Vermont AG: Mistakes Made in Dezirae Sheldon Case, But No Crimes Committed

By Steph Machado

Published 06/11 2014 04:13PM

Updated 06/12 2014 12:33AM

Vermont's Attorney General has cleared the Vermont Department for Children and Families of criminal wrongdoing when it comes to the death of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon.

After Dezirae was killed in February, Vermont State Police started investigating DCF and the police agencies who were involved with Dezirae's 2013 child abuse case. Her stepfather Dennis Duby has been charged with her murder.

"Our decision is that no, there were no crimes committed. But at the same time there were some very real mistakes made."

Sorrell says no one will be charged with any crimes for the way they handled Dezirae's case when she was found with two broken legs in February of 2013. Her mother Sandra Eastman was convicted of breaking them.

We asked Sorrell if he thought it was a mistake to return Dezirae to Eastman's home.

"Absolutely," he said. "The child was dead just a few weeks after the decision...for reunification."

Sorrell says mistakes were made partially because of communication issues during the custody hearings.

"Did others involved in the case outside DCF have all the information that DCF had?" He asked. He also said there was a change of judge during the custody hearings.

He says changes to confidentiality laws will improve the problem, and better inform the public.

"Opening the system up more, trying to strike that balance between the privacy of the children that abused and neglected."

DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone agrees.

"I think there are some ways to still make sure there's transparency and accountability. That's extremely hard to do today the way the laws are written."

A legislative panel is currently determining how to best change the child protection laws.

The "Justice for Dezirae" Facebook page posted a statement in response to the Attorney General's decision: "We are appalled and saddened that the Attorney General does not clearly see that DCF was derelict in their duty...Vermont has continued to fail children even after death."

The Vermont Citizen's Advisory Board has also begun its investigation into the case. Dave Yacovone says all DCF files related to Dezirae Sheldon have been turned over. The independent review board was asked by Gov. Peter Shumlin to investigate this case and the death of 2-year-old Peighton Geraw.

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