Vt. Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit in Dezirae Sheldon case

By  | 

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Her murder sparked outcry and changes at the Department for Children and Families. But a lawsuit from the case will not be moving forward.

Dezirae Sheldon, 2, was killed by her stepfather Dennis Duby in 2014. He was convicted last year.

When she died, Dezirae was under the supervision of DCF following abuse allegations against her mother and Duby. The murder raised questions about an independent contractor who worked for DCF. The girl's father says the contractor didn't do enough to report the alleged abuse. And the girl's father, Willis Sheldon, sued.

Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court issued a decision against Willis Sheldon.

Our Neal Goswami is following the story and spoke with Galen Ettlin about this latest update.

Galen Ettlin: What was Dezirae Sheldon's father seeking with this lawsuit?
Neal Goswami: Her father, Willis Sheldon, filed a civil case claiming the independent reviewer for DCF did not fulfill legal obligations to report potential abuse by the boyfriend of the mother. That boyfriend, Dennis Duby, was eventually charged and convicted of homicide.
Galen Ettlin: And what did the Supreme Court decision say?
Neal Goswami: The suit claims the independent reviewer was legally obligated to report potential abuse by Dennis Duby when the mother said he may have caused the girl's injuries. But the court says the claim made by the mother was not new and she had already made it to a DCF investigator, so the independent reviewer had no new obligation to report it.
Galen Ettlin: How did this case impact how the state handles child custody cases?
Neal Goswami: There was a lengthy review of the system and the state has since shifted its focus on reunification to ensuring the safety of children, hired more caseworkers and administrators to help oversee.

Willis Sheldon received $500,000 in a settlement with the state. The state did not admit any wrongdoing.