Friday, December 22, 2023

Report Reveals Kansas Agency Investigated Family of Girl 5 Times Before Her Tragic Death

 Report Reveals Kansas Agency Investigated Family of Girl 5 Times Before Her Tragic Death

Child welfare authorities investigated the family of a 5-year-old Kansas girl, Zoey Felix, five times in the 13 months preceding her tragic rape and murder, as detailed in a report released on Tuesday. Despite allegations of neglect and drug use by her mother, authorities were unable to confirm these claims, and the family consistently declined to offer assistance.

5-year-old Kansas girl Raped and Killed at Homeless Campsite

The State Department of Children and Families report revealed that, in one instance, the agency verified the mother's failure to properly supervise Zoey but placed the girl with her father, deeming no safety concerns. Subsequent allegations in late August regarding drug use and lack of utilities in the home resulted in seven unsuccessful attempts by child welfare officials to contact the family over the next month.

Tragically, Zoey died on Oct. 2 at a gas station where fire crews were unable to resuscitate her. Neighbors believe Zoey and her father had been camping in a grove of trees on a nearby vacant lot. Mickel Cherry, a 25-year-old homeless man, faces charges of first-degree murder, rape, and capital murder in connection with Zoey's death. The circumstances of Zoey's demise have not been disclosed by authorities.

Governor Laura Kelly expressed her dismay at Zoey Felix's "unacceptable tragedy" and announced plans to advocate for legislation expediting information release in cases of child abuse or neglect-related deaths. The current practice involves delayed summaries from the Department of Children and Families, with full case reports released after the completion of prosecution, often taking over a year.

An information vacuum in Zoey's case persisted as a judge sealed the arrest affidavit supporting criminal charges against Cherry, citing concerns about jeopardizing witness safety and potential evidence destruction.

Neighbors had previously reported concerns about Zoey's well-being, describing her as wandering the neighborhood in a distressed state. The summary from the Department of Children and Families indicated that the first tip about Zoey was received on Sept. 8, 2022, alleging poor home conditions and possible drug use in the presence of a child. Although the mother tested negative for drugs, the agency offered help, which the family declined.

The summary further detailed incidents, including an unsupervised child complaint in November 2002, an arrest of Zoey's mother for driving under the influence with Zoey in the car, and subsequent investigations that led to offers of help being declined by the family. Despite repeated attempts to contact the family in September after a complaint about drug use and lack of utilities, authorities were unsuccessful. Concurrently, police visits to the home did not locate Zoey, as her father claimed she wasn't living there.

Following Zoey's tragic death, the Department for Children and Families has pledged to launch a thorough investigation, opening another inquiry in response to the circumstances surrounding Zoey's demise.

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