Wednesday, June 05, 2013

South Bend Deputy Prosecutor Loses Job For Failing To Prosecute Father Who Later Killed 6-Year Old Daughter

The South Bend Tribune reports on St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak's decision to seek the resignation of one of his deputy prosecutors after learning the deputy failed to prosecute a father who violated a protective order and who later killed his 6-year old daughter. Edward Mwaura's estranged wife called police to complain that her husband had come to her home in violation of a protective order on May 30. No charges were filed against Mwaura when a deputy prosecutor failed to find the active protective order because the man's name was misspelled in the court's database. Police responded to another domestic dispute at the home less than three days letter. Before they could arrive, Mwaura had stabbed to death his 6-year old daughter.

"This is my office, and these are my deputy prosecutors, and we should have filed a charge of violation of a protective order," Dvorak said. "We would have if we would have done more than a cursory review of the evidence." Dvorak blamed the deputy prosecutor for failing to locate the file containing the outstanding protective order against Mwaura. "This DPA failed to exercise the thoroughness expected, particularly in crimes with women and children as victims of domestic abuse," Dvorak.

This case doesn't reveal whether case workers for the Department of Child Services failed in any way to help protect this child; however, another case that originated in South Bend with ties to Indianapolis is troubling. In a separate story, The Tribune reports on the case of a 4-year old boy that everyone agrees has been subject to abuse. The boy's father, David Weist, was granted sole custody of his son after a DCS investigation revealed that his mother, who resided in Indianapolis, had abused him. Because the abuse occurred in Marion County, that's where the abuse case was referred by authorities. Although a CPS report stated that the child would not be returning to his mother's care at the time the father was granted sole custody, that's not how things turned out.

A year ago, the mother filed a petition in the Marion County Circuit Court to re-establish her visitation rights. The court granted her limited supervised visitation rights initially that could be expanded to weekend visitation and gradually growing until the visitations encompassed the entire weekend. According to the father, the boy was returned to his care upset and bruised after the first visit. Weist hired an Indianapolis attorney, who attempted to get an emergency order ending the mother's visitation rights. To their disappointment, a DCS caseworker failed to testify at the emergency hearing according to a spokesperson because of lack of sufficient notice. The mother blamed the father for the injuries, and the judge ruled there was a lack of evidence to conclude who had caused the injuries so the mother's visitation rights should remain in place. Quoting from the order, The Tribune reports:
"The evidence presented today convinces me that the child has suffered some injuries," Commissioner Mark Renner wrote in his May 13 order, signed as approved by Judge Louis Rosenberg. "Unfortunately, what I believe ... is that the child caused these injuries to himself. ... It is a very sad event, a horribly sad event ...
"I cannot find that the mother caused injury to her child," he continued. "I am not saying there's not additional evidence that may be available to CPS and law enforcement that I'm not privy to, but based on what I have in front of me today I cannot find that the mother did these things."
The father claims that his son has returned an emotional wreck following subsequent visits but showed no signs of bruising or other signs of physical abuse. The father's attorney has filed for a change of judge according to The Tribune. "The judge made it perfectly clear that if he doesn't take him (to visit his mother), he'll take custody from him," Copenhaver says of her husband.
"Yet," Weist says, shaking his head, "I can't protect him."


CircleCityScribe said...

-OK, I'm not so sure on this one...

The story sounds like the guy made an honest mistake, and some more appropriate action would have been training (absent a history of nonfeasance).

I have to ask the tough question:

-Was this a "Frank Straub - 'I'm going to throw somebody else under the bus'" ploy to gain political favor???

Gary R. Welsh said...

Part of the problem may be a faulty search engine. A truly good search engine would pull up all hits that are close in spelling, not just one that matches exactly the entered spelling since data entry errors are probably a little too common, particularly when someone has an unusual name. Remember the FBI says it missed Tamerlan Tsarnaev's trip to Russia because someone entered the spelling of his name into the system inaccurately. I found that hard to believe since he held a permanent resident card which would could be scanned to capture key information stored on it when he departed and re-entered the country. Here the person's name is entered into the court's database manually. Having said that, if the DP knew the mother was claiming that there was an existing protective order, Dvorak is taking the position that he could have also searched using the mother's name and if he had, he would have found the active protective order. The question that should be asked is what the prosecutor's office's past record was on strictly prosecuting violation of protective order cases.

Tammy said...

I am a parent of an abused daughter by the hands of her husband. A Personal Protection Order was filed and approved. It's been over a year. My daughter was sent paper's with a date and time to appear before the judge to extend, also to add her daughter 5 yrs old to the P.P.O. (which the court forgot to do in the original) My daughter gathered all of the many police reports and went before the judge who said "you and your husband are still legally married (but, separated awaiting the divorce) this is a waste of my time. You have to see the Magistrate."
Is this going to be another "error" in the system?!

Unknown said...

I know that the persons responsible for letting Alan Matheney out on a pass despite warnings to notify my daughter if he were ever released, resulting in her murder-- were
"kicked upstairs".