How did DSHS miss abuse in Pierce Co. firefighter's home?

Date: 2011-08-12

How did DSHS miss abuse in Pierce Co. firefighter's home?
BY URSULA REUTIN on August 12, 2011 @ 6:27 am (Updated: 11:07 am - 8/12/11 )

Scott and Drew Ann Hamrick were foster parents to 17 children over seven years before they ended up adopting five of the girls.
The first sign of trouble was in April of 2008, when Child Protective Services was called to their home because one of the kids had a fight with Drew Ann. Then, in March of last year, someone reported that one of the girls was being locked up in a room and not being fed for days.

In both cases, CPS determined there wasn't enough evidence that a crime was being committed to get police involved.

"You can't quite get the details nailed down to where anybody has the same story," says Sherry Hill with DSHS' Children's Administration. "You do what you can with the information you have at the time."

Hill says CPS decided the family needed to get counseling, and worked with them for six months. The daughter, who claimed she was being held prisoner in a room, was not removed from the home, but Hill says it's not that simple if you don't have solid proof.

"We don't just go in and remove children from homes. It's not just something that we do in every case. In many cases, children can safely remain in their home while the family is getting services."

Police didn't enter the picture until earlier this year, when two of the daughters finally broke their silence.

"The first time law enforcement found out about what was going on there was when the girls were brave, called 911, and a patrol officer arrived out there and told them what was going on," says Pierce County Sheriff's detective Ed Troyer. "That's when our detectives and our department got involved and we uncovered everything that happened."

Troyer says the stories the girls told them about the alleged abuse were beyond disturbing. The 14-year-old said her father had been molesting her since she was only five or six.

When the teen told her mom about the abuse, Drew Ann allegedly called her a liar and a skank.

"We believe mom knew what was going on, had multiple chances to intervene, had been told what was going on by some of the victims, and was also responsible for some of the living conditions and some of the other physical abuse and emotional abuse that took place in that residence," says Troyer.

Prosecutors say Drew Ann forced the 14-year-old to sleep on a blanket on a concrete floor and she could only relieve herself in a bucket in her room. She's also charged with witness tampering after allegedly making the girl promise not to tell authorities, saying "Why do you hate your dad? It's not like he raped you."

Troyer says Scott Hamrick, a veteran firefighter with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, knew he was about to be arrested when he killed himself in June.

"It appears, in this case, the suspect gave himself the death penalty," says Troyer.

But now, investigators want to know if there are more victims, since the Hamricks were foster parents to so many kids.

"Even though he's deceased and we're not going to be able to charge him, we still want to know if people out there were victims, so we can make sure they get the proper care they need," says Troyer.

While DSHS' Hill says CPS workers did what they could with what they knew at the time, she says changes have been made in recent months when it comes to how they investigate possible cases of abuse

"Back then, maybe we didn't have as structured of questioning when we do visit the children. Today we have that," says Hill. "Over time, we have improved the practice and made changes based on things that we learned since then."


Pound Pup Legacy