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The Death of Lebrawn Rankin: DHR?

(WPMI) The Death of Lebrawn Rankin: DHR?
(WPMI){ }The Death of Lebrawn Rankin: DHR?

We're continuing to uncover new details about the death of 8-year-old Lebrawn Rankin.

The medical examiner says he was malnourished and dehydrated when he died. The child weighed just 23 pounds.

We’ve shown you how teachers blew the whistle about his deteriorating condition.

NBC 15'S Rachael Wilkerson is investigating what the Department of Human Resources actually did about it.

Records show DHR visited the home less than two weeks before Lebrawn passed away, but there’s no indication an effort was made to save him.

Lebrawn suffered from cerebral palsy. He couldn't walk and relied on caretakers to feed him through a tube.

Staff members at Lebrawn’s special education public school, Augusta Evans, described Lebrawn's body as slowly breaking down in front of them during his 2017-2018 school year.

As we've reported, employees told police they noticed Lebrawn losing weight after Thanksgiving break and that he would show up with sores, rashes, and was left wearing the same dirty diaper for days.

The school staff reported Lebrawn’s condition to DHR on February 5, 2018, according to a police document.

Employees say a DHR investigator came to the school a few days later, but did not interview those who complained.

One worker said the investigator “only asked her when she noticed Lebrawn’s weight loss.”

Several workers said they never heard from DHR at all.

Workers said they filed a second report on February 21, the week after Mardi Gras break.

According to police records, "two school officials complained that nothing was being done by DHR in reference to the reports made and that they believed Lebrawn's health was in serious danger."

Workers told police they didn't take pictures of Lebrawn's injuries but notified DHR each time they had a concern sounding the alarm begging for help.

Nearly two months after the first complaint was filed, on March 26, 2018, a DHR representative visited Lebrawn's apartment, according to the police document.

Despite that, the police report says Lebrawn’s mother told investigators the DHR rep found no indication of neglect.

Karen Smith is the Deputy Commissioner of DHR’s Children and Family Services.

"If the report does not indicate the person allegedly responsible for the abuse or neglect, that information is not enlisted into our central registry bank," said Smith.

Eleven days later, Lebrawn died. Police say the apartment his body was found in smelled like urine and was very dirty with clothing on all the floors. Lebrawn's room was in “very poor living condition and he appeared to be severely malnourished,” according to police.

When questioned about sores on Lebrawn's body, a sister told investigators she "felt like everyone in the family was waiting for Lebrawn to die."

Attorney Tommy James represents Lebrawn’s estate.

He’s suing DHR and Lebrawn’s mother.

"They get reports that this child is 23 pounds. DHR gets reports that he is being malnourished. DHR gets reports that his diapers aren’t being changed, all kinds of horrible reports and DHR does nothing. It is a death sentence," said James.

NBC 15's Rachael Wilkerson asked DHR how many complaints have to be filed before a case is taken seriously.

"There is not a standard answer to that. I mean, each case is unique. It may be as soon as the worker goes out on that initial contact. There may be enough information there where the worker doesn't feel like the child is not safe and the determination is made at that point in time, after consulting with its supervisor. It may be 60 days after an investigation," she said.

After Lebrawn’s death, teachers told police they "believed that Lebrawn's physical condition was a direct result to the care he was getting at home."

"Officials say they did all they could to get some help, so where do we stand in his case in terms of DHR?" asked NBC 15's Rachael Wilkerson.

"The department is unable to give a comment on that question," said Smith.

Smith says safety is the department's number one priority and complaints are taken seriously.

If neglect is determined, "then we would take that information to the courts and possibly petition for the removal of the child," she said.

James says DHR didn’t do that in Lebrawn’s case.

"Do you feel like DHR failed Lebrawn?" asked Rachael.

"They failed Lebrawn. They failed Lebrawn in every sense of the word," said James.

To this day no one has been held accountable for what happened to Lebrawn.

NBC 15'S Rachael Wilkerson has looked at teachers and DHR, but what role did Lebrawn's family play in this?

We'll have that Monday, August 17, at 5 p.m.