DEAD TOT'S FAMILY BLASTS UTAH'S FOSTER-CARE SYSTEM
By Mark L. Reece, Staff Writer
The biological mother and aunt of a boy who died two years ago while in the care of his adopted mother decried the state's foster care system Friday. A judge delayed a sentencing hearing to examine additional evidence.
"The system continuously keeps failing," said Donna Ramos, the sister of Vickie Lynn Moghaghab, mother of Kameron Bright.Ramos said foster care officials should have recognized warning signs after several people allegedly reported the family for child abuse.
The 3-year-old died as a result of massive skull injuries at the home of Darlene W. Bright, the boy's legally adoptive mother. West Valley police and investigators presented probable cause evidence to charge Bright with first-degree murder charges and a judge deemed the case triable.
In March, Bright pleaded guilty to a reduced crime of one count of child abuse homicide, a third-degree felony. She faces a possible sentence of zero-to-five years in prison.
But 3rd District Judge Pat B. Brian ordered defense attorneys and prosecutors in Bright's case to present further medical information that supports or negates a defense theory that the boy died as a result of previous head trauma. They have until Aug. 29.
Ramos and Moghaghab were audibly upset at the court's decision as they sat in the sentencing hearing and wept as the judge and attorneys described how the boy died.
Krista Pickens, an investigator for defense attorney Ron Yengich, said over the course of the investigation she was "convinced" Kameron's injuries were attributed to two accidental falls and not negligence or child abuse.
"Every single thing (Bright) has told me and every fact about this is true," Pickens said, "including her passing a polygraph test.
"This is an incredible tragedy, but what's even more tragic is that those in the medical community can't tell us exactly what happened."
The judge disagreed, saying that four medical experts who testified in the case - including a neurologist and a state medical examiner - determined the child could not have died from falling from a "3- or 4-foot-high bunk bed."
"All four, without exception, opined that the boy suffered a blow to the head that would be the equivalent of being struck full force with a baseball bat or falling several stories and landing on the skull," Brian said.
"It is indisputable medically that the child suffered some kind of egregious injury that could not have occurred from falling out of a bed."
But Yengich argued that the judge was in error because he didn't have complete medical information, including testimony from Steve Dunton, a pediatric neurologist the defense attorney flew in from Atlanta.
"The court is simply wrong in that what you have is finalized medical opinion," Yengich said. "You simply don't have sufficient information to render this decision."
Brian chastised attorneys for not including the information in the case's 28-page pre-sentence report and ordered counsel to provide it by the end of August.
Yengich also argued the case is singular in that "the reality is, we are all left in a medical vacuum."
"No one has seen this type of injury before, and it doesn't support the common metaphors of child abuse, that is being struck with a bat and falling from a building," he said. "`We don't know' is all the medical community can say."