State declares risk low for preschooler, killed 5 days later - KCTV5

State declares risk low for preschooler, 5 days later he was dead

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV) -

For months, concerns had been raised about the welfare of Lucas Webb.

Born Jan. 3, 2008, Lucas knew much pain and suffering in his four short years. Missouri social workers either dismissed or overlooked signs that he was abused, including comments made by the little boy himself.

On Oct. 10, 2012, state social workers closed an investigation, saying that they had determined "the risk level is low for current parents."

On Oct. 16, 2012, state social workers, using Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's letterhead, would write to Justin Webb that they had investigated a Sept. 7 report that his son had bruises, welts, red marks, was malnourished and had other signs of abuse.

"There is insufficient evidence," to determine that Lucas was being abused, the letter to Webb stated. State social workers accepted Webb's contention that his son was "clumsy" and "bruised easily."

Lucas died on Oct. 15, 2012, and Webb and Lucas' stepmother, Melissa Webb, were charged with second-degree murder.

His death is one of several recent cases that have raised questions about how Missouri social workers respond to allegations of abuse and neglect involving children. Under pressure from state lawmakers, the state released on Monday hundreds of pages about their handling of the case to news media outlets that had first sought them months ago.

The first allegations about Lucas being abused came in 2009, according to the state records released Monday. More allegations were filed in January 2012, when he turned four.

By that summer, the allegations would intensify with workers at a daycare that he attended sharing their concerns with a confidential hotline to state social workers.

A Missouri Department of Social Services spokeswoman told KCTV5 that staff members had violated agency policy while handling the allegations involving the little boy.

"As a result, appropriate personnel actions was (sic) taken and two employees are no longer working for the Department of Social Services," DSS Department spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel wrote in an email to KCTV5.

She offered her regrets.

"The death of any child is a tragedy and the Department of Social Services deeply regrets the death of Lucas," she wrote.

Lucas told an adult that his stepmother had kicked him in the stomach with her foot, according to the records released Monday. He described being deprived of food and being locked out of the house.

Daycare workers were worried about his frail condition, his lethargy, his distended stomach and absenteeism from the class. One worker said that Lucas claimed his father was mean to him and made him eat pencils.

But social workers concluded he wasn't required to go to class, so it wasn't a big enough issue for them. This came after they twice visited the home and determined food was present and Lucas suffered from typical childhood bruises.

KCTV5 interviewed a former Children's Division investigations manager on Monday. She honed in on two major mistakes that she said allowed Lucas to slip through the cracks. This included failing to hone in on the daycare workers' specific concerns about his physical appearance and Lucas describing the physical abuse.

The state worker also had concerns that on Oct. 10 a school official reported that Lucas had missed nearly three weeks of school (coinciding with the first report to the state hotline), and no call was made by the parents.

An autopsy found that Lucas died from blunt-force trauma to his abdomen. He also had fractured ribs and healed injuries.

Webb's next court appearance is July 9. Melissa Webb is due back in court on June 6.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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