Erie County caseworkers investigated a complaint last summer that little Mayouna Smith was being physically abused, but the 3-year-old was not removed from her mother’s care and ended up being beaten to death last Saturday in Amherst, The Buffalo News has learned.
Mayouna – whose death was declared a homicide Friday – now is the third child in two years to become a murder victim after Erie County Child Protective Services had been alerted that the children were in danger but allowed them to remain with their families anyway.
A complaint of child abuse was placed in July against Ruhiyyih Shropshire, the 21-year-old mother of Mayouna, alleging suspected child abuse or maltreatment, according to several different sources familiar with this case.
CPS “indicated” the report, meaning there was some credible evidence of the abuse, but sources provided conflicting versions of that account from last summer.
The report was that the child was left unattended without an adult, one source told The News.
“It was pretty egregious physical abuse, and CPS did nothing,” one source said.
Autopsy results released this week by Amherst police did find evidence of previous physical and sexual abuse against the little girl.
No one has been charged in Mayouna’s death. The investigation is ongoing.
“We are interviewing people that are in the orbit of the family involved – family members, friends and neighbors,” said Amherst Police Capt. Enzio Villalta. “I’m not going to speculate on a time frame for making an arrest.”
Lamare Daniels, the 24-year-old boyfriend living with Shropshire at the Allenhurst Road apartment where the child was found unresponsive, is the father of the couple’s 1-month-old daughter, sources said.
He, too, has been the subject of a child abuse complaint from when he had previously lived in Buffalo, authorities said. The disposition of that complaint is unavailable, but authorities said it did not involve Mayouna.
Investigators have been tight-lipped about what happened inside the couple’s apartment last Saturday but said police were called to the address at 9 a.m. for the report of a child not breathing and unresponsive.
Mayouna was home at the time with her mother, Daniels and the infant.
Emergency crews performed first aid on Mayouna, who was transferred to Erie County Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
The autopsy from the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office showed Mayouna died from blunt force trauma to her abdominal region.
“These things are literally breaking my heart,” said Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, who is crafting new legislation to govern child protective services. “We can’t get these laws reformed fast enough to try to protect children from people in their own homes.”
Last September, 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks was allegedly beaten to death and sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend, Matthew R. Kuzdzal. Family members said they filed repeated complaints with child protection officials that Eain was being physically abused and said no actions were taken by CPS.
Abdifatah Mohamud, 10, was beaten to death by his stepfather in April 2012. A year earlier, the boy had called 911 twice, moments apart, saying it was a “matter of life and death” in complaining about his stepfather, Ali-Mohamed Mohamud. He beat Abdi more than 70 times with a hardwood, baker’s rolling pin on the head and upper body. The stepfather is now serving 25 years to life in prison a second-degree murder conviction.
The deaths of Eain and Abdi prompted members of the State Legislature to conduct a public hearing in Buffalo in November about ways to improve the child protection system.
Earlier this month, Peoples-Stokes and State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, unveiled several proposed changes in state laws to hold CPS caseworkers and their supervisors more accountable, to better protect children and to make the system more open.
“We are losing too many children to a system that is clearly broken,” Peoples-Stokes said Friday, after hearing more about Mayouna’s case. “I think maybe the state needs to look at taking over that department. There’s clearly some institutional issues there that allow this to keep happening.
“I know they have hired additional people. I know the city has asked them to do reporting in a different way,” Peoples-Stokes said, “but there’s something going on internally that they’re not able to make decisions fast enough to save children.”
Child Protective Services officials could not comment on Mayouna’s case.
“Anytime a fatality occurs, there’s an investigation that’s undertaken,” said Peter Anderson, a spokesman Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Under New York State Social Services law, we are prohibited from discussing that investigation.”
Anderson, however, confirmed that Mayouna’s infant sibling has been taken from the home and placed in foster care.
“It’s like I said when Eain died, ‘How many more is it going to take before something is done?’ ” said Robin Hart, Eain’s grandmother.
Hart said she stands fully behind the legislation sponsored by Kennedy and Peoples-Stokes, but it’s still not good enough.
More rights need to be given to extended family of children, so they can intervene if they see abuse, she said.
“My heart goes out to the grandparents of that little girl,” Hart said, “because I know what they’re going through.”
An official with the state’s Office of Children & Family Services declined to discuss the ongoing case involving Mayouna.