Girl placed with Oklahoma City father despite reports of black eyes and bruised body

Oklahoma child welfare workers twice investigated allegations that Serenity Deal, 5, was abused by her father before her death.
BY ANN KELLEY akelley@opubco.com Published: June 16, 2011
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A 5-year-old girl returned from visits with her father with black eyes and a bruised body, but child welfare workers pushed for the man to have permanent custody of his daughter, according to a report by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.

Serenity Anne Deal died of a severe head injury less than a month after she moved in with her father, Sean Devon Brooks, 31. He is charged with first-degree murder in Oklahoma County District Court in connection with her death. He does not have an attorney yet.

Girl called well-behaved

Brooks told authorities she fell in the bathroom of their Oklahoma City apartment, but police are finding holes in his story. They've collected blood evidence in the hotel where Brooks worked that weekend, indicating she may have been beaten there and carried out concealed in sheets, court records show.

How the girl ended up living with her father is in a nine-page report released late Wednesday outlining her case with the state Department of Human Services before her June 4 death. In it, she's described as a sensitive, well-behaved child, rarely punished with timeouts for not minding. She had a pacemaker from a heart defect.

She turned 5 in May.

Brooks hadn't known his daughter before a paternity test in April 2010.

Mother is in jail

The child welfare case was opened June 2009 in Lincoln County when Serenity's mother, Samantha Ann Deal, 36, was accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy. Serenity and her 10-month-old half-sibling were sent to live with their maternal grandparents, who tried to adopt Serenity. She remained there until Pottawatomie County child welfare workers got involved in August 2010.

The report from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth shows DHS workers knew of at least two instances when Serenity returned injured from visits with Brooks, and strongly implies workers from the two counties disagreed on the case.

The report states:

Serenity was moved from her grandparents' house into a foster home after child welfare workers discovered her grandmother was allowing her to stay the night with Samantha Deal and her boyfriend, a convicted sex offender.

On Jan. 4, DHS received a report that Serenity had suffered black eye, a cut on her forehead and bruise on her chest after a visit with Brooks.

Brooks claimed Serenity's injuries were from her running into a door.

Girl lost her hair

On Jan. 24, there was a second report that Serenity returned from a visit with Brooks and had two black eyes. A hospital emergency room visit showed bruising on both sides of her face, inside an ear, behind her left ear and on her right shoulder. She had lost almost half her hair due to a condition caused by poor hygiene.


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