May 2, 2006 in City

Ex-foster mother charged

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The Stevens County prosecutor has charged a former foster mother with criminal mistreatment of a young boy in her care but did not announce whether she would be charged in the death of a second boy in the home.

County Prosecutor Jerry Wetle charged Carole Ann DeLeon, 51, with a felony for the alleged mistreatment of an 8-year-old boy, identified in court documents as “S.M.M.”

The documents allege that DeLeon limited the food and fluid intake of the boy, who had “marked retardation in height and weight” but thrived after leaving DeLeon’s foster home.

If convicted of second-degree criminal mistreatment, DeLeon could face five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Her attorney, Carl Oreskovich, was out of the state Monday and could not be reached for comment.

DeLeon, a former paralegal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane, and her daughter, Christina Burns-DeLeon, have been the subject of an ongoing investigation into the death of another boy, 7-year-old Tyler DeLeon.

Tyler, who weighed 28 pounds at his autopsy, died of dehydration on Jan. 13, 2005, at his adopted mother’s home.

In a report issued this past February, the state’s child welfare agency said it had failed to protect the boy despite a “significant pattern of suspicious injuries throughout his life.” The report said Carole DeLeon perpetuated the “myth” that Tyler’s injuries were due to drug exposure during pregnancy – even though a toxicology screening at his birth did not find drugs.

The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office forwarded a homicide-by-abuse case to Wetle last year, but no charges have been filed and detectives have continued to investigate.Wetle refused to comment on the status of the investigation into Tyler DeLeon’s death.

Kenda Bradford, Tyler’s 27-year-old biological mother, said the lingering investigation has been a frustration to her.

“They still haven’t done anything about Ty, and he actually died in her care,” Bradford said.

DeLeon received a foster care license in 1996, despite two founded incidents of child abuse in 1988, according to the state’s Child Protective Services. Founded reports are those in which the agency determines that “more likely than not” the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.

Last year, the state removed four children from DeLeon’s home and revoked her license.

In October 2004, S.M.M. left DeLeon’s care. The court records say that the boy has improved dramatically since leaving the home.

“He’s great,” Wetle said. “He’s just coming out of it.”

The court documents say that S.M.M. and Tyler became “buddies” in DeLeon’s rural foster home. But DeLeon isolated the boys from the other children; one adopted child said DeLeon was “just mean” to the two boys, according to the court filing.

DeLeon reported that the two boys had “voracious appetites, but both would drink until their stomachs were distended and would drink out of bathtubs, puddles and toilets,” according to the documents.

The documents allege that both boys failed to grow and gain weight at a normal rate during their time in DeLeon’s care.

But S.M.M. began to thrive after he was removed from the DeLeon home in October 2004 and demonstrated “remarkable catch-up growth,” according to the documents.

In four months, he gained 18 pounds and grew 2 1/2 inches.

His rapid growth led a physician to say, “I would be suspicious that his poor growth in the past was due to calorie deprivation or psychosocial short stature or a combination thereof,” according to the court documents.

According to the documents, a second physician found “substantial reason” to believe that both boys were maltreated in DeLeon’s care.


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