Friday, March 16, 2012

Trial date pending for non-custodial mom's suit; 5-year-old daughter "allegedly" killed by custodial dad, step (West Monroe, Louisiana)

We've been watching this case for over a year now. The press coverage has been unusually thorough, which is to be commended.

Custodial dad WESLEY LOWE has yet to go on trial.

Trial date pending on civil suit filed in child's death
7:55 PM, Mar. 15, 2012

Written by Sarah Eddington

A West Monroe woman whose 5-year-old daughter was beaten to death is suing the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Louisiana Office of Risk Management and the two people accused of killing her child.

Jamie Mercer, the mother of Anna Celeste Lowe, filed the civil lawsuit in Bossier Parish District Court in January.

Charles Kincade, Mercer’s attorney, said a hearing date has not been scheduled yet.

“Ms. Mercer’s loss has been so staggering,” Kincade said Thursday. “Nothing can be gained from this suit that can replace what she has lost. She’s just hopeful what has happened to her won’t happen to anyone else.”

Lowe died on Jan. 13, 2011, a result of internal injuries and bleeding. At the time, she was living with her father, Wesley Lowe, and stepmother, Catherine Lowe.

Catherine Lowe was charged with first-degree murder, and Wesley Lowe was charged with negligent homicide. Both are awaiting trial.

The suit claims DCFS “did nothing to investigate the adequacy or propriety of Anna Celeste being in the custody of Catherine Lowe and Wesley Lowe.”

The suit also alleges that DCFS failed to adequately investigate the credibility of Wesley Lowe after he made complaints against Mercer, failed to investigate the home in which the child was placed and failed to investigate suspected abuse reported by the child’s teacher.

Back in 2006, Mercer was awarded custody of her daughter and Wesley Lowe was allowed weekend and holiday visitation.

In September, 2010, Wesley Lowe informed Mercer he would not be returning their daughter following one of his weekend visitations.

He then gained temporary custody of his daughter when he filed for and was granted a protective order against Mercer. According to documents filed in the 26th Judicial Court, Mercer was accused of physically and sexually assaulting the girl.

The allegations made against Mercer were later determined to be unfounded by the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, while the court awaited the results of the pending DCFS investigation, Wesley Lowe’s order of temporary custody was extended four additional times.

The suit claims DCFS took no steps to expedite the process and did nothing to evaluate Wesley Lowe’s credibility.

If the agency had done so, “the department would have concluded that his allegations against [Mercer] were false.”

Kincade described DCFS’ failure to properly investigate the matter as “a calamity.”

“Unfortunately, just when there’s an accusation, people tend to believe that,” he said.

Additionally, the suit says a teacher reported suspected abuse in December 2010 to the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office while Anna Celeste Lowe was in the custody of her father and step-mother, but the matter was never sufficiently investigated.

“Due to this failure to adequately investigate, Anna was allowed to remain in the home of her abusers until her death on Jan. 13, 2011.”

The suit further states that Mercer “continues to suffer horribly from these events… has sustained severe, serious and significant emotional distress and psychological injury… mental anguish and grief associated with the loss of her child, with plaintiff being denied a lifetime of companionship, love and affection.”

According to the coroner’s report, Anna Celeste died as a result of internal bleeding after her stomach was severed from her intestines and her liver was lacerated in two places. The child was pronounced dead at WK Pierremont Health Center in Shreveport on Jan. 13, 2011. Emergency room staff told Bossier sheriff’s investigators that the child had been dead two hours before the couple took her to the hospital.