DCF: Cops should have filed missing persons report
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Child welfare officials said Monday that Hallandale Beach Police should have filed a missing- person report in October after talking with a mother who hadn't seen her baby in more than a year. Authorities dug up what they believe are the baby's remains in the backyard of the parent's former home last week.
An officer called the state abuse hotline in October after Brittney Sierra complained that the father of her 5-month-old son, Dontrelle, made excuses whenever she asked to see him. The couple were not married and had an on-and-off relationship.
"She doesn't even know, I mean, whether the baby is even alive or not," an officer said on a transcript of the call released Monday.
When the operator asked what was going on in the case, the officer added, "We really just don't know the whereabouts of this child."
Authorities charged Sierra, 21, and the baby's father, 27-year-old Calvin Melvin, with child neglect Friday. After talking with the couple, they began digging in the backyard of their former home and eventually unearthed a wooden box with human remains. The medical examiner is conducting DNA tests to identify the remains.
It is unclear why it took so long for authorities or family members to investigate the baby's whereabouts.
Calvin Melvin repeatedly told Sierra that the baby was with Melvin's parents. He told authorities the same thing in October, but Hallandale Police said they didn't follow up then to see if that was true.
Police did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.
Officials from the state Department of Children and Families said they did not follow up on the October call to the department's abuse hotline because they do not have the authority to investigate missing persons or criminal cases.
The operator who took the call in October said she would document the officer's concerns and asked him to call back if there was evidence of abuse or neglect, according to the transcript.
After that, the case was essentially dropped by police and DCF.
"There was no allegation of abuse or neglect of this child in the October 2012 hotline report," DCF Secretary David Wilkins said in a statement.
The case came to a head last week after a child protective investigator who was following up on another hotline call about the couple's children went to the house and noticed there were only two children instead of three.
Melvin again said the baby was with his parents but when the investigator followed up with the parents, they said that was untrue. When investigators went back to Melvin's home, he had disappeared. He went to the police station Thursday to be interviewed and was later arrested. Police said he has changed his story several times and at one point said he dropped the child off at a fire station.
Meanwhile, DCF has taken the baby's two siblings into custody.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)