Local

Child Death Questions - Part 1 of 2

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Child protective services talks about child abuse while many people wonder how a little boy could have died, even though there were previous reports of abuse.

Action News has learned that warning signs existed that the boy could be in harm's way. And while those "red flags" weren't ignored, nobody saved Seth Ireland .

Wednesday, prosecutors officially charged his mother, Rena Ireland, with felony injury to a child. But her boyfriend, Lebaron Vaughn, is now accused of murder.

For the second night since Seth Ireland died, his neighbors are remembering him with a vigil. Many of them are wondering why Child Protective Services (CPS) couldn't save him from abuse, despite several reports, including one incident just three days before the beating that killed him.

Lebaron Vaughn and Rena Ireland mostly remained hidden behind their attorneys Wednesday as they pleaded innocent to charges of murder for Vaughn, and injury to a child for Ireland.

Investigators believe the couple also hid a long case of child abuse before the beating that killed 10-year-old Seth Ireland. His mother's family attended today's hearings and they blame Vaughn for the boy's death and for keeping them from seeing what was really happening.

"I think this is horrific, what has happened and someone like this shouldn't be out on the streets because other children can suffer this. And I don't want any other child to go through what little Seth went through," said Chris Fields, Seth's uncle.

Chris Fields said Vaughn kept him at a distance and Rena was too psychologically weak to stop any abuse.

Child protective services also couldn't stop the abuse. They won't talk specifically about the Ireland case, but they said they'll only take children from families in extreme cases. "Physical abuse is not because the child has a mark on him. It's extreme physical abuse," said Catherine Huerta with CPS.

CPS got a report on August 17th, when Ireland took Seth to the police department and blamed his father for marks on his body, and then confessed to beating the boy herself.

Four months later, on December 26th, Ireland and Vaughn tried to dump Seth and another one of their four kids at the downtown jail. They told a Sheriff's deputy the boys were bipolar and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Three days later, police said Vaughn dished out the beating that killed Seth. But even that trip to the jail wasn't necessarily enough for CPS to seize the kids. "Just to come in and say 'I can't handle this kid any more. Take him.' That does not give us the authorization to say, 'fine. You said it. It's ours,'" said Huerta.

Vaughn and Ireland are still locked up in the county jail Wednesday night. His bond is more than a million dollars, hers is $30,000.

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