While few, if any, of the families connected to the Carole DeLeon criminal case seem pleased by her plea agreement, the Stevens County sheriff’s detective who labored to bring justice for her adopted son said he can live with the results.
Detective Jerry Taylor, 63, said he would have rather been fishing over the past 30 months than filing search warrants compelling doctors to hand over medical records detailing the troubled life of Tyler DeLeon, who died Jan. 13, 2005.
“In two and a half years, I haven’t said anything,” Taylor said. “When I was told about (the deal) late Friday I thought, ‘You know, we have to put this thing to rest.’ I can’t bring little Ty back, but we all did the best we could.”
Carole Ann DeLeon, 52, will appear at 9 a.m. today before Superior Court Judge Al Nielson for sentencing on two counts of criminal mistreatment.
Earlier this year, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen charged DeLeon with homicide by abuse, alleging that she essentially starved Tyler to death. But Rasmussen agreed last week with defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to allow DeLeon to enter a plea that let her avoid a potential life sentence in prison.
DeLeon entered an Alford plea to one count of criminal mistreatment in the first degree for Tyler, who weighed only 28 pounds when he died on his seventh birthday.
She also entered an Alford plea to second-degree criminal mistreatment for her care of Steven Miller, another boy whom prosecutors alleged was severely malnourished by DeLeon. Four months after leaving her home, Steven had gained 18 pounds and grown 2 1/2 inches, according to court records.
With an Alford plea, DeLeon does not admit guilt but acknowledges that she could be convicted at trial.
Rasmussen said he expects Nielson to sentence DeLeon to a combined 72 months, or six years, in prison at the hearing.
Tyler’s biological mother said this week that she wasn’t consulted prior to the plea agreement and will attend the hearing today to try to stop the deal from going forward.
Then on Wednesday, the adoptive mother of Steven Miller issued a statement to The Spokesman-Review relaying similar concerns.
Fran Cudmore said that she was in Colville last Friday afternoon for an appointment with Rasmussen when she was informed that a deal had been reached with Carole DeLeon.
“I asked to see Mr. Rasmussen, but was told he was not available,” Cudmore wrote in her statement. “I believe that the terms of this plea bargain are unacceptable for the treatment that my son endured while in the care of Ms. De Leon, and even more so for the treatment and subsequent untimely death of Tyler De Leon.
“My son was present in her home during much of the mistreatment, and he wanted to testify on his own and Tyler’s behalf for justice sake. We demand justice, and request that the judge in this case reconsider the plea agreement.”
Rasmussen acknowledged that the plea deal is unpopular, adding that he has received hate mail.
“Some people are hoping I would experience the same things that Ty did,” Rasmussen said.
Regardless of the reaction to the plea agreement, Rasmussen said he expects it to go forward.
Oreskovich, DeLeon’s attorney, said he could not say late Thursday whether she will speak on her own behalf.
“There is more to this than they know,” Oreskovich said, referring to the upset families. “Hopefully, our side of the story will come out (today) at sentencing.”
Oreskovich previously said that DeLeon intends to argue at an upcoming dependency hearing for the return of four adopted children who were removed from her care after she was charged in the case.
Taylor, the detective, said he’ll do everything in his power to keep that from happening.
“For her to ever think that she is going to get those kids back, she’s out in left field,” Taylor said. “She’s still hiding from the truth. That’s what she’s best at. The bottom line is she will never have the chance to adopt another child and hurt another child again.”
After adopting Tyler in 2000, DeLeon repeatedly warned school officials to limit his food and water intake and to make sure he didn’t drink water out of the toilets, court records state. But a later state investigation couldn’t find any medical documentation that supported her claim that Tyler had eating or drinking disorders, the records say.
Following Tyler’s death, a fatality review board found that the state Department of Social and Health Services didn’t do enough to protect Tyler. A total of $55 million worth of civil claims has been filed against the state by the families of children for whom DeLeon provided care.
Taylor said that when he started the criminal investigation into Tyler’s death, DeLeon had already cleaned her home in rural Stevens County, and Tyler’s body had been cremated. He said his efforts were frustrated at every turn.
But every time the investigation stalled, another witness would come forward, he said. “When you see a child who was let down by so many people and so many departments, you have to stay with it,” Taylor said. “More people let that little boy down than what you could imagine.”