FORT WAYNE, IND. (WPTA) – The Allen County Prosecutor and the Chief Public Defender are asking a judge to seal records showing whether child services could have stepped-in to stop the abuse of a 5-year-old boy.
In their joint motion requesting the gag order the prosecutor and public defender argue that releasing those records could hinder the murder case against the boy’s alleged abuser.
Last March, Daniel Pope called 911 and said 5-year-old Benjamyn McKinney Frederick was lying on the bathroom floor not breathing.
Medics rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late.
Now, Pope is behind bars accused of beating the boy to death.
Court document detail the unthinkable, “overwhelming evidence” that the child had been “severely abused, with bruises on his face, up and down his entire body, and the boy’s genitalia.”
The boy’s mother, who lived with Pope, told detectives she once witnessed Pope whip and choke the boy.
An autopsy found Frederick was ultimately beaten and strangled to death.
Still, had the boy received medical attention sooner, the coroner believes he would have survived.
Last month, the judge delayed the murder trial because Pope’s attorney argued the prosecutor withheld evidence.
Now the prosecutor and the chief public defender want to withhold public those records that detail detail whether anyone called child services before the boy died.
And if someone did call, what, if anything child services did to protect the boy.
The joint motion filed last week reads in part that releasing the DCS files would “risks substantially prejudicing both the state and the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
The motion names another child abuse death case before the court saying the release of DCS records in that case prompted the judge to select jurors from another county.
An Indiana senate bill cleared committee on Tuesday – a bill that could pave the way for all DCS records to be hidden from the public while a child’s alleged abuser faces trial.
Critics say if the amended bill passes, it prevents the public from holding DCS accountable. Especially given the fact some abuse death cases are difficult to prove and often go cold – meaning as long as the investigation is still open, records remain hidden in the dark.