Oklahoma City dad pleads guilty to murdering 5-year-old daughter

Sean Devon Brooks, 32, of Oklahoma City, pleaded guilty to killing his 5-year-old daughter, Serenity Deal, and was sentenced to life in prison. The tragedy touched off renewed scrutiny of problems at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Modified: December 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm •  Published: December 3, 2011
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DHS fired two

case workers

Prosecutors alleged he beat her in the motel where he had worked overnight. They alleged he then took her home to his apartment and tried to make her death look like a shower accident. An autopsy found she died from the head injury but also had seven recent fractured ribs, as well as scrapes and bruises all over her head and small body.

DHS became involved in Serenity's care after her mother was accused of molesting a boy. Her mother eventually went to prison.

Brooks had not known he was Serenity's father until she was 3.

DHS suspended four employees after her death. One then quit, another committed suicide and the other two were fired.

In termination papers, the agency said those two workers failed to fully check the father's background, which included times when he had been violent.

A DHS spokeswoman said, “There were required practices in place that, if followed, would have given ... workers a clearer picture of Sean Brooks, his relationship with his family and other children, his abilities to parent, and his past behaviors and propensity to violence.”

Records showed DHS never contacted the mother of Brooks' three other children until after Serenity died. That woman, Brooks' ex-girlfriend, has said she would have warned DHS workers that she considered Brooks too violent to be around their children. She also has claimed he “sold drugs the entire six years she was with him,” records show.

The fired workers appealed to the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission. Their attorney claims DHS singled them out and made them scapegoats in an effort to end the controversy.

Both have said they acted properly. They have said the evidence at the time of Serenity's injuries in January indicated the injuries were from accidents.

“I don't have a crystal ball. I couldn't possibly have known any of this was going to happen,” one said.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation still is conducting a criminal inquiry into whether DHS workers violated any laws in their handling of Serenity's placement.


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