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Saturday, February 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Tyler DeLeon


This school photo of Tyler DeLeon was taken shortly before his death in 2005.

Tyler DeLeon died of dehydration at age 7 after Washington’s child welfare system placed him in the Stevens County home of a foster mother whose records of alleged abuse dated back to the 1980s.

The boy died in January 2005. He weighed just 28 pounds at the time of his autopsy.

Carole Ann DeLeon, a former paralegal for the U.S Attorney’s Office in Spokane, had faced up to life in prison on a homicide by abuse charge in which prosecutors alleged she tortured Tyler by withholding food and water.

She was sentenced to six years in prison after entering an Alford plea to criminally mistreating Tyler and another boy in her care, Steven Miller. In an Alford plea, the defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges she could be found guilty based on the evidence presented in court.

DeLeon is scheduled to be released March 10, 2010, after about three years behind bars.

A lawsuit filed against the state, social workers and others on behalf of Tyler’s estate and seven other children placed in Carole DeLeon’s home cited an extensive history of abuse complaints and health concerns regarding foster children placed there. They included bruising, broken bones, knocked-out teeth, routine withholding of food and water, sexual abuse by a registered sex offender, bite marks and multiple scars.

The state of Washington agreed to pay more than $6 million to former foster children of DeLeon. Two adults and five children were paid between $400,000 and $1.6 million, and Tyler DeLeon’s estate got $180,000.

When the state placed Tyler with Carole DeLeon, the woman’s alleged history of child abuse had been washed clean because of a little-known and archaic state law that allowed government workers to inadvertently destroy her records.

Claims also were made against Dr. David Fregeau, Tyler’s primary care doctor; Fregeau’s employer, the Rockwood Clinic; and Sandra Bremner-Dexter, the boy’s psychiatrist. Those have not been resolved.

Summary written by Scott Maben

Key people

  • Carole DeLeon

    Carole Ann DeLeon, who worked as a paralegal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane, received a foster care license in 1996, despite two incidents in 1988 when the state’s Child Protective Services agency found likely child abuse in the rural Stevens County home. After her adopted son Tyler DeLeon died on Jan. 13, 2005, the state removed four children from DeLeon’s home and revoked her license. Although DeLeon denied she abused the boy, she decided to plead guilty to two lesser charges rather than face the potential of life in prison on a charge that she starved her adopted son to death. She was sentenced to six years in prison and served about half that time before released.

  • Tyler DeLeon

    Kenda Bradford of Spokane gave birth to Tyler DeLeon on Jan. 13, 1998. She named the boy Tyrel Lee Bruce-Lassiter. A young mother who wasn’t sure she could provide for him, Bradford put Tyler up for adoption, and the state placed him at the age of 4 months in the care of Carole DeLeon. Tyler weighed only 28 pounds when he died on Jan. 13, 2005, his seventh birthday. The medical evidence showed Tyler died of dehydration.

Latest updates in this topic

  • Elderly man’s family asked court to protect him from Carole DeLeon

    The family of an 86-year-old Cheney man who died this week had recently gone to court to separate him from Carole DeLeon, the Stevens County foster mother who had been …

  • Release nears for foster mother blamed for starving child

    Carole DeLeon, the foster mother blamed for starving Tyler DeLeon to death, gets out of prison Wednesday after serving about half of the sentence she received in a 2007 plea …

  • Guest opinion: Child welfare files still hazy

    This month marks the fifth anniversary of the death of 7-year-old Tyler DeLeon, who lived and died in Washington’s child welfare system. It didn’t have to happen.

  • DSHS settles in abuse case

    The state of Washington will pay more than $6 million to former foster children of Carole DeLeon, including the estate of the 7-year-old boy who died of starvation in her …

  • Boy’s doctor missed abuse

    The family doctor who treated Tyler DeLeon didn’t recognize or report the pattern of abuse that killed him, according to a state investigation released last month. Child Protective Services investigators …

  • DeLeon gets the maximum

    COLVILLE – The judge sentencing Carole Ann DeLeon faced a courtroom Friday divided between community outrage over the death of a little boy and an adoptive mother described by her …

  • DeLeon detective content with plea deal

    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 …

  • Birth mother decries plea deal

    Tyler DeLeon’s biological mother said she wasn’t consulted last week when prosecutors agreed to a plea agreement allowing the boy’s adoptive mother to avoid a possible lifelong prison term. Kenda …

  • Deal lets DeLeon avoid trial

    The tiny little boy whose death shook the foundations of the state’s child welfare system and inspired the governor and others to seek reform will not get his case heard …

  • Deleon timeline

    DeLeon timeline Here are summaries of some of the injuries and reports documenting Tyler DeLeon’s troubled life.

  • DeLeon legal claims mount

    OLYMPIA – As Carole Ann DeLeon sits in jail, charged with killing her adopted son by depriving him of water, several of her foster children are filing millions of dollars …

  • Files gone, histories erased

    It’s an open secret. Each year the state’s Department of Social and Health Services destroys thousands of private records about the children once in its care. Preserving the voluminous files …

  • DeLeon pleads innocent to murder

    COLVILLE – Deer Park-area resident Carole Ann DeLeon pleaded innocent Tuesday to a second-degree murder charge in the death of her 7-year-old adopted son. She is accused of depriving Tyler …

  • Ex-foster mother charged

    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 …

  • Foster mother admits children reliant on state

    COLVILLE – A foster mother under criminal investigation for the death of her 7-year-old son acknowledged Monday in a civil proceeding that the state has enough evidence that a court …

  • Why did Tyler DeLeon die?

    At the time of his autopsy last January, tiny Tyler DeLeon weighed precisely as much as he had three years earlier: 28 pounds. For months at a time, the 7-year-old …

  • Allegations riddle mother’s past

    On the day before his death in January, a skinny 6-year-old named Tyler Joseph DeLeon made a hole in the screen window of a home in southern Stevens County to …

  • CPS was warned about caregiver

    Last spring, a state worker cut short his investigation at a rural Stevens County foster home after a caregiver approached him with a chisel, according to internal Child Protective Services …

  • Records of abuse tossed by state

    Craig Baird remembers the bruises on the girl’s body. In 1988, he and his wife called Stevens County law enforcement, worried that the girl they were baby-sitting was being abused …

  • Boy’s death suspicious

    On his seventh birthday, a helicopter rushed Tyler DeLeon from southern Stevens County to a Spokane hospital, where he died under circumstances that are now part of a homicide investigation …