Gov. Shumlin Requests Investigation Into Dezirae's Death

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 02/25 2014 06:31PM

Updated 02/25 2014 07:05PM

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Governor Peter Shumlin has ordered an investigation into the death of a toddler, who police say was killed by her step-father.
Some family members have said Dezirae Sheldon shouldn't have been returned to her mother. The Governor wants to know whether this case was handled properly.

“It breaks my heart, it breaks Vermonters hearts,” said Governor Peter Shumlin.

On Monday afternoon Dennis Duby, 31, was in court to face a murder charge. Last year Dezirae was returned to her mother Sandra Duby's custody just months after she was convicted of child abuse for breaking the little girl’s legs. We should mention prosecutors have not linked Sandra Duby to Dezirae's death. Now Governor Shumlin announced he asked for both an internal and external investigation.

“To find out what we could have done differently. You know nothing is going to bring her life back but we are going to do everything we can to find out what we can do better next time,” said Governor Shumlin.

The Department of Children and Families or DCF says it receives more than 15 thousand reports of child abuse a year.

“It might be a neighbor who notices something; it might be a school teacher, a health care worker; a policeman. It comes from all walks of life,” said Dave Yacovone, Commissioner of DCF.

Yacovone says of those 15 thousand, more than 47 hundred are investigated and cases are opened.
The investigation includes, among many things, a home visit, interviews with family and friends, and could include removing a child from the situation. Yacovone says last year alone 200 children under the age of six were taken into state custody.

“State workers, DCF social workers don't have the authority to decide who comes into custody, and who goes out,” said Yacovone.
Of those 200 children, 41 percent were returned to their parents. That decision, Yacovone says is ultimately up to a judge.

“Can you comment on whether this case with Dezirae, you had to visit there quite often in the last year?,” I asked Yacovone.
“Because it’s an open criminal investigation, the law prohibits me from commenting at this time,” said Yacovone.

Yacovone says after the investigations are complete the department will be as transparent as possible with what is revealed.
It's unknown how long the investigations will take.

Three state senators from the Rutland area asked President Pro-Tem John Campbell for a Senate review of the circumstances that lead to Dezirae's death.

Campbell asked a small group of Senators with specific background and expertise to review the request. The panel will recommend how the legislature should review and possibly revise statutory practices and policies involving child abuse matters.

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