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Monday, March 12, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "'This boy is beat to death' Caller in May pleads 10 times for immediate intervention at Sturgis home."

Here now is the South Bend story the IDCS went to court to try to suppress. It is reported by Virginia Black and Mary Kate Malone. The long story begins:

An anonymous caller to the centralized Department of Child Services hotline spent 20 minutes on May 27, 2011, detailing horrific abuse to 10 children at 1130 W. Washington St. — nearly six months before police found 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis tortured and beaten to death in that home.

In the course of describing another child’s injuries that day that left the boy limping and bleeding in his abdomen, the caller urges a visit to the home that night to witness the abuse.

"Please go tonight. Please go," the caller repeats. "I’m not saying this just to be saying this. Please go. Something got to be done."

And in the recording of the call that was placed at 9:54 p.m., the caller says, "If they go there right now, they’ll see how them kids is beat if they go there right now because I don’t want it to get on the news and the boy died and then everybody come forward and they gonna say, ‘Well, why did nobody come forward from before?’"

A judge ruled in The Tribune’s favor in a public records request opposed by DCS attorneys for copies of the hotline recordings and transcripts involving the Nov. 4 death of Tramelle Sturgis. The files were released to The Tribune this week.

Accompanying the story are links to an audio of the anonymous call, a timeline of what happened after the call, and a separate March 9th story on Judge Nemeth's ruling, that begins:
SOUTH BEND — A local judge ordered the release of phone records from the Department of Child Services’ child abuse hotline related to Tramelle Sturgis and his family — ending weeks of legal efforts by DCS to keep them out of the public realm.

The records, which St. Joseph Probate Court Judge Peter Nemeth ordered released on Wednesday, included four audio recordings of hotline calls and accompanying transcripts.

Two weeks after 10-year-old Tramelle was killed, The Tribune filed a public records request to DCS, requesting access to all department reports related to the boy and his family.

Although DCS records are generally confidential, state law provides for a release of documents in cases where a fatality has occurred.

The Tribune subsequently received 21 pages of reports showing previous DCS involvement with the family, specifically the department’s determination that the Sturgis children were "well-cared for" — six months before Tramelle was found beaten to death in the family’s home at 1130 W. Washington St.

But DCS did not provide one key piece of information: records of phone calls from the child abuse hotline in Indianapolis, which are now recorded and stored at the centralized call center.

In January, DCS Director James Payne told The Tribune during an interview that every call made to the centralized child abuse hotline is recorded and "kept forever."

The Tribune then filed another records request, asking for audio files and transcripts of calls made to the hotline about the Sturgis family.

But the department denied the request, arguing the records were confidential.

Soon after, an amendment was abruptly inserted into pending legislation — Senate Bill 286 — that specifically exempts an "audio recording of a telephone call to the child abuse hotline" from disclosure.

The Tribune, represented by local attorney Jerry Lutkus, filed a motion for the records, arguing the files were in fact releasable under the same law that permitted release of the original 21 pages of documents.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 12, 2012 03:38 PM
Posted to Indiana Government