• August 27, 2014

Case of foster girl’s death reopened

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Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2013 4:30 am

AUSTIN — Texas officials are reopening the investigation into the death of a 1-year-old girl who died while in foster care, after an inspector general decided the initial investigation was inadequate and didn’t address unanswered questions.

The head of the Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General ordered his staff to re-examine the October death of Orion Hamilton.

The Cedar Park child died after police said a man at the home crushed the baby’s head between his knee and the floor.

A state investigator determined in November that Child Protective Services hadn’t made mistakes.

However, two aspects of the case were unexplored by the inspector general’s initial investigation, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told the paper the initial review wasn’t sufficiently thorough.

Shortly after Orion’s death, questions emerged about whether CPS acted appropriately after the baby’s biological father warned the agency that Jacob Salas was living in the foster home.

Salas, now charged with felony child abuse, was barred from being around Orion because of previous abuse investigations involving his own children.

He also was Parrested multiple times on domestic abuse charges.

There also were concerns that Orion’s social worker saw Salas in the foster home in April and did nothing. Orion spent about two months in a foster home after being removed from her parents in October 2012.

Her father, Brian Hamilton, then agreed to let her live with his stepsister, Heather Hamilton, who has three children with Salas.

In September, Brian Hamilton told state foster care workers that Salas was living in the home with Orion and that Salas posed a serious threat to his daughter.

Hamilton also complained to Orion’s court-appointed attorney.

CPS and the attorney say they took the complaint seriously, but believed Heather Hamilton when she denied Salas lived there.

Multiple court documents filed over the last year, however, list Heather Hamilton’s Cedar Park apartment as Salas’ home address.

After Orion’s death, Heather Hamilton admitted that she had lied, according to court documents filed in Williamson County.

The initial inspector general report focused on whether CPS acted appropriately when it removed Orion from her biological parents in 2012 and what the agency did after the girl’s death. Investigators concluded CPS’ actions were done according to policy.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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