Shaniya Davis: The Department of Social Services Betrayed Her From Day One

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No, I haven’t forgotten about this case. Last week, however, it became much clearer why further investigations in the case of Shaniya Davis have ground almost to a halt. While the criminal investigation is nearly complete, the one involving the County Department of Social Services will have findings of little use to the criminal justice system.

No, it hasn’t been problems of getting and keeping social workers, especially to work on the child’s case, which I have detailed here earlier. Rather it has been persistent stonewalling (and wild accusations) from the Department of Social Services that has made it possible for other people (like her father, Bradley Lockhart) who were possibly culpable in the death of little Shaniya to get away scot-free.

Apparently, the agency had been stonewalling even in the first hours when Shaniya was declared missing. The cops were asking for information from the DSS, and they were being given the runaround, said Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis.

More importantly, its actions under the authoritarian rule of Cumberland County Department of Social Services Director Brenda Reid Jackson has also guaranteed that none of the social workers and managers and highers-up involved in Shaniya’s case would be prosecuted for incompetence or negligence either.

In other words, this is a clear case of people protecting their own jobs at the expense of the children, mothers and other individuals they are charged with protecting. Jackson is known for this kind of infighting, as a previous case in another county has proved. Furthermore, despite retiring District Attorney Grannis’ charges that Jackson destroyed evidence in the case, none of the county commissioners seem to possess the stones and the will to pursue charges against her. It just may be that someone higher is protecting her and allowing her to do this, so that the county or the state would not be sued. Check this from the Fayetteville Observer, dated September 30:

In announcing his findings Thursday, Grannis said police had to go to court last fall to force the DSS to turn over records that showed social workers had been dealing with the Davis family for years.

Detectives didn’t get any records until their court order was served on the Department of Social Services on Nov. 13 (of 2009), three days after the girl was reported missing.

“It’s only after this order is served on DSS that DSS provides material which refers to the suspect in this case,” Grannis said.

McNeill wasn’t interviewed by a city homicide detective until Nov. 13, court records show.

The day before, Nov. 12, police received the surveillance footage from the Sanford hotel showing McNeill carrying the child on Nov. 10.

The girl’s body was found in a wooded area off N.C. 87 in Lee County on Nov. 16.

Grannis said detectives didn’t get a complete set of DSS records until December, after police obtained more court orders compelling the DSS to produce the documents.

“It was critically important that DSS cooperate in working with law enforcement in every way to possibly save the life of this child,” Grannis said. “It does not appear that that occurred.”

While DSS officials stalled, Grannis said, police got worrisome information from inside the department. A DSS employee told a city detective on Nov. 11, according to Grannis, “that law enforcement needs to be aware that law enforcement is not getting everything, that they are not being told everything and there is more to this.”

After police discovered that the DSS records received on Nov. 13 were incomplete, they received a second batch on Nov. 20.

Three days after that, however, a city detective was told that a DSS employee had been ordered to delete all agency e-mails related to the family of Shaniya Davis.

The worker was instructed to print out the e-mails before deleting them, Grannis said, and place the printouts into case files.

The next day, Nov. 24, the employee asked her supervisors to put in writing their order to delete the e-mails, Grannis said. Two supervisors told the woman the order wouldn’t be written down, Grannis said.

Furthermore, the DSS employee was informed that she would be considered insubordinate and disciplined if she didn’t follow the oral order, the prosecutor said.

The DSS employee didn’t delete the e-mails. She forwarded them to Fayetteville police, Grannis said.

Grannis said the order to delete the e-mails – issued by Jackson, the DSS director – looked to be designed to move the electronic correspondence beyond the reach of news reporters, who might request the printouts under the state public records law. DSS officials believe they can keep case files secret under state law.

“The Nov. 23 decision by DSS to order e-mails to be deleted,” Grannis said, “appears to be an effort to protect its public image by preventing the media and the public from having access to these records.”

Meaning, of course, that no one’s head would be called for in such circumstances, especially that of Jackson, who has been running the agency for at least two years.

