Child services had dropped their investigation into a family just weeks before a mother and her boyfriend murdered her 5-year-old daughter.
Amanda Hendrickson, 33, and Roderick Buckner, 35, were indicted in the murder and aggravated assault of Heaven Woods on Tuesday, WSBTV reports.
The 5-year-old girl was found unresponsive at Buckner’s Georgia home on May 20. She was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead from her injuries. An autopsy revealed she died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
Several people have now come forward alleging that they’ve witnessed the couple abusing the little girl.
One of Heaven’s teachers reported seeing Hendrickson kicking her daughter and notified the Division of Family and Children Services just three weeks before the girl died.
The agency had launched an investigation, but Hendrickson denied that she kicked her daughter and said she had bruises from falling. The teacher was never interviewed, Daily Mail reports.
The child services agency dropped their investigation despite the incident being the ninth complaint they had received about the family since 2009, according to a case summary obtained by The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
"It is very, very concerning when a child dies when there is an open investigation," Kenneth Jones, former director of the Fulton County DFCS office, told The Atlanta Journal Constitution last June. "You can't get any more wrong than that."
According to family and neighbors, there have been several other instances where Hendrickson and Buckner have lied about the child’s injuries.
One time, Heaven had bruises in the shape of a handprint on her neck, and Hendrickson claimed it was because the child was autistic and would sometimes hurt herself.
The property manager of their home in Rome added that he once saw Hendrickson dragging her daughter around on a harness “like a dog.”
Family members reported seeing the mother lift the little girl off the ground by her hair and added that she had a black eye around Christmas.
“I wish I would have stepped up and done something,” said Ashley Coursey, Hendrickson’s half-sister.
Heaven’s maternal grandmother, Lisa Coursey, told WSBTV: “I want the death penalty on both of them. If she did that to my granddaughter, she needs to rot.”
The girl’s father, Antony Woods, had petitioned the court for primary custody in 2012, noting that the mother had a history of violence towards Heaven. Hendrickson said that Woods was the violent one.
Woods petitioned again in October 2013 and January 2014 to no avail.
Hendrickson was taken into custody last year and gave birth to another daughter in jail. The child was placed in state custody.
Hendrickson and Buckner will be arraigned on April 16.