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Karina’s mother seeking justice

Samantha Moore, of Coeur d’Alene, talks Thursday about the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Karina, pictured at far left, while she was in foster care in Post Falls.  (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Samantha Moore, of Coeur d’Alene, talks Thursday about the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Karina, pictured at far left, while she was in foster care in Post Falls. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Girl’s death in foster care ruled a homicide

Samantha Moore keeps the ashes of her 2-year-old daughter, Karina Janay Moore, on top of her entertainment center, in the center of her living room.

The black urn is engraved with the dates of Karina’s birth and death and is adorned with a heart-shaped picture of the smiling child.

“I want to keep her with me,” said Moore, 22, a single mother.

The ashes are all the Coeur d’Alene woman has left following her daughter’s death in a Spokane hospital Jan. 16 from injuries sustained while in foster care on Jan. 7. An autopsy led the Spokane County medical examiner’s office on March 5 to rule the death a homicide, saying the immediate cause was “blunt force head injuries” resulting from “injuries inflicted by another person/persons.”

The Post Falls Police Department hasn’t charged anybody with a crime and “can’t disclose who’s a potential suspect and who’s not,” said Lt. Pat Knight. “You don’t want to disclose too much, keeping in mind there’s still a lot of people we need to talk to. In my opinion, everyone who had access to Karina needs to be talked to.”

But, he said, “We certainly don’t disagree with the medical examiner’s opinion. There’s no argument going on between us and the medical examiner. It’s our job to substantiate what he found. There’s no doubt about what the medical examiner found on baby Karina in the autopsy.”

The foster parents told the police that Karina was injured when she fell down a short flight of carpeted stairs around midnight, Knight said. First responders found the toddler unresponsive at the base of the stairs, and the foster mother performed CPR, Knight said. The foster mother was nearby when Karina fell but not close enough to catch her, he said. Karina was taken to Kootenai Medical Center, then transferred to Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Samantha Moore scoffs at the suggestion that her daughter died by accident and asks why no baby gates were installed to protect the small child. Moore said she has had concerns about Karina’s care in the foster home since all three of her children were placed there in November. Moore said her children were taken away after she was charged with neglect, an accusation she disputes.

“They took my kids out of my home for so-called protection,” Moore said. “How is that protection? You take away three, and you give me back two. My kids haven’t been hurt in my home.”

Karina Moore’s foster parents could not be reached for comment.

Moore said her remaining two children – a 6-year-old boy and a 4-month-old girl – were moved to a different foster home.

Tom Shanahan, a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said he couldn’t comment on specifics of the case, but could say that Karina Moore’s foster parents have been licensed since June 2007 and have had 10 foster children in their home.

Shanahan said a federal government review shows that Idaho’s foster care system is almost entirely free of abuse and neglect. About 3,300 foster care cases from 2007 were reviewed, revealing that the state’s system was 99.91 percent free of abuse and neglect, Shanahan said, and the national median was 99.5 percent. About 3,300 children cycle through the foster system annually.

In the past five years, Shanahan said, two other children died while in foster care in Idaho’s five northern counties. However, the other children died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, he said.

Samantha Moore said she had three visits with her children from mid-November to Christmas Eve and during all three, she noticed bruises or scratches on Karina – goose-egg bumps on the child’s forehead and long scratches down the left side of her face and neck. She said her meetings with her children were recorded and, during them, her 6-year-old son complained that he didn’t like the way his foster parents spanked Karina.

Moore said the children were removed from her home in November after her son’s school informed authorities that he was injured. Moore said an investigation and interviews with the child cleared her of having harmed her son. However, she was charged with neglect, and the children were removed, she said.

Since she lost her children, Moore said, she has submitted to repeated drug evaluations, all of which have turned up clean. She said she has held down a steady job as a housekeeper and has taken two parenting classes. She has been granted two hour-long visits with her children per week, she said.

“They’re not cutting me any slack, and I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me,” Moore said, adding that her next court date in her effort to regain custody is in June.

“I want justice for her,” Moore said of Karina. They “were responsible for her.”