State sued after death of Kansas toddler

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EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A state agency that investigates child abuse failed to protect an 18-month-old girl who was living in a known south-central Kansas meth house when she suffered fatal injuries, the girl’s father claims in a lawsuit filed against the Department for Children and Families.

Jayla Haag’s injuries included brain swelling, bleeding around her eyes, teeth that had been forcibly removed and damage to her jaw line, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1efGowG ) reported. The girl tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines at birth and as she lay dying in late March 2012.

“DCF was informed that Jayla was being abused and did nothing to protect her,” the lawsuit says. “The only action it took concerning Jayla was to cash the child support payments” from her father. In effect, the state gave financial and medical help to the girl’s mother, Alyssa Haag, allowing her “to continue her meth habit and the abuse of her daughter. The DCF social worker knew that Jayla was living in a meth house.”

The lawsuit says that calls about Jayla to the DCF hotline “were ignored

DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed said Thursday that the agency has received a copy of the lawsuit petition and it is being reviewed, but she couldn’t comment on the suit because it is pending litigation.

Wichita lawyer Randy Rathbun, a former U.S. attorney, filed the lawsuit on March 20 in Sedgwick County District Court against DCF, known at the time of Jayla’s death as SRS, on behalf of Jayla’s father, Steven T. Watters.

Rathbun also has a pending federal lawsuit against an SRS social worker over another child abuse death.

The state agency ignored previous warning signs, including Haag “already had one child taken from her for abuse and neglect” before Jayla was born, the lawsuit claims, adding that Haag used drugs while pregnant with the girl.

Jayla was living with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Justin Edwards, at a duplex in El Dorado at the time of her death. Both adults “were heavy users of meth,” the lawsuit said.

Haag, 24, was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter-reckless and is serving time in a Topeka prison, with an earliest possible release date in March 2015.

A Butler County judge dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Edwards in September 2012 because Jayla’s autopsy had not been completed. Butler County prosecutor Darrin Devinney said at the time that a murder charge could be refiled after he received a completed autopsy report.

The autopsy found that the cause of the death was complications of blunt-force injuries of the head, and that the manner of death was homicide, but no murder charge has been refiled.

Edwards, 30, is in prison after being convicted of drug crimes from a 2011 case.

The lawsuit seeks “in excess of $75,000 plus his costs” and any other relief the court might think is just.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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