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Why death is a mystery

By Nolan Clay, Randy Ellis and Diana Baldwin Modified: August 16, 2007 at 5:42 pm •  Published: August 16, 2007
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EDMOND — A dead boy's mother has said she left her son with her boyfriend Saturday to go to the store and later found him injured in a laundry hamper, according to secret Department of Human Services records.

Declan Stewart, 5, died at a hospital after he suffered injuries Saturday evening. Edmond police are investigating the circumstances of the death, and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said again Wednesday the death is suspicious. The state medical examiner said the boy died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The secret reports confirm the boy was taken away from his mother, Janet L. Stewart, last year "due to heinous and shocking allegations of abuse by” her. He was returned to his mother about a month ago, the reports show. An Oklahoma County special judge allowed the return after the mother completed a treatment plan, sources told The Oklahoman.

The boy's aunt, Jennifer Stewart, 27, told The Oklahoman she cared for Declan for more than a year after he was taken away from his mother. She wiped away tears as she spoke, sitting on the porch of her Oklahoma City home.

She said Declan was reunited with his mom July 3, despite her objections.

"I told the DHS worker, ‘I don't think she's ready,'” Jennifer Stewart said. "I objected (to reunification) throughout his whole time here.”

She described her sister as "somebody who makes bad decisions.”

The aunt said she knows little about the steps her sister took to persuade DHS and a judge to return Declan. "It's all kind of just a mystery to me,” she said. "They didn't tell me very much.”

Janet Stewart's boyfriend, Marcus Clancy, told his children the boy was trying to get binoculars from the top shelf of a closet and fell and hit his head on a bed rail, according to the DHS reports. His three girls, Taylor Clancy, 11, Hannah Clancy, 7, and Ashlynn Clancy, 5, were placed in protective custody at DHS-run shelters after the boy's death.

"There are concerns of threat of harm to Taylor, Hannah and Ashlynn by their dad,” one report shows.

Familiar case
The tragedy has similarities to the high-profile case of Kelsey Smith-Briggs. Kelsey, 2, died at her home in Meeker in 2005 four months after a judge returned her to her mother's care even though the mother had been suspected of abusing her.

Janet Stewart, 29, and Marcus Clancy, 30, could not be reached for comment.

"Declan was severely injured,” the DHS records show. "His mother, Janet Stewart, stated she left Declan with Mark Clancy while she went to the store. When she returned, she found Declan in the laundry hamper with multiple bruising and contusions. Affidavit for search warrant

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