Officials say DCS failed to follow up on complaints before baby’s starvation death

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Police arrested the parents of a 2-month-old girl nine months after her death—a death relatives say should have been prevented.

“There were so many times that this child could have been saved,” said DCS complainant Carrie Upchurch.

Anthony Moss and Janet Ringer both face a charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, according to Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.

IMPD officers found the baby dead in the family’s home in the 900 block of W. 33rd Street on August 21, 2017, after they called 911. The Marion County Coroner’s Office cited malnutrition and dehydration as the cause of death.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in this case, the girl was found in an infant seat in full rigor mortis (which means she had been dead at least two to six hours) despite the parents’ initial statement of having checked on her within an hour of the reported death. Investigators at the scene also reported the baby looked extremely frail and thin. Moss and Ringer are accused of failing to provide the infant with adequate food or liquids.

“Complete lack of parenting skills. How long did that baby just scream?” asked Upchurch.

Anthony Moss and Janet Ringer

A relative told CBS4 in January that the parents had previous issues with the Department of Child Services. Caseworkers with DCS visited the home on multiple occasions before the baby died, according to the relative.

A review by the DCS Ombudsman Bureau, an independent agency that provides oversight for the Department of Child Services, found DCS failed to report or follow up on verbal concerns about the child.

“I reported three times. I called three times,” said Upchurch.

Upchurch is the adoptive mom of one of Moss’ kids. She says she filed an official complaint with DCS and told the agency the child was in grave danger.

“William Anthony Moss and Janet Ringer starved her to death, but her death is ultimately on the hands of DCS,” said Upchurch.

A family friend filed a formal complaint with the Ombudsman Bureau. The agency released this statement about the case:

“DCS failed to thoroughly address other mitigating factors during the assessment phase prior to unsubstantiating and closing the DCS assessment. Additionally, the DCS Ombudsman Bureau finds merit to your claim that DCS staff failed to report or follow up on other verbal concerns regarding the child through the appropriate available channels.”

“They broke protocol and policy. The DCS ombudsman verified that they did. They are responsible almost as much as them for this child dying,” said Upchurch.

A DCS spokesperson released this statement about the investigation:

“There is nothing more heartbreaking than the death of a child, and we at the Indiana Department of Child Services mourn Ruth’s loss along with our community. State confidentiality laws prohibit DCS from commenting on the specifics of any case. DCS strives to protect the most vulnerable among us, and we will continue to work tirelessly to keep Hoosier children safe.”

Both suspects remain behind bars at the Marion County Jail.

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