Charges have been filed against two DHS workers who were fired for their handling of the Serenity Deal case.
Jennifer Shawn and Randy Lack have been charged with misdemeanor suppression of evidence. Both Shawn and Lack will receive a one-year suspended sentence and may never work for the DHS again.
9/15/2011 Related Story: DHS Worker On Serenity Deal Case Is Officially Terminated
9/20/2011 Related Story: DHS Terminates Another Worker On Serenity Deal Case
Five-year-old Serenity Deal was found dead in her biological father's northeast Oklahoma City apartment in June, 2011. Her father, Sean Brooks, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in Deal's death. He was undergoing a trial reunification with Serenity at the time of her death. The girl was under the state's care.
The State says both Shawn and Lack were negligent in their duties by not providing evidence of child abuse to the court, evidence the state says may have prevented the murder.
Shawn and Lack were among the four workers put on administrative leave pending the investigation into Serenity Deal's case.
"There is no way that this child fell out of a car seat, and anybody with a bit of education can tell that his story was just not true," Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smotherland said.
DHS Spokesperson Sheree Powell said Shawn did not check out Sean Brooks' background, did not provide information to the court and made false reports and claims. Brooks is Deal's biological father and faces a murder charge in her death.
Shawn says she was a child of the system and wanted to advocate for children. That's why she became a case worker in 2006. However, she says DHS does not make decisions in the best interest of children. Shawn claims case workers would have case loads of 20 to 30 children at a time. She also says the allegations stated in her proposed termination paperwork are untrue and unfounded.
"It is DHS's attempt to shift blame," Shawn said. "DHS intimidates and bullies its workers."
Randy Lack is the second case worker fired for their handling of the Serenity Deal case. He was served with a 55-page termination letter from DHS.
Lack said at the time he did not see any issues placing Deal with her biological father, Sean Brooks, despite two incidents where she sustained substantial bruising during her overnight visits with him.
DHS states Lack failed to follow policy and procedures in her case, including checking out Sean Brooks' background.
In the letter, DHS states Lack was terminated for unsatisfactory performance, misconduct, willful failure, dishonesty and neglect of duty and claiming Lack wrote false reports and emails and knowingly withheld information in the case.
Lack has repeatedly stated he did nothing wrong and plans to fight his termination and sue DHS.
In a statement sent to News 9, Lack's attorney, Pete Serrata, stated "the hearing officer found exactly what DHS intended, given their continued withholding of documents and their incomplete and haphazard investigation. This decision only compounds the tragedy of Serenity's death and ensures that more children will suffer."
Jennifer Shawn was booked into jail after her court appearance and has since bonded out. Randy Lack has until November 15 to surrender.