Counselors Call for Inquiry Into Pr. William Girl's Case

Relates to:
Date: 2009-02-23

Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post

A group of former counselors and caretakers of an adopted 13-year-old girl found dead in an icy creek last month has called for an investigation into whether Prince William County's Department of Social Services mishandled the girl's case and could have prevented her death.

Alexis "Lexie" Glover was reported missing Jan. 7 by her mother, Alfreedia Gregg-Glover, sparking an extensive search. Days later, Lexie's body was discovered in a shallow creek in the Woodbridge area, and police said Gregg-Glover put her there. The medical examiner recently ruled Lexie's death a homicide, saying she died from drowning and exposure to cold, authorities said.

Gregg-Glover, 44, has been charged with felony neglect and lying to police and has a hearing in court today. She has not been charged in Lexie's death, but the county's chief prosecutor, Paul B. Ebert, has said further charges in the case are "likely."

A memorial service for Lexie was held Saturday at a Bristow church, during which a group of about 35 former counselors, acquaintances and concerned residents signed letters regarding Lexie's case to county and state officials, including Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). Members of the group said they want to know whether Gregg-Glover should have been given custody of Lexie, whether indications of abuse were overlooked and whether procedural changes are needed to ensure that children don't land in the wrong homes.

"We need to know what went wrong in her case and learn how to prevent such a tragedy from happening again," one of the letters said. "There needs to be better training and stricter selection processes for prospective foster parents and adoptive parents. . . . Alexis was a bright, loving, and beautiful child that did not deserve such a heartbreaking ending."

Jack Ledden, director of Prince William's Department of Social Services, said yesterday that confidentiality rules prevent him from saying whether Lexie's case is being investigated or whether she was assigned a caseworker from the agency while alive. He said state officials conduct such reviews.

"This is just a tragedy," Ledden said. "If there are any social services agencies involved and there's any investigation that needs to happen, I welcome that, and I would say that, with any case, it's our job to protect children in our community."

Martin E. Nohe of the Board of County Supervisors also said such an investigation would fall to the Virginia Department of Social Services. "It's my understanding that the state Department of Social Services . . . is doing an audit of our county [Department of Social Services], particularly as it relates to Alexis Glover," said Nohe (R-Coles).

VDSS spokeswoman Marianne McGhee said yesterday that fatalities within the social services system are always investigated but declined to say whether Glover's case was under review, citing confidentiality rules.

The calls for an inquiry were spearheaded by a group of former workers at the nonprofit For Children's Sake of Virginia, a child-placement agency that also provides therapeutic services. The workers said that as late as 2007, Lexie lived at the organization's Emergency Diagnostic Center in Fairfax County, a residential facility for children between 5 and 12 who have emotional and behavioral issues.

Counselors who knew Lexie said she was not, as Gregg-Glover has told authorities, "developmentally disabled." Rather, she had reactive attachment disorder, a condition found among abused and adopted children who have problems forming emotional bonds with others. They said Lexie was well-behaved and affectionate but often told employees that she did not want to go home with Gregg-Glover for weekend visits.

"Alexis apparently had a history of running away, and a lot of people were saying that was related to her mental-health issues. She would often say, 'I don't want to go home,' " said Tamara Walker, Lexie's former therapist at For Children's Sake, who said Lexie did not tell her specifically why she didn't want to go home.

"A lot of people just thought she was being oppositional or being defiant," Walker said. "But it sounds like she was trying to tell everyone and nobody would listen."

Calls to For Children's Sake and to Gregg-Glover's attorney, Barry A. Zweig, were not returned yesterday.

Lexie ran away several times, according to her neighbors and police. She had been fitted with a locator bracelet, which enables sheriff's deputies to find endangered missing persons. Authorities said Gregg-Glover positioned the bracelet near a Manassas library to make it appear that Lexie had run off.

Since her death, several people have come forward describing incidents in which they found Lexie hungry, poorly clothed or expressing fear and discomfort around her mother.

In late December, she was found hiding in her pajamas behind a Christmas tree at her neighbor's house, eating from a box of cereal, said the neighbor, Jonah Seaman.

Another neighbor, Wes Byers, said that earlier that month he and his wife found Lexie in front of their house in the freezing cold, hungry and scantily clad, telling them her mother had hit her in the head with a stick and made her "earn" food and clothing at home. Byers said he relayed that to authorities but that Lexie was allowed to go home with Gregg-Glover that day.

Carolyn Stayman, who attended the service, said Gregg-Glover took Lexie to her day-care center in Manassas Park during summer 2004. She said Lexie refused to eat, saying she would get in trouble if she did.

"She said her mom would be mad," Stayman said. "You could tell she was, like, really scared."

Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.

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