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Judge approves $350,000 settlement of Oklahoma DHS lawsuit

Christina Marie Potter Wiggins blamed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for her daughter's death and son's abuse.
by Nolan Clay Modified: November 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: November 25, 2013

Oklahoma is paying $350,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that blamed DHS for a 6-year-old girl's death.

The girl's mother, Christina Marie Potter, sued the Oklahoma Department of Human Services after Alexis Morris died on Sept. 25, 2009. Potter now has the last name of Wiggins.

In the lawsuit, she alleged DHS workers failed to remove her daughter and her son, Jordan Morris, from their abusive stepmother's home despite repeated reports of problems there.

“I couldn't save her, and they didn't even try,” the mother said in tears in an interview with The Oklahoman in 2011.

The stepmother, Jennifer Jimenez, 31, is now in prison for abusing both Alexis and Jordan.

An Oklahoma City federal judge last week approved the settlement of the lawsuit.

“Despite reports of abuse and pleas for assistance from reliable sources such as the children's day care teachers, schoolteachers, counselors, school superintendent and even the children themselves, the … child welfare specialists forced Alexis and J.M. to remain in the violent and hostile home and suffer repeated beatings and abuse at the hands of Jimenez,” the mother's attorneys told the judge in June.

The children's father, David Morris, obtained custody of them in October 2007.

Alexis and Jordan lived in Shawnee with their father, their stepmother and two of the stepmother's children.

There were 17 referrals to the DHS office in Pottawatomie County concerning Alexis and Jordan in the almost two years they were in their father's custody, according to testimony at the stepmother's trial.

A DHS worker from another county, who reviewed the referrals after Alexis died, testified they were not truly investigated.

The lawsuit alleged a Pottawatomie County DHS worker failed to properly investigate complaints because she is a close friend of Morris' sister. The lawsuit identified Morris' sister as a DHS worker herself at the time.

The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, an oversight agency, found 25 violations of DHS policies and procedures when it conducted a review after Alexis' death, according to the lawsuit.

Before settling, DHS attorneys told the judge: “The DHS employees were within the scope of their employment and followed agency protocol and policy in their investigations, relying heavily on law enforcement's investigation and interviews with the children.”

The trial

Jimenez was convicted at a jury trial last year of two counts of child abuse. She was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years. The conviction was upheld on appeal in September.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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