Grannis was also highly critical of the State Board of Investigation, which seemed to have bought hook, line, and sinker Jackson’s wild assertions that Fayetteville police or later, a Fayetteville Observer reporter had tried to break into the DSS in order to get the evidence needed to continue its investigation. Grannis hadn’t even been apprised of such a break-in by the police, and a columnist at the Observer, said with a touch of sarcasm that any kind of illegal activity would have caused the swift firing of any reporter. Unlike those at DSS.

Today, the county commissioners as well as the state board that oversees the DSS seemed divided as to how to proceed.

DSS officials had an investigation of the Davis household open at the time the girl was reported missing, Grannis said.

Police Chief Tom Bergamine persuaded Grannis to call in the State Bureau of Investigation after social workers told city detectives that DSS officials were withholding or destroying records about the Davis family.

During the news conference, Grannis read excerpts from an SBI report he had requested.

Grannis said the SBI report was full of errors (possibly doctored), and he decided against pursuing any charges against DSS officials. Grannis named DSS Director Brenda Reid Jackson as the agency official responsible for hampering the investigation of the Shaniya Davis murder.

“I have not seen the report,” Billy King, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said Monday. “I don’t know what to say.”

King said he thought the SBI probe would remove what he called “the cloud” over the DSS.

With Grannis criticizing the SBI’s report, however, King said: “It kind of muddies the waters even more.”

Um, muddied? So what are you going to do about it? Let her and the DSS skip? What’s keeping you from busting her?


Other commissioners were more critical Monday.

Jimmy Keefe said there isn’t much he and the other commissioners can do, since they appoint just two of the five members of the Social Services Board.


“Obviously, there’s some issues,” said Keefe. “We get to appoint two of them. I think it’s seriously worth taking a look at when they come back up.”

Yeah, when?

This kind of thing makes one fear for American children, especially those who are poor and living on the edge. No wonder that to these people who are charged with saving and protecting lives, a baby’s life is cheap compared to someone pulling a paycheck and feathering their positions. It was already evident to law enforcement last December that the Cumberland County DSS was covering up and destroying evidence while the officials were turning the other way or buckpassing. Why does it take yet another year for authorities to confirm that a cover up was happening? Why didn’t they pull in other people to get what they needed?

Why couldn’t more have been done for Shaniya?

Just who is Brenda Reid Jackson at all that she should pull this kind of thing? Who is protecting her? There is enough circumstantial evidence that she and her people were obstructing justice. Why all the pussyfooting on a case like this?

So officially, the only investigation that remains is that of the state against Antoinette Davis and against Mario McNeill. I have no doubt that McNeill is going to be sent up, but if they give a mere slap on the wrist to Antoinette Davis…

~ by blksista on October 5, 2010.

3 Responses to “Shaniya Davis: The Department of Social Services Betrayed Her From Day One”



  2. THANK YOU, blksista, for not letting go of this one. This case haunts me. The media has moved on to the next horror story, but little Shaniya will not leave my mind. Finding up to date information on how the case is progressing is a little sketchy, so I appreciate you reporting on it here. I’m livid that Antoinette made bail. (Who has the baby she was carrying when she was selling her other baby to the local crack dealer?) I don’t know why Mario is still sucking air. Lockhart’s brazen irresponsibility and pre-death apathy infuriate me. People should be responsible for their children, but dang, when they aren’t, people are getting paid at the DSS to step in. That’s their JOB! They were the last chance Shaniya had, and to say they blew it is a gross understatement. The butt-covering is appalling. I would be on my knees confessing and begging God and everybody for forgiveness. The audacity of these freaking people! Keep on this, Sista. Now that she’s gone, Shaniya ought to be more than an old headline; she ought to be a lesson to us all. Lest we forget.


  3. As someone who spent a significant amount of her childhood in foster care, I don’t have any faith in the foster care system. It is run by people who are overloaded with cases (which says something about our society in general, that we have so many families in crisis and disrepair) that they cannot even do rudimentary checks on said families; meanwhile there are countless foster parents who collect a check and don’t even provide basics for their wards other than a roof.

    Back to Shaniya, I am curious as to what role you feel her birthfather played in her death.


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