LUMBERTON — The 2010 beating death of a Robeson County boy is one of 38 cases state Social Services officials will review in an effort to prevent child deaths.
Nathaniel Bruce Reed was 17 months old when he died on Nov. 22, 2010, at South-eastern Regional Medical Center, after St. Pauls police had received a 911 call from a home on South McGoogan Street.
Robert James Jordan, 27, whose girlfriend was Reed’s mother, was charged one month later with first-degree murder and child abuse and remains in the Robeson County jail awaiting trial.
The official cause of death was ruled “trauma to the head and abdomen,” with “other significant conditions contributing to death: Battered child syndrome,” according to the autopsy.
Reed’s case is the only one from Robeson County that is being reviewed as part of the initiative. For the past 12 years, DSS reviewed child fatality cases in chronological order, according to Kevin Kelley, section chief of Child Welfare Services for DSS.
“When we don’t get to the reviews timely enough, some of the information is harder to gain or simply unavailable, and we don’t want to lose valuable information,” Kelley said.
DSS has no written criteria to determine if a case is high-profile, although cases in which DSS had contact with a family within the year before a child died will have priority, Kelley said. He could not comment on if DSS had contact with Nathaniel Reed’s family before the child’s death.
“We’ll look at the information in there, and where it looks like based on the written information that we received, that there is some systemic breakdown or some systemic improvement that could be made, it won’t be a hard and fast criteria,” Kelley said. “It will be more of an art than a science.”
The review for Reed’s case is scheduled for Feb. 9 and 10.
Also on the list is the case of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis, a Fayetteville girl who disappeared from her home in November 2009. Mario McNeil faces charges of first-degree murder and rape in her death; the girl’s mother, Antoinette Davis, also faces murder charges.
According to The Associated Press, Fayetteville police and prosecutors asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Cumberland County social workers provided police with complete records on the girl’s family.
During any given review, a local review team flags questions or issues in the paper records for a case and talk about how to interpret the written information, Kelley said.
“Because they are cross-agency records, there will be a representative from every agency that submitted a record, and other folks as well,” he said.
After findings and recommendations have been finalized, the report is sent to the attorney general, who must approve it, Kelley said. DSS must then check with the district attorney in that jurisdiction to ensure that releasing the report won’t interfere with criminal proceedings, and the document becomes public record.
Kelley said the purpose of a review is “to find systemic changes that need to be made to the system.” Holding people professionally or criminally accountable for actions that led to a child’s death is not a goal of the review, he said.
“There are processes and standards in place for the right people to take the right action,” he said. “… If a private agency or a public agency had an employee who misstepped in some way, their supervisor will be made aware of that, and it’ll be up to that authority to decide how to move forward with any corrective action.”