Ciarea Taylor Witherspoon
Age: 15 mos.
Born: Dec 11, 2008
Died: March 18, 2010
Suspect in death: Gregory Witherspoon, father
Seven times - most before Ciarea was born - someone called authorities to say things were not right at their house. The allegations piled up.
There were guns and fighting. Her father threatened to kill her mother. Her 7-year-old brother had bruises, went to school with a black eye. Her brother was covered in feces and acted much younger than his age. Her brother sometimes pretended to slam his head into a wall and said his stepfather hurt him. He told people at school he might get cocaine under the Christmas tree.
But every time, authorities chose not to intervene. Three of the seven calls were "screened out," meaning no further follow-up required. Four times, caseworkers assessed whether there were safety threats and ultimately recommended against opening an investigation.
Then in June 2009, 6-month-old Ciarea and her 2-year-old brother were left alone in the bathtub. By the time her father returned from answering the door, and then cooking some chicken, she was face down and unresponsive. She lived for nine months, never again conscious, on a ventilator, with a feeding tube. It was then that the state put her in foster care. Her leg had to be amputated because of sepsis. She died March 18, 2010.
Gregory Witherspoon pleaded guilty to child abuse, negligently causing death. He received eight years of probation.
A state review of Ciarea's death found caseworkers did not assess prior allegations about the family within the time allowed by state regulation. It also found a caseworker closed one case on the family without even interviewing Gregory Witherspoon. A caseworker also erred when writing in a report that there were no marks on Ciarea's brother, even though his school reported he had a black eye and Aurora police documented it in a report. And a caseworker failed to interview Ciarea's older brother, or even see him, after some of the previous abuse allegations.
The consequence for multiple violations of state policy: supervisors were required to meet with the caseworkers involved to review laws regarding response time, the interviewing of suspects and victims, and when to offer support services to families.
Read Arrest Affidavit
Read Fatality Report