Ex-Bakersfield woman faces murder charge

Relates to:
Date: 2009-09-03

BY STEVE E. SWENSON

A former Bakersfield foster mother once arrested on charges of willful child cruelty in Kern County is now facing murder charges in Sacramento County in a child's death.

Sabrina Banks, 41, formerly known as Sabrina Stafford, was arrested by Bakersfield police in September 2003 after foster child Angelic Clary, 3 months old, was found dead in her home on Castleford Street.

Despite an extensive investigation, no charges were ever filed against her in Angelic's death.

Deputy District Attorney Scott Spielman said there was no conclusive medical evidence that the infant's death was either due to abuse or neglect.

He last reviewed the evidence in March 2004.

The Kern County coroner's office ruled the infant's death was either natural or accidental. The infant likely breathed in something, possibly vomit, and choked, the coroner's office found.

The child's twin sister, Tiffany, was also found in the foster home near Panama Lane and Wible Road with a 104.8-degree fever.

Paramedics took the surviving sister to Memorial Hospital where doctors found her to be hungry, dehydrated, had low sodium in her blood and barbiturates in her systems.

Barbiturates are depressants, normally used as a sleeping aid.

Tiffany was removed from Stafford's care.

The mother of the twins, Ruth Rodriguez, filed a lawsuit against Kern County, but it was dismissed in January 2005.

Stafford, as she was known then, lost her foster license shortly after Angelic's death. She reportedly had ties to Visalia.

The Sacramento County case stems from the May 2, 2008, death of 3-year-old Lavender Banks, the adopted daughter of the woman now known as Sabrina Banks.

Sacramento County coroners determined that Lavender died from asphyxia and several blunt force injuries, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The Elk Grove Police Department reported last month that an investigation showed Banks was responsible for the child's death, and a murder warrant was issued for her.

Banks was arrested Aug. 5 in Visalia.

Banks made news over the adoption of Lavender because Chinese central authorities had refused to approve the adoption on the grounds that Banks was African American.

Many adoptive parents rallied behind Banks and China authorities reversed their stand and approved the adoption, news reports say.
Before the 2003 death of Angelic in Bakersfield, two complaints were filed with Child Protective Services against Stafford.

The first, in January 2002, alleged Stafford hit one of her children on the back and thighs, leaving marks.

Investigators concluded no license violations were committed, CPS documents said.

The second was in May 2002, alleging Stafford burned a 3-year-old child on the hip with a hot spoon.

Stafford denied anything like that ever happened. Her license was voluntarily withdrawn when she went to Visalia, but it was restored in Kern County in early 2003.

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