A Chattanooga couple appears in court today in a murder and child abuse case that exposed flaws in the $27 million computer system used by the Department of Children’s Services to track case histories.
On December 19, 2011, Patricia Brewer and her boyfriend Kenneth Coleman brought Brewer’s four year-old son Ty’Reke Evans and his three year-old brother Donamiche to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga. According to police reports, they told doctors the two boys had suffered injuries after being disciplined with a belt. They also reported Ty’Reke had fallen down the stairs.
That night, Ty’Reke was pronounced dead. Doctors and police suggest the injuries to both boys were consistent with a severe pattern of abuse, one that had actually been reported to DCS by family members and educators in the weeks prior to Ty’Reke’s death.
DCS files unearthed by the Tennessean found evidence that the caseworkers assigned to investigate didn’t have access to a complete history of the complaints. As a result, they may have failed to recognize the seriousness of Ty’Reke and Donamiche’s situation until after Ty’Reke’s death.
Brewer and Coleman were arrested and face charges of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and felony murder.
DCS spokesman Rob Johnson tells the Tennessean even the best technology can’t prevent some communication errors from taking place. “That said,” he continues, “we have reviewed this case in detail and we are confident that crucial information discovered by our investigators was recorded in a timely fashion in the course of their work and that they were diligent about following up on the information they received.”
Since Ty’Reke’s death, the agency has invested about $4 million in its TFACTS system and watchdog groups report it has improved significantly.