SHAWNEE — A Shawnee woman was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years Wednesday after being found guilty in the 2009 child abuse death of her 6-year-old stepdaughter, Alexis Morris.
In dramatic testimony, Jennifer Jimenez's 12-year-old daughter described for the jury how she walked in on her mom as the woman held Alexis upside down by her ankles and slammed the child's head against the ground as Alexis was crying and screaming, said Pottawatomie County Assistant District Attorney Adam Panter.
That was moments before Alexis was found unconscious and not breathing, the prosecutor said.
Alexis' Sept. 25, 2009, death is the latest in a series of tragic Oklahoma child abuse deaths that have raised serious questions about the quality of work being done by Oklahoma child welfare workers.
In the two years leading up to Alexis' death, the state Department of Human Services received 17 child abuse complaints concerning injuries to Alexis and her younger brother, Jordan, Panter said. The injuries to Jordan ranged from a broken arm to cuts and bruises.
Less severe injuries to Alexis generally were reported, except for the injuries reported after her death, he said.
Complaints came from multiple credible sources including teachers, school counselors and a pediatrician, but Jimenez's two stepchildren were allowed to remain in the home, Panter said.
Jimenez also had two natural children in the home, but the abuse complaints concerned the stepchildren, he said.
Christina Potter, the natural mother of Alexis and Jordan, has filed a federal lawsuit against DHS accusing the agency of failing to properly investigate allegations of abuse against Jimenez and of discouraging the reporting of child abuse complaints by repeatedly saying the complaints were without merit.
Oklahoma City federal judge Stephen P. Friot found problems with the initial lawsuit but has given Potter's attorney a chance to amend it by Aug. 6.
Potter's attorney, Jerry Colclazier, of Seminole, said he has been having trouble getting a report from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth that he believes would bolster his case.