DCF employee to be fired after death of baby
MIAMI (WSVN) -- The Department of Children and Families is saying they will proceed with the firing of an employee who was assigned to protect an 11-month-old baby who died after being left alone in a hot car by his mother.
Catalina Bruno is charged with manslaughter after her son, Bryan Osceola, died on May 16 when he was left inside a sweltering car in front of the family home.
According to DCF, Shani Smith failed to do her job and, as a result, a child died. In an earlier interview, Smith said, "They have to blame someone. DCF has to put someone for it. They have to blame someone."
But Bruno's attorney does not believe Smith. "At this point, we really hope that they will investigate the worker at great lengths. Look at each and every file of hers and get to the bottom of it," said Attorney Lonnie Richardson.
The former DCF investigator defended herself by saying she is a scapegoat for a tragic situation, and according to Smith, she is not to blame. "Do I feel sorry? Absolutely. I absolutely feel sorry for this baby. Absolutely, 100 percent, feel sorry. Did I do anything wrong? Did I do anything to contribute to the death of this child? No."
Smith was first assigned to the family case in November of 2012, after Bruno was found passed out in her car with her baby inside, when he was 5 months old.
Smith maintains that during that investigation, she faxed her request to an outside expert to have an alcohol and mental health evaluation completed for Bruno. However, DCF said that was a lie. According to DCF, they do not have any evidence of the request and Bruno never received any help.
Smith said she put a hard copy of that request into the file as well as a result of the evaluation that said Bruno did not need any services. DCF Secretary David Wilkins said, "We confronted this employee. While she denies she falsified records, all the evidence available to us at this point in time points to the contrary."
Smith said, "I have not lied, so what I say is, give me the file and I'll show you the paperwork that I put in there." She added, "There is absolutely no reason for me to lie. None."
Bruno's attorney responded with the following statement: "Our position is that Catalina Bruno never met with an independent evaluator at any time in regard to the charge of DUI and child neglect. It's yet another example of DCF falling short of its responsibilities."
There will be a hearing on June 7 for Bruno and a trial date set for Aug. 19. The judge said on Wednesday morning they will be combining the DUI and child neglect case with Bruno's manslaughter case in which her son died on May 16.
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