphetamine trafficking and Jeanna remained in jail as well.
In March of 2004, Richard Chouquer, who was by then 25 years old, was
silent in court after having previously plead no contest to charges of
second degree murder and aggravated child abuse as part of a plea deal.
Prosecutors had offered the deal with a time limit to withdraw it if
Richard had not agreed to the deal. Prosecutors had originally been
seeking the death penalty against Richard and Assistant State Attorney
John Aquero said that the deal was offered partly due to Jeanna's
involvement in the case saying that Jeanna and Amandy had left the
children with Richard so they could go use Meth amphetamine:
"A jury could have a
had a hard time with that. They could have blamed Jeanna for her
death. I don't think a jury would have set Chouquer free, but they
might have come
with manslaughter, which only carries 15 years in prison . We didn't
want to take
Public Defender Howardene Garret read a statement in court saying that
Richard was taking full responsibility for his actions against Alfredo:
"In some ways, his
exasperation was understandable. Since he had been left with the
of four small children for three days straight, while the mothers of
the two children
off binging on Meth amphetamines and he had had to miss work when they
up to care for their children. However, Richard also knows that it was
and by this plea he wants to make it clear that he accepts full
responsibility for his actions
and is prepared to pay the penalty, with 35 years of his life"
Is this woman serious? Making excuses for this man having killed a
child for having an accident? There is no valid excuse for what
happened, I don't care how many days that man was left alone with those
children, the children are not to blame for what the adults do and
shouldn't have to pay with their lives. Prosecutors said that Richard
had been cooperative and had admitted right away what he had done:
"He became exasperated
and lashed out at Alfredo Montes. There was no indication
Mr. Chouquer ever abused the children in the past. He never said he
didn't do it
tried to put the blame on anybody else"
It was said that Richard did appear to be sorry for what he did. Judge
Dennis Maloney accepted the plea and Richard was sentenced to 35 years
in prison. Under Florida state law, Richard would have to serve at
least 85% of his sentence and he would be about 53 years old when he
becomes eligible for parole for the first time. Richard would be given
credit of 20 months for the time he had already been in jail while
waiting for his trial to begin.
Jeanna, who has supposedly straightened out her life after Alfredo
died, was in court and left crying:
"I still worry about
the other children out there. I fear for any children around him. This
some closure, but nothing will take away the pain"
Jeanna was trying to get custody of Rheyna, who was now six year old
and living with other family members. It was said that Rheyna was
having trouble with the loss of her brother, but she was in counseling
to help her. Prosecutors decided there wasn't enough evidence to
prosecute Jeanna. Kathleen Kearney eventually resigned her position
with the agency.