Breanna Marie Courtney Loveless
May 22, 1995 - February 21, 1996
Find A Grave Memorial
Just three short years after the publicized settlement agreement made by the state of Utah and Governor Mike Leavitt SHOULD have been protecting her, nine month old Breanna Loveless died a slow, painful, tortured death. Breanna suffered through nose and ear infections, diarrhea, facial bruises, broken arms, a broken leg, a broken clavicle, many contusions and abrasions on her face among many other things.

According to what Bobbie Dawn Wittison says, on February 21, 1996, she and her then boyfriend, Travis Wittison put Breanna to bed at about 9:30 p.m. and then went to another apartment to play video games. They claim to have checked on Breanna several times during the hours that they were out of the apartment. 

Travis says he returned to the apartment at about 12:10 a.m. and found Breanna face down in her crib, covered with several blankets. Travis said her lips were blue and she was not breathing. Paramedics were called and when they arrived, found Breanna cold and rigor mortis had already set in and was advanced. Breanna had been dead for at least two hours. The pattern of lividity showed that Breanna had been on her back, not on her stomach as Travis had said. Travis tried to say that she had accidentally died of asphyxiation, obviously, that was not the truth.

Evidence would show that Breanna had suffered at least four weeks of torture at the hands of her mother and her mothers boyfriend. During the time she was tortured her arms were fractured from being twisted and jerked as well as her tibia. Breanna's collarbone was broken from a direct hit she took to it. On her body were over 30 bruises and of those, only two could have been accidentally. Most of the bruises were typical of abused children.

Breanna had evidence that her upper frenulum had been repeatedly torn and she had damage to her lower gums typically seen when a baby is force fed. Her left ear was pulled away from the scalp and she had open sores that were said to have gone far beyond what would be typical diaper rash. Breanna's half sister said that she spent most of her time in her crib and that the only times she was taken out was when she was fed or when they all went somewhere together.

The Assistant Utah Medical Examiner ruled Breanna's death caused by Pneumonia and the manner of death was listed as undetermined. Bobbie Wittison had called the Medical Examiner no less than four times to try and convince him that Breanna had not died from abuse, that she had died from various diseases that were discovered when she had read Breanna's medical records.

Bobbie was convicted of murder and six counts of child abuse and Travis was convicted of three counts of child abuse. Each of them wondered how they could have been convicted in a case of a child dying from Pneumonia. Doctors Harry Wilson and Robert Kirschner were happy to shed some light onto that subject.

At times, a Pathologist is faced with a case of a dead child who has obvious injuries caused by abuse, though none of the visible abuse is identifiable as a fatal injury. There are two groups these cases can fall into. One is those with accompanying evidence of neglect or contributing disease process and those with no identifiable factors that contribute to the death.

The other is more difficult. A child can show multiple injuries that are consistent with abuse which was inflicted several days before the child died. The cause of death can be Pneumonia or some other kind of infection, however, no direct link is identified. Many of the children have been chronically abused and injuries that have already healed or are in the process of healing are clearly seen.

An experienced Forensic Pathologist can spot the relationship of the injury to the fatal disease. The abuse a child suffers can cause so much stress that their immune system is shut down or slowed down and their resistance to infection is affected. Deaths in children who are abused though none of the noticeable abuse is the actual cause of the death such as described above, are labeled homicides since the child would probably not have contacted the infection or died if there had not been abuse in the first place.

Dr Kirschner testified at trial that in his opinion, Breanna would not have gotten pneumonia if she had not been abused and if she had not been abused, she would not have died. He said the cause of her death was child abuse. Breanna's death is one that fits into the definition of felony murder, in most states. If a death happens as a result of a child being abused, in most states, it is not necessary for prosecutors to establish the risk of death involved with child abuse. All that they have to do is prove that the abuser intentionally or knowingly was a participant in the act of child abuse. This was the case with Bobbie and Travis. All that was needed was for prosecutors to show that they abused and tortured Breanna intentionally. It was not necessary to prove that they knew she would die from the abuse. 

Officials from the State Of Child And Family Services had been told about what was happening with Breanna, yet, nothing was done to save her. Ricky Sanders, Breanna's biological father and his mother, Maradeen Sanders had taken Breanna to the emergency room on January 12, 1996. Breanna had a severe nose condition and constant diarrhea. She was also suffering from a blistered diaper rash and she had bruises on her face. Pamela Goodrich, a caseworker with DCFS said that their complaints were unfounded and didn't consider what she saw to be child abuse.

About a month later, Breanna was taken back to the emergency room. At that time she was found to have a broken clavicle, an untreated ear infection and numerous bruises and lacerations which were shown to be in different stages of healing. Once again, Pamela Goodrich sent Breanna home with her mother. There were two days of regular visits into their home and then Bobbie refused to allow Pamela into their home. Breanna would die that week.

Charges were filed against Bobbie and Travis for first degree murder and multiple counts of second degree felony child abuse. Rob Parrish, the prosecutor said that DCFS could have prevented the death of Breanna. On May 15, 1998, a jury took seven hours to deliberate and then found Bobbie and Travis guilty of murder. Bobbie was also found guilty on six counts of child abuse and her sentence was a measly 1 to 15 years in prison. Travis was found guilty and sentenced to 0 to 5 years in prison. What the heck? Zero to five years for killing a baby?

