NATCHEZ, Miss. (WLBT) - WLBT has confirmed that personnel action has been taken against a case worker and supervisor at the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services after a four-year-old was killed and her younger sister was severely injured in a child abuse case that shocked Mississippi.
Natchez police were called late Wednesday night to 601 Old Washington Road. When the officers that were dispatched arrived they were stopped by a vehicle that had what appeared to be a very sick child inside. The officer immediately realized that both of the girls were in critical condition and had been severely abused.
Both children were taken to the hospital. Police said they had at least 12 injuries, but would not go into detail about what those injuries were.
Armani Hill died at the hospital and her 3-year-old sister Lailah Hill was taken to UMMC and is listed in critical condition.
Police say that Anderson was the only person home with the girls at the time of the abuse because their mother left the children in his care Tuesday night while she worked an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
Jones said she stopped home briefly after getting off work Wednesday morning, but then she left again shortly after. When she left the second time, she said the girls were doing fine. She also stated that one of them got up and walked around, showing no signs of injuries.
After the abuse allegedly occurred, police say Anderson made the children walk 1/4 of a mile to the Holiday Apartment Complex on Old Washington Road where his mother lived. Police said one of the girls kept falling down during the walk from being injured so badly.
According to police, the Department of Human Services had previously opened two cases on the children due to injuries sustained in the past. The department issued a statement Friday regarding the incident.
“All of us at MDCPS are saddened to hear of this week’s tragic events in Natchez. Even as child welfare professionals, we are shocked by the heinous acts reported in this case. MDCPS is providing all possible assistance to law enforcement in hopes that the responsible individuals are brought swiftly to justice. This case serves as a painful reminder that despite everyone’s best efforts, evil people will commit evil acts. We hope those responsible for this tragedy are appropriately punished.”
Child Protection Services went into detail about their involvement, saying they received two prior reports of abuse involving the same children since December 2018. The agency says they investigated the reporters’ concerns and the evidence did not support substantiation of the allegations. Even so, MDCPS opened an “in-home” case and made repeated visits with the children and family from January until May of this year, but no safety concerns ever came up and no child abuse or harm was noted. The case was closed on June 4 after the agency met with Jones, the children and the children’s grandmother. The children were never placed in MDCPS custody.
25-year-old Jones and her 24-year-old boyfriend, Anderson, remain in the Adams County Jail charged in connection with the death and beating.
The girls’ mother is charged with two counts of child deprivation. Anderson is charged with two counts of felonious abuse.
This comes at the same time as a report that states children in state custody are still abused and neglected according to the findings of the court monitor in the ongoing federal lawsuit against Mississippi over its foster care system.
This is a developing story. We will update this as more information becomes available.