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Police are still probing death

SATURDAY, JAN. 16, 2010

Samantha Moore, of Coeur d’Alene, talked on March 12, 2009, about the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Karina, while she was in foster care. (Kathy Plonka)
Samantha Moore, of Coeur d’Alene, talked on March 12, 2009, about the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Karina, while she was in foster care. (Kathy Plonka)

Toddler died one year ago in foster care

One year ago today, 2-year-old Karina Janay Moore died from injuries she sustained 10 days earlier in her Post Falls foster home.

Police received the call at two seconds after midnight on Jan. 7, 2009. When they arrived, the foster mother said the little girl had fallen down a flight of carpeted stairs. The medical examiner, however, ruled the death a homicide from “blunt force” head trauma.

The Post Falls Police Department has a senior detective working on the case full time, but no arrests have been made or charges filed.

“When you have a case like this, it’s difficult to judge when you’ve done enough, but I think we’ll get there and I’m hoping it will be very soon,” said police Chief Scot Haug. “The suspect knows what happened, and we’re trying to figure it out.”

In the early hours of Jan. 7, 2009, four patrol officers arrived on scene, along with Kootenai Fire and Rescue, Haug said. Nine people were in the home – the foster parents, Jeremy and Amber Clark, their four children, and Karina and her two siblings, said Lt. Greg McLean. Court documents show that the Clarks’ own children ranged in age from a toddler to an 8-year-old at that time. Karina had a 6-year-old brother and an infant sister also in the home.

The officers performed CPR before Karina was taken to Kootenai Medical Center. She was transferred to Sacred Heart Medical Center, where her mother, Samantha Moore, made the difficult decision to remove her from life support 10 days later, according to earlier news reports.

Jeremy Clark declined comment at his home Thursday morning. The Clarks also are not speaking to the police, Haug said, making the case more difficult to investigate. They have not been charged with a crime.

Still, Haug said, other parties have supplied information, including 12 or 13 doctors, nurses, fire and medical personnel, along with Samantha Moore and her family members. None of the doctors believes the death was an accident, McLean and Haug said.

Detective John Mason, an 11-year veteran with extensive training in major crimes, is the lead investigator. The department also recently enlisted the help of a retired homicide detective from Los Angeles who lives in this area and volunteers periodically.

A case heard by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2008 also has been informative, McLean said. In that case, Edward John Stevens was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 11-month-old Casey Whiteside.

Although Stevens claimed he fell asleep and awoke to find Casey unresponsive on the hardwood floor at the bottom of a flight of stairs, the state successfully argued that Stevens violently shook Casey and slammed the baby’s head into the edge of a bathtub, causing a fatal head injury.

The state called an expert who used a videotape of computer-generated objects falling down stairs to illustrate that Casey could not have suffered such massive head injuries from such a fall.

Haug said he, McLean and Mason have been meeting regularly with Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh and Deputy Prosecutor Marty Raap to discuss the case.

At a meeting a month ago, “We all came to the conclusion that there’s some more legwork that needs to happen,” Haug said. “Our end goal is to try to prosecute the person responsible for the death of Karina. We get one chance to do that. If we submit this case and we haven’t done our legwork, then that case is lost and we don’t get another opportunity.”

Karina and her siblings were placed in the Clarks’ home in November 2008 after Samantha Moore was charged with negligence due to injuries sustained by her son. Although she was cleared of hurting him, she lost custody. The children were placed with the Clarks, who were licensed as foster parents in June 2007. Including the Moore children, the Clarks have housed 10 foster children, Tom Shanahan, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Welfare, said in March. Their foster-care license was revoked in May 2009, Haug said.

Samantha Moore, who has regained custody of her other two children, declined comment. However, she is in weekly contact with the police, McLean said. Moore said in a March interview that during three visits with her children from mid-November to mid-December 2008, she noticed bruises and scratches on Karina’s head and face.

The Clarks’ own children were removed from the home last March at the request of police, court documents show. Haug said information uncovered during the investigation led police to take that step. Two months later, a judge returned the children to the home, court documents show.

Attorney Mark Jackson, who represented the Clarks in a hearing after their children were removed, but doesn’t any longer, said Karina Moore was a primary focus of that hearing.

“The child fell down the steps. There wasn’t anything to disprove that,” Jackson said. “It was purely circumstantial evidence. If there’s other kids completely unhurt and normal, what, did they sit around and abuse one kid, and all the other kids are fine? There was nothing in their past that would have shown anything whatsoever. It was just circumstantial.”

Haug, who took over as chief in August after 23 years on the force, said he prefers to share information with the public, but this case is different. It is also the first murder case the department has handled under his command. The city’s last murder was in 2000, he said.

“I would love to sit here and say, here’s our case, because that’s just the way I am,” Haug said. “But if I do that, I’ve got a little victim that’s dead that I owe more to than that. And I have a mom that’s sitting out there waiting that I owe more to than that.”

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