"It was a preventable death. There was clear child abuse but they didn't see it until it was too late 
and that was due to inadequate training, improper procedures and confusion" 
Rob Parrish

Ricky Sanders filed a lawsuit in May against Bobbie and Travis, the Attorney General, the state Department Of Human Services which is the overseer of DCFS and finally, against Pamela Goodrich. The amount he sued for was $5 million dollars and he claimed that DCFS knew what was going on with Breanna and the abuse she was going through and they did nothing to stop it. HE'S RIGHT!

It was found that Bobbie Wittison had tested positive for drugs, which was in part explained by the fact that she was was using prescribed drugs. However, papers state that she tested positive for opiate and Bensodiasopine. She explained that she was taking the pain killer Lortab and that was how she tested positive for Opiates. She had no explanation for why she tested positive for Bensodiasopine. Even though she tested positive, Breanna was still released to her.

Pamela Goodrich was blamed for not telling the police about Bobbie testing positive for the drug. A bigger picture paints the truth, Pamela CLEARLY knew little about how to recognize when a child was being abused. Pamela was also ignorant of correct procedures of when a child could be removed from a home and she was lacking in proper training. Pamela believed that the court had to become involved in order for a child to be removed from a home.

In a letter dated March 5, 1997, Pamela Goodrich resigned from her position with DCFS. Pamela said that the death of Breanna's was the very deepest sorrow that she had ever known. Pamela said in her letter to Governor Leavitt, that she and her supervisor had both made written comments to ensure that the unit they worked in would be trained better on child protection services and issues in the future. This came after the fatality review of Breanna's case was completed.

Pamela said that the when she received a new supervisor, the review of settlement and training suddenly became haphazard. When she went to the new administration about this, she was reprimanded for being a burned out social worker. In the last line of her letter she said:

"It would be very wrong if that child's death did not serve as a lesson to our agency in 
ensuring that caseworkers are well trained" 

Pamela received a letter back, though not from the Governor. The letter was dated May 16, 1997 and denied any deficiencies in the department. The letter also said that it is important for all division employees to perform their duties in a professional manner. Also in the letter it said that the department was committed to making sure
that all employees receive the training that they need to be competent in their jobs. Included in that was a walk through system training program that would take place once a month for new and even more experienced workers.

Rob Parrish disagrees saying that the increased number of fatality reviews prove that the employees are not learning, not from the death of Breanna or the deaths of children who have died after her.

In the case of Breanna, protected documents, which are documents that are never meant to be seen by the public, said that there was some confusion between Pamela and the Assistant Attorney General, David Tibbs. There was a failure of communication between the two and each of them though the decision was up to the other. The paper also showed that caseworkers feel that they are being second guessed a lot and are not willing to make decisions on their own, they just leave it up to someone else. In the case of Breanna and many other children, it costs them their lives.

Governor Mike Leavitt claims that Utah's DCFS is a role model for DCFS in other states. However, since 1994, 49 children have died in Utah and the year before Breanna died, brought on 20 of those deaths of children. This was while Mike Leavitt was announcing the DCFS success of their new overhaul program. The National Center For Youth Law, which is based in San Francisco, filed a lawsuit against Mike Leavitt and the state of Utah for their failure to protect children in the foster system as well as children who were reported as being abused and neglected.

DCFS says that even with more money and a new director, the system is dysfunctional and puts what they call "family" before protection of the children in their custody. Over five years after the U.S. District Court for Utah had forced Mike Leavitt to come to an agreement with NCYL, the legal battle was not over. NCYL wanted the settlement agreement to be extended for two more years in order to keep Utah and DCFS under the watchful eye of the Federal Court and attempt to stop the deaths of other children.

Mike Leavitt and the Utah Attorney General, Jan Graham, wanted the agreement to be over with on the expiration date. Mike Leavitt had gone on record as saying that the San Francisco group was only after their $200. an hour fee:

 "We're spending our money to care for children, and we'd like not to spend our money on lawyers" 
Mike Leavitt

Utah had spent over $100. million dollars over the four years prior to the death of Breanna, on DCFS. About half of that money comes from the federal government under the condition that Utah would operate their child welfare system according to the law. Reports said that about two decades after the Federal Child Welfare And Adoption
Assistance Act of 1980, Utah was STILL out of compliance with federal mandates. That means that Utah is NOT caring for children who are in their system as foster children or other children who are at risk of being abused and neglected. Utah apparently had only 49% more administrators and 69% more case workers to show for
the efforts. However, children are still dying. What are all of the new employees doing with their time? NOT protecting children, that's for sure!

Published: Sunday, Feb. 25, 1996 12:00 a.m. MST 

Breanna Marie Courtney Loveless, 9 months old, died February 22, 1996 at Delta. 

Born May 22, 1995 at Delta to Ricky Lee Sanders and Bobbie Dawn Loveless Wittison. During Breanna's short life she was truly the love of her sisters' lives. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Survived by mother, Delta; father, Hinckley; sisters: Jauna Janae Wittison and Crysten Wittison, both Delta; grandparents: Elaina Jackman, Lynndyl; Mike Loveless Sr., Salt Lake City; Claude and Meridean Sanders, Hinckley; great- grandparents: Roland and Carla Larsen, Lynn and Iva Dee Loveless, Sylvia Davis, all Salt Lake City; uncles: Russell Larsen, California; Mike Loveless Jr., Delta. 

Funeral services Monday February 26, 1996 12:00 Noon at Nickle Mortuary, 190 South Center, Delta. Friends call at Mortuary Monday 11-11:45 a.m. Burial Delta Cemetery.

Death Occurred in the state of Utah

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