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Oklahoma DHS sued over Serenity Deal's murder

Serenity Deal's grandparents and her imprisoned mother have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
by Nolan Clay Modified: July 5, 2013 at 9:30 am •  Published: July 4, 2013

The mother and grandparents of Serenity Deal have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against DHS and two fired child-welfare workers.

Serenity is the 5-year-old girl whose murder in June 2011 led to public outrage and, eventually, reforms at the state Department of Human Services.

Her mother, Samantha Deal, who is in prison, and maternal grandparents, Charles and Annette Deal, first filed the lawsuit in Pottawatomie County District Court in February. An amended petition was filed last month.

They accuse DHS and fired workers Jennifer Shawn and Randy Lack of negligence that led Serenity to be beaten to death by her father in Oklahoma City.

Also being sued are the father, Sean Devon Brooks, and Choice Hotels International Inc., which was identified as the owner of the Comfort Inn where he worked.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants' actions “were so extreme and outrageous as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and would be considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

None of the defendants has responded yet to the lawsuit.


Serenity's father killed her less than a month after she began living with him full time at the recommendation of DHS workers. She had been in foster care.

The girl was placed with her father even though she was injured twice in January 2011 during overnight visits with him.

The second time, she came back to a foster home with black eyes and a swollen and bruised face, records show. Both she and her father said he dropped her accidentally. DHS workers accepted that explanation.

Brooks, 33, began serving a life term in prison after pleading guilty in December 2011 to murder. Prosecutors alleged he beat Serenity at the Choice Inn where he worked the front desk overnight.

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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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