Oklahoma DHS was told mother of dead teen was using drugs, but did not intervene

Oklahoma DHS fielded several complaints about the home life of a teenager who overdosed on methamphetamine at a family reunion this summer. Her mother is charged with murder.
BY ANN KELLEY Modified: October 15, 2010 at 9:29 am •  Published: October 15, 2010
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• There was no running water in Rigsby's home, and she was using methamphetamine.

• Rigsby and the children's father were using illegal drugs.

• One of the children had been arrested for marijuana possession.

Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for DHS, said all the claims were investigated by a child welfare specialist. There was never an effort to remove the children from Rigsby's care, because there were no substantiated allegations of abuse or neglect, she said.

Being a drug user wouldn't have warranted intervention either, she said.

"Just because someone is an illegal drug user or an alcoholic doesn't mean they're a bad parent," Powell said. "In every case we have to determine whether it interferes with their ability to care for their children before we could recommend any type of action."

Many of the complaints to DHS were delinquency issues that are not within child welfare workers' authority to do anything about, Powell said.

She said police were involved in some instances and never reported to DHS any suspicions of abuse or neglect.

"We're saddened any time a child is lost, but there is no way a worker could have predicted what was going to happen," Powell said.

Another mother

Family members say Rigsby's five children were raised by her stepmother, Linda Tucker, until she died of cancer in April 2007.

Tucker, for whom the 15-year-old Linda Tucker was named after, was a detective at the Cushing Police Department. Her area of expertise was dealing with troubled children and families, Police Chief Terry Brannon said.

"It would be hard to find a better mother than Linda Tucker," Brannon said. "She took in all those kids and loved them like they were her own."

Brannon said the children thrived under Linda Tucker's care.

"Little Linda was a cheerleader, and I remember how proud she was of her," Brannon said of his former co-worker. "There's no doubt in my mind Little Linda would still be alive if Linda were still around."