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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.