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Children and Family Services first warned about abuse five months before 5-year-old's death

Posted: 7:50 PM, Mar 23, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-23 20:28:25-04

Two days after the beating death of a 5-year-old girl, allegedly at the hands of her mother and her girlfriend, family members are asking why their months-old reports of abuse did not stop the girl’s death. 

Rayvon Owens, 15, told News 5 he watched helplessly as his mother, 36-year-old Ursula Owens and her girlfriend, 27-year-old Tequila Crump, took turns “standing over the girl and beating her in the head.” 

On Tuesday, both women charged with felonious assault in connection with the death of 5-year-old Ta’naejah McCloud. The incident happened on March 17 at their home on 10700 block of Bryant Avenue in Cleveland. 

According to court documents, the women "did inflict serious physical harm to a five-year-old child that resulted in seizure, brain injury and subsequently death.”

Crump is also the mother of the 5-year-old girl and because their mothers were romantic partners, Owens considered her a sister. According to a custody agreement, Owens spent every other weekend in the house with the girl. 

Owens told News 5 he witnessed countless beatings, starting in the fall. He was afraid to get his mother in trouble but in October he told his legal guardian, Sierra Giles.  

“He said his mom would punch her in the face, slam her down pick her up punch her again.  He said that she was being mistreated there,” Giles told News 5. 

Giles and Owens called Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services. According to a spokesperson, the allegations were investigated but were found “unsubstantiated,” and a case was not opened. 

Owens told News 5 that in the meantime the abuse continued.  

Julie Leggett, Director of Development at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, told News 5 that many abuse neglect referrals are classified that way. 

According to DCFS data, in 2016, 5,144 referrals are found unsubstantiated. Only 1,132 were substantiated. 

It wasn’t until more allegations of abuse surfaced months later that social workers decided to open a case on Feb 10. 

Social workers visited the home eight times in 5 weeks since the case was opened, according to records. The visits took place at the home, at a case appointment or at a medical appointment. A case plan was then developed because of allegations of neglect and abuse. 

According to a spokesperson, there was “not enough evidence for the court to order removal” of the girl during that time. 

Social workers considered her safe, but Leggett said last week’s events proved that she wasn’t. 

“That boy did the right thing, but unfortunately the system failed him,” she said. “As a community, we need to be asking why did this fail? What do we need to do to make sure that another child will not end up with the same fate?” 

The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center has a 24-hour Family & Child Advocacy Helpline at (216)-391-4357.