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Tuesday, January 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Riverside School District, DSHS sued for death of 5-year-old

A wrongful death lawsuit blames the Riverside School District and the Washington Department of Social and Health Services for ignoring signs of child neglect and abuse in the months leading up to the death of a 5-year-old orphaned boy in Chattaroy.

“What life there was was extremely tragic,” said Ryan Dreveskracht, one of the attorneys who filed the suit on behalf of the boy’s grandmother. “This kid didn’t have anyone looking after him. And to have DSHS and the school district fail him like that is just deplorable.”

Both DSHS and the Riverside School District declined to comment.

The boy, Gary Blanton III, was sent to live with his aunt after his mother died of pneumonia in 2014 and his father had been murdered in 2012. On April 17, 2015, the boy’s aunt, Cynthia Khaleel, called 911 after she said she was unable to wake Blanton up. The boy was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he later died.

Khaleel told investigators that she heard a loud bang at 5 a.m. and believed the boy had fallen while climbing on his brother’s crib. She gave him ice and pain reliever, she said. However, the boy’s injuries were not consistent with a fall, according to court records. Khaleel is charged with second-degree murder.

The school district didn’t report signs that the boy was being abused prior to his death, according to the suit. On April 15, Blanton told school employees “Mommy punched me” and complained of head pain, according to court documents. Court documents allege that Blanton called his aunt, “Mommy.”

The suit also claims DSHS negligently placed Blanton with his aunt despite a documented history of child abuse and neglect. Additionally, the suit claims DSHS didn’t do an adequate background check on Khaleel and falsified health and safety visitation reports.

In addition to DSHS and the district, the suit names a number of employees at both institutions, including then-Superintendent Roberta Kramer and Juanita Murray, the principal of Chattaroy Elementary.

Kramer is now the superintendent of the Pullman School District and declined to comment when reached by phone. Murray didn’t return a call requesting comment.

Ken Russell, the new Riverside School District superintendent, said he doesn’t know enough details about the case to comment.

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