Friday, December 2, 2011

Toddler's murder prompts state review of domestic abuse guidelines (Trenton, New Jersey)

You need guidelines? Let's make it real simple for you.

If Dad has abused Mom or the child, he gets no access. Period. Unfortunately, caseworkers are just bedazzled by charming daddy sociopaths, and refuse to listen to the mothers. And as a result, a 2-year-old girl has been murdered, drowned like a rat by her Daddy during court-ordered visitation. Seems he dumped her in a creek and then hightailed it for California.

This is what happens when we ignore mothers, ignore common sense, and exalt fathers rights at the expense of everyone else.

Dad ARTHUR MORGAN III has been arrested.

N.J. toddler's murder prompts state review of domestic abuse guidelines
Published: Thursday, December 01, 2011, 8:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 01, 2011, 9:18 AM
By MaryAnn Spoto/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger

TRENTON — The commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families said the agency will review some of its guidelines involving domestic abuse in the wake of the death of Tierra Morgan-Glover, the 2-year-old Ocean County girl allegedly killed by her father last week.

"We don’t know yet if we did everything we could have done or should have done, or if there were opportunities for us to do things differently," Commissioner Allison Blake said Wednesday. "I don’t know what we’re going to learn from this review."

Blake said the Division of Youth and Family Services, which falls under the Department of Children and Families, had opened an investigation on Tierra’s parents last year and was operating under guidelines for domestic violence cases it had adopted in 2009.

The toddler’s death — allegedly at the hand of her father, Arthur Morgan III — in the midst of an open DYFS investigation is a test of whether the new guidelines are working or need to be revised, Blake said.

Over the past year, DYFS investigated Morgan and Tierra’s mother, Imani Benton, on four separate occasions, the last one as late as Nov. 10 — less than two weeks before Tierra’s body, still strapped in her car seat, was found in a stream in Shark River Park in Wall Township.

Monmouth County authorities contend Morgan killed his daughter on Nov. 21, hours after taking her for the day as part of a custody agreement with Benton.

As part of the new guildelines for domestic violence cases, DYFS staff have been trained to ask a series of specific questions to determine whether the situation poses a risk to the child, Blake said.

Blake refused to say whether DYFS found that risk in the Morgan-Benton case, but said the agency is reviewing the four cases it had opened on the couple.

Besides the case review, a separate panel, the department’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, will also investigate, Blake said.

Benton, 24, of Lakehurst, claims she told DYFS and other social services caseworkers on several occasions that Morgan physically abused her and Tierra.
But Morgan, 27, had "the gift of gab" and always tried to talk himself out of trouble, Benton said Tuesday night after learning he had been arrested in San Diego. Benton said she suspects that’s what helped him convince caseworkers he was a fit parent — even when, she says, she kept telling them he was abusive.

On the lam since he was seen at the Asbury Park train station on Nov. 21, Morgan was captured at a friend’s house in San Diego Tuesday afternoon. He is scheduled to make a first court appearance this morning, at which time the San Diego District Attorney’s Office will move to extradite him to New Jersey, where he is charged with murder, child endangerment and interfering with a court order.


NOV. 21 — Arthur Morgan III gets a court-approved visit with his 2-year-old daughter, Tierra Morgan-Glover. Morgan picks up the child from her mother's home in Lakehurst and is supposed to return her by 7 p.m.

NOV. 21 — The girl's mother, Imani Benton, calls police when Morgan does not return with the girl. Local authorities begin searching for the father and daughter.

NOV. 22 — A group of teenagers find Tierra’s body, still strapped in her car seat, in a stream in the Wall Township section of Shark River Park in Monmouth County.

NOV. 22 — An arrest warrant is issued for Morgan, who is charged with child endangerment and interfering with a court order. A search for Morgan intensifies in New Jersey as word spreads about the toddler’s death.

NOV. 29 — The FBI launches a national manhunt for Morgan.

NOV. 29 — A tip about Morgan's possible whereabouts leads U.S. marshals to a house in eastern San Diego, where Morgan is found and arrested.

DEC. 1 — Morgan is scheduled to make a first court appearance this morning in San Diego, where the district attorney's office will move to extradite him to New Jersey.

— Len Melisurgo/ The Star-Ledger

DYFS’s new guidelines were developed to improve the way child welfare and domestic violence agencies work together, Blake said.

The impetus for the changes was the concern domestic violence victims would automatically lose custody of their children because an abusive relationship always puts a child at risk of harm, said Mary Coogan, assistant director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

The new guidelines are designed to provide more services to victims of domestic violence, the alleged abusers and their children so the youngsters don’t have to go to foster homes, she said.

DYFS first opened a case on Morgan and Benton on Oct. 29, 2010, when it received a report of domestic violence. Benton obtained a temporary restraining order but it was not made permanent after a court determined there was not sufficient evidence to conclude domestic violence occurred.

DYFS offered services to the couple, including group counseling, parenting classes and psycho-evaluation classes through Monmouth County’s social services agency. Morgan did not participate in the parenting classes or substance abuse evaluation, Blake said.

Blake said DYFS cannot force anyone into services unless there has been a finding of abuse or neglect by the agency and/or a judge. There was no finding of abuse or neglect and the case was closed Feb. 25.

DYFS caseworkers were called out two more times on allegations against Benton, first on July 1 and again on Sept. 23 of this year. Both cases were closed with no finding of abuse or neglect, Blake said.

In the most recent dealing with DYFS, a case that was still open when Tierra was killed, Morgan claimed he did not know the whereabouts of his daughter and made undisclosed allegations about Benton that Blake said proved to be untrue. A caseworker had visited the mother and daughter on Nov. 10 and deemed the child to be safe.