A DHS child welfare worker and her supervisor have been charged with criminal wrongdoing after a police investigation into the 2013 death of a special-needs teenager.
Rachel Qualls and supervisor Paul Kim Myers were charged Friday in Oklahoma County District Court.
Both are accused of failing to properly investigate a sister’s concerns the boy was being neglected at his Oklahoma City home. The supervisor also is accused of falsifying computer records after the boy died in an attempt to cover up their failures.
The boy’s father, Michael David Wood, meanwhile, has been charged with child neglect.
Quinten Wood died Jan. 4, 2013, of acute pneumonia. He was 15.
His death attracted widespread attention when the sister, Valerie Wood-Harber, delivered a petition with more than 460,000 electronic signatures to the governor’s office in January.
The petition expressed “outrage at the dysfunction” in Oklahoma’s child welfare system.
“I called DHS 22 times in between the dates of Dec. 17, 2012, and Jan. 3, 2013,” the sister, who lives in Arkansas, said in January. “My reports of neglect went uninvestigated by DHS. They went unreported by his public school that he attended. I was told that I needed to mind my own business, that he was fine, when he was dying.”
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services in February announced it had initiated steps to fire the two employees. Both are now on paid leave.
“Unfortunately in this case, a thorough and comprehensive review of the facts and circumstances of Quinten’s death led us to the difficult and sad conclusion that the individual actions of two employees associated with this case clearly violated agency policies and reasonable child protection practices,” DHS Director Ed Lake said.
Qualls, 24, of Oklahoma City, is charged with a misdemeanor, willful neglect to perform a duty. She has worked at DHS since October 2011.
If convicted, she faces up to a year in jail.
Myers, 57, of Edmond, is charged with the same misdemeanor and also with a felony, unlawful use of a computer. He has worked at DHS since March 2007.
If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail on the misdemeanor and five years in prison on the computer crime.
Neither responded Sunday to messages left by phone for comment.
Quinten’s sister, Wood-Harber, said Sunday of the charges, “I think it’s very appropriate. I’m fully in support of the DA.”
Qualls admitted she never went to Quinten’s home after being assigned to investigate his sister’s concerns, police reported.
Quinten lived in a trailer house with a younger brother, Cameron, and their father.
The DHS worker did see Quinten at school in Midwest City on Dec. 19, 2012, two days after the sister first called. She also talked to his teachers and to Cameron, at school, records show.
She said she drove by the boy’s trailer that day but did not stop, records show. She also said she he never went back and never contacted the boy’s father.
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