Violence was common in little Daijah White's home, but apparently no one concluded the baby was in danger.
Daijah's father, Otheron Marcell Walker, was arrested at least twice during her brief life for allegedly beating her mother. He was also jailed on similar charges twice before Daijah's birth, including one incident that occurred while Janice White was eight months pregnant with the little girl.
But while the city and county law enforcement officers who hauled Walker to jail each time saw that two small children lived in the home, Upson County DFACS Director Doris Bedford said Tuesday her agency was never called by any law enforcement agency until after Daijah's death.
Walker is charged with murdering the baby Oct. 16 while her mother was at work - a charge he denies. Her mother, Janice White, is charged with cruelty to children because she allegedly failed to act to stop the abuse inflicted.
The calls to law enforcement were never about the children. Each call alleged that Walker was attacking Janice White, and in most instances responding officers documented physical evidence - bruises, cuts, torn clothing - which supported those claims.
Both Sheriff Don Peacock and Police Chief Frank Lang say officers saw no evidence the children, Daijah and her older brother Demarcus, were the victims of the violence - though Chief Lang now says the Department of Family and Children Services should have been contacted.
Those familiar with family violence agree.
"Anytime there is violence in a home in which children reside, the children are always victims," said Martha Boyce, the executive director of a battered women's shelter in Carroll County. "Family violence commonly escalates and rarely gets better. It's the children who are innocent, who have no control.
The case in Upson County is so sad and tragic. I'm just left to wonder what was going through little Daijah's mind."
"We all should have taken a more aggressive stance," said Chief Lang. "It was an oversight that turned into a tragedy.
"I just don't think our officers received enough training," the police chief said. "In fact, I know they didn't, but you can bet they know what to do now."
Lang said officers are now notifying DFACS on any call which involves family violence, and he has put that policy in writing.
"Even if there is a fight at the club, if there is any indication that it is family violence, we are notifying DFACS."
Referring to a case in which deputies responded, Sheriff Peacock said, "(Walker) struck (the mother) in the presence of the baby, but the baby was not hit. The baby was not assaulted so whether the deputy called DFACS, I don't know."
In that case "the baby" was Demarcus. Daijah was not yet born.
In Georgia, violence in the presence of children is a crime termed "cruelty to children." Yet on only one of the four occasions was a cruelty charge lodged against Walker, and that involved an incident prior to Daijah's birth when he allegedly attacked White at their Triune Mill Road home in the presence of a young Demarcus.
No cruelty to children charges were filed against Walker in May of this year even though officers entered the Farview apartment and found Walker naked and allegedly drunk following an a violent altercation with Janice White that left blood on the walls and floor and broken glass around the apartment. The two children, five-month-old Daijah and 18-month-old Demarcus, were home.
Georgia's Mandatory Reporting Law, (Title 19, Chapter 7, Section 5) provides that when it is suspected the health and welfare of children "are adversely affected and ... threatened by the conduct of those responsible for their care and protection" a report must be made to "the protective services of the state."
Under that law, those who must report suspicions to DFACS are health care professionals, mental health professionals, school system employees and law enforcement officers, but somehow Daijah fell through the cracks.
But the problems go deeper.
While law enforcement officers saw no evidence of abuse of the Daijah, a relative told Department of Family and Children Services workers the child was suffering abuse and neglect.
An investigation by the Department of Family and Children's Services was opened - and closed this past summer.
That case began when Daijah's great aunt, Laketha Howard, reported the child had a bruise on her face and that the child was a victim of neglect.
A DFACS caseworker couldn't verify the bruise, but the caseworker didn't see the child until six days after the report, although policies required physical contact within a 24-hour period.
Neglect was also not substantiated. The caseworker reported the children appeared to be well cared for during both home visits.
Bedford now says a review of Daijah's case indicates social workers made mistakes.
"The case documentation indicates that an unsuccessful attempt to contact the mother and children was made within the 24-hour response time period. The case documentation does not indicate that the next "steps to take" were discussed with the supervisor," according to findings from the Georgia Child Fatality Review Board.
Another problem occurred when the caseworker did see the child. "The baby was never undressed and checked for bruises and caseworkers made no effort to interview the father," DFACS findings reveal. Interviewing the father was necessary because the initial complaint "contained allegations that the child may have been injured while in the care of the father/boyfriend (Walker)."
Meanwhile, every time Walker was released from jail, he returned to the home, if not to live, then to babysit. After one arrest for an attack on Janice White, she posted his bond. On another occasion, during a bond hearing, the magistrate made a note that White didn't want Walker to stay in jail.
Magistrate Judge Danny Bentley never issued a "no contact" order which would have required Walker to stay away from the home. The law allows such an order, but doesn't require it and it was never sought by White.