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Prosecutor: DCF workers won't face charges in Vt. toddler death - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Prosecutor: DCF workers won't face charges in Vt. toddler death

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Peighton Geraw Peighton Geraw
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

A Winooski mom is facing second-degree murder charges for the death of her 14-month-old baby son. Her boyfriend is charged with lying about it. But now police say they are the only two people who will face criminal charges in the baby's death. Thursday, the state said DCF workers who handled the Peighton Geraw case will not face any criminal charges. So, no crime, but the state says things did go wrong.

There were unexplained bruises on Peighton's neck, seen by a Department for Children and Families worker on a scheduled home visit. An hour later the child was dead. And Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says that worker did nothing criminally wrong.

"He did everything that he was trained to do, he did everything that he was supposed to do. He followed those protocols that DCF has," Donovan said.

The toddler's mother, Nytosha Laforce, 28, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly slamming Peighton's head against the floor. This was not her first run-in with the law. And her boyfriend, Tyler Chicoine, is charged with lying to police for initially lying about witnessing the attack.

But the state says no one else involved in the handling of the Peighton Geraw case-- from his birth to his death-- will face criminal charges.

"Nobody could have predicted this outcome," Donovan said. "This is a tragedy. Every person who was involved in this case is questioning themselves."

Prosecutors reached their conclusion following a Vermont State Police investigation. Documents reveal the DCF worker never touched or held the child while he was at the baby's home just before he died. Laforce told him Peighton was sleeping. Donovan says the case highlights a flaw in DCF rules.

"I think the question is whether or not there should be a change in protocol. Specifically should there be a hands-on examination to check for alertness. I think that's a discussion that should be had," Donovan said.

And while the state says no one was criminally negligent, the state police review turned up several cracks in the system:

  • That Peighton's case was handled by multiple DCF workers. The worker who visited the home the day Peighton died had never had any contact with the family before.
  • That Laforce's probation officer told investigators that DCF said she did not need to report to the department if Laforce failed a drug test.
  • Witnesses raised questions about the effectiveness of the education Laforce received at the Lund Family Center's residential treatment program while Peighton was in DCF custody.

"But certainly if we don't learn from this, then shame on us," Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said.

The DCF worker could have faced a neglect of duty charge. But again, the state did not feel that his actions rose to a criminal level because he followed protocol. While officials note that the investigation did point to multiple cracks in the system that may need changes, they say no one's actions were criminal.

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