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Birth parents want foster mother charged


Birth parents want foster mother charged

But woman's friends cite her dedication, call child's death a tragic accident

September 4, 2008

Merritt Melancon

The birth parents of a 9-month-old Jackson County girl who died of heat stroke Tuesday want her foster mother prosecuted for leaving the little girl locked in a minivan for more than two hours, according to the couple's attorney.

But friends of foster mother Wendy Osborne came out Thursday in support of the 29-year-old, pointing out that she has fostered several children over the past five years without problems and saying that what happened to the child, Jessica Scovil, was a tragic accident.

Jackson County sheriff's detectives are waiting