Abuse was 'substantiated': Social worker testifies she knew of Efaw's past before placing Dixon

Date: 2007-03-21

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

Suzie Sidell approved Efaw as a foster parent but had a file of information detailing several incidents where Efaw was accused of sexually, physically and emotionally abusing not only his biological children but also his stepchildren, she testified yesterday in the Huron County Common Pleas Court.

The testimony came at a civil trial for the wrongful death of 11-year-old foster child Connre Dixon. Dixon was stabbed to death in October 2004 by Efaw at his Ridgefield Township home during an altercation. Her family is suing the Department of Job and Family Services and the Huron County Commission.

Efaw was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Efaw was also named in the suit but was dismissed by Dixon's estate yesterday morning prior to the beginning of the trial. "It was a tactical decision," because he has no money, said James Martin, the estate's attorney.

Records detailed in the department's files included information that Efaw was found to have physically abused his biological children in the 1980s, according to Sidell's testimony.

A complaint that Efaw had hit his children was found to be "substantiated," while a complaint that he emotionally abused the children was "indicated," Sidell said.

"You found that there was a substantiated case where Mr. Efaw abused his own children, didn't you?" Martin asked.

"Yes," Sidell replied.

"And, you still approved him, didn't you?" Martin asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"He also admits to having a bad temper, didn't he?" Martin asked.

"Yes," Sidell again replied.

Other information included in the file alleged Efaw defecated in his stepdaughter's face "for punishment," made his son kill two cats, hit the children with a variety of objects and left bruises and marks on them, according to Sidell's testimony.

Documents in the Job and Family Services file detailed complaints of Efaw's children telling social workers that he sexually abused them by asking them to "play with his private area," according to Sidell's testimony.

During Sidell's "assessment" of Efaw for foster care certification, she interviewed Paul and Diana Efaw for approximately six to eight hours, conducted a home study and checked their fingerprints with the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

She also contacted Efaw's biological children through telephone conversations but didn't ask them about the allegations of abuse by the father, according to her testimony.

"I wasn't doing an investigation. I was doing an assessment," Sidell said in response to Martin's question as to why she didn't ask the questions.

Sidell never called the two stepchildren as part of the assessment, according to her testimony.

During the home study, Sidell visited the Efaw home to check for any dangerous weapons as part of the "sight and safety inspection," she testified.

"You never checked the outbuilding, did you?" Martin asked.

"No," Sidell said.

"That's where the knife was that was stuck into Connre Dixon's chest, right?" Martin asked.

"Yes," Sidell said.

Sidell forwarded the file to Susan Komosinski, who was her supervisor at the time, which resulted in Efaw taking in Dixon.

"It's our belief that the Department of Job and Family Services blew it again," Martin said.

Dixon was placed in Efaw's home about one year prior to her death. Dixon had been removed from her biological parents' home because they were unable to properly care for her while addicted to drugs, according to testimony yesterday.

Testimony was also heard from Erich Dumbeck, the director of the Department of Job and Family Services, who told the court the agency doesn't require social workers to check local law enforcement reports, the civil court, employers or the agency's own files before certifying or approving foster homes.

"Do you think the department made a successful placement putting Connre Dixon in Paul Efaw's home?" Martin asked Dumbeck.

"Yes," Dumbeck replied.

"Were Suzie Sidell and Susan Komosinski ever disciplined for certifying Paul Efaw?" Martin asked.

"No," Dumbeck replied.

The trial is expected to last throughout the week and is scheduled to start this morning with testimony from Komosinski, Martin said.

Ken Myers, the Cleveland attorney who represents Sharen and Michael Gravelle, was granted permission yesterday morning from visiting Judge Judith Cross to sit as co-counsel to Martin, according to court records.

The Gravelles were recently involved in a longtime case with the Department of Job and Family Services in which their 11 adopted children were removed from their home. The Gravelles were convicted of abusing some of the children.

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