Grandma faults DHS in death

By Augie Frost and Randy Ellis Modified: August 23, 2007 at 8:06 am •  Published: August 23, 2007
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A dead girl's paternal grandmother said Wednesday she warned officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services a week ago that her granddaughter, Olivia Scroggins, was in danger of being hurt.

She said she doesn't know if they took any action to save the child.

"They're not right,” Tynia Berry said of the child-welfare agency, sighing and shaking her head at her home in Spencer, "They're not right.”

George Johnson, spokesman for DHS, said confidentiality laws prevent him from discussing actions DHS workers may or may not have taken, unless criminal charges are filed.

Tynia Berry, 46, was fearful because Olivia, who was 23 months old, had stopped wanting to go home to her mother since her mother had a new boyfriend. "Strange things had been happening the last two or three months,” Tynia Berry said.

Olivia is now dead — police say the girl was physically abused and murdered — and Tynia Berry and the girl's great-grandmother, Lola Berry, are left wondering why DHS didn't prevent it.

Tynia Berry said Wednesday that Olivia would still be alive if DHS workers had taken the child from her mother, and added she notified DHS Aug. 16 after Olivia left with her mother screaming, "No. No. No.” Those were the last words she heard her granddaughter say. She said DHS workers have not told her if they acted on her complaint.

On Monday, Olivia died at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City. It appears she had been beaten to death and sexually abused, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Tuesday.

Olivia's mother, Wendy Scroggins, 22, and her boyfriend, Kerry Joe Smith, 21, remained jailed Wednesday night on murder complaints. They lived together at an apartment at 3317½ N McKinley in Oklahoma City.

Prater said he expects it will be at least Monday before a decision can be made on the filing of criminal charges. Police investigators are interviewing family members and trying to establish a timeline for Olivia's injuries, he said.

On the day Olivia died, officers noticed her brother with signs of trauma similar to Olivia's, police said.

That 9-month-old boy was treated for his injuries and placed in protective custody. The Oklahoman is not identifying him since he may be a sexual assault victim.

A doctor said the baby boy's injuries included tears in the back of his throat, an ulcerated bottom lip, a burn on the back of his head and infection on his genitalia, confidential DHS records show.

Tynia Berry and Lola Berry, 79, have cared for Olivia on weekends since she was about 2 months old. The girl's father is in federal prison.

‘The life of the party'
Tynia Berry described Olivia as a smart, energetic, strong-willed daredevil who loved to jump off the couch on to pillows on the floor. Tynia Berry called her "Livi” for a nickname.

Olivia had already learned to count to 10 and say her ABCs, Lola Berry said. She was always laughing and chasing her great-grandmother and grandmother.

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Olivia ScrogginsOn Monday, Olivia died at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City. It appears she had been beaten to death and sexually abused, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said.

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