The family of a Texas toddler who was found dead in September after suffering from child abuse is pushing a new law to bolster coordination between police and Child Protective Services (CPS) in a bid to save more lives.
Colton Turner, 2, was found in a shallow grave in southeast Austin. Investigators said the boy may have suffered a seizure before his death.
Michael Turner, the boyfriend of the boy’s mother, said he found Colton unresponsive one day in July 2014 with her mother, 20-year-old Meagan Work, KTBC's Elizabeth Saab reported. Turner said he was going to drive Work and Colton to a hospital for treatment, but Work told him that they would get in trouble and that she could lose custody of the child, investigators said.
Turner instead drove Work and Colton to a motel, where Work put an ice pack on Colton’s head. But the mother told authorities that she fell asleep and discovered Colton dead the next morning. He was buried in the evening.
Two weeks before Colton’s body was found, Work and Turner were pulled over by police in Leander, Texas, where Turner was arrested for a probation violation. But Leander police had no way of knowing that at the time, CPS was looking for Work and her son, KTBC reports.
“The police and DPS will be able to know immediately that the person perhaps they come in contact with is responsible for a child that is “unlocatable” so this should make a big difference,” said Georgetown State Representative Marsha Farney, who is sponsoring the bill.
The bill would require law enforcement involvement in CPS cases where children can't be found.
The Texas Department of Family Protective Services says on its website that if there isn’t enough information to find a child or their family, the case goes unassigned.
Work's family had gone to several local law enforcement agencies to ask for help in tracking down Meagan, but without a location, they were turned away. Work cut ties to her family after bruised photos of Colton surfaced in May, KTBC reports.
However, Colton was not found until one of Meagan’s friends took the photos to the Cedar Park Police Department, and then lead them to Work.
“It's vital when CPS takes months to locate a child, it's vital that law enforcement is the one looking because they can locate them so much faster,” Colton's great aunt, Raquel Helfrich, told KTBC.
Work has been charged with injury to a child and injury to a child by omission, while Michael Turner has been charged with injury to a child by omission, according to authorities.