Murdered Oklahoma girl's mother files $3 million claim against state

Serenity Deal's mother is seeking $3 million from the state for herself and her children. She blames negligent acts by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for Serenity's “untimely passing.”
by Nolan Clay Modified: July 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm •  Published: July 9, 2012
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The imprisoned mother of Serenity Deal is seeking $3 million from the state in a tort claim that blames DHS for the girl's murder.

Samantha Deal, 22, is seeking $1 million for herself and $1 million each for her two remaining daughters.

“It's awful. It's awful,'” said the mother's attorney, Jim Loepp. “What DHS did, it was just horrifying to me.”

Serenity is the 5-year-old girl whose death in June 2011 sparked public outrage against the state Department of Human Services. The agency's longtime director, Howard Hendrick, retired this year after public confidence in his leadership fell because of child deaths.

Serenity's father killed her less than a month after she began living with him full time at his Oklahoma City apartment at the recommendation of DHS workers.

She had been in foster care.

DHS officials acknowledged its child welfare workers made mistakes in the handling of Serenity's placement. One worker quit, one committed suicide and two others were fired.

DHS said its workers failed to fully check the father's background and discover times he had been violent in the past.

Serenity was not living with her mother because her mother had been accused of molesting a boy. Samantha Deal eventually pleaded no contest in Lincoln County District Court to oral sodomy. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Samantha Deal remains in prison.

“We are reviewing the claim,” a DHS attorney, Richard Freeman, told The Oklahoman.

One-page claim

The state received the one-page tort claim from Loepp on June 4. The attorney is following a state law that requires a person first to make a claim for damages with the state before filing a lawsuit. State officials have 90 days to respond.

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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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