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Slain Boy's Caseworker Accused of False Filing

July 13, 2002|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — In another setback for Florida's child-welfare agency, a department investigator was charged Friday with falsifying records in the case of a 2-year-old boy who was beaten to death allegedly by his baby-sitter for soiling his pants.

Erica Jones, whose job was to investigate child-abuse allegations for the state Department of Children & Families, allegedly reported in her files that she visited 2-year-old Alfredo Montez on July 1--the day police say the child was slain. The toddler was found dead on the side of a road Thursday.

Jones faces a felony charge and was expected to turn herself in.

The department is already under fire over the disclosure that it had lost track of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson of Miami while she was under state protection. Her disappearance went unnoticed for at least 15 months. She is still missing.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that Alfredo was not under state care, but the department employee was to check out a neglect complaint.

"The supervisor will be fired and the caseworker will be prosecuted for her actions," Bush said. "It's heartbreaking. It's incredible."

Under a new state law prompted by Rilya's case, falsifying documents related to child welfare cases is punishable by up to five years in prison.

"The law that we passed will now kick in, and there will be a prosecution," Bush said.

Alfredo's body, wrapped in a children's bedspread, was seen by a motorist along Interstate 275 in central Florida.

Richard Chouquer, 23, was arrested and accused of beating Montez to death. He was charged with murder and aggravated child abuse. His live-in girlfriend, Amandy Lawrence, 22, was charged as an accessory after the fact. Both were in custody in Hurricane, Utah, where they were arrested Wednesday at a relative's house.

Polk County police Capt. W.J. Martin said Chouquer hit the boy at least five times in the face after the boy soiled his pants. Chouquer and his girlfriend allegedly put the body in their car and dumped it.

Alfredo's mother had left the boy and his sister in the couple's care at their home June 28 while she looked for work, Martin said.

The mother, Jeanna Swallows, was jailed earlier this week for allegedly violating probation by writing bad checks.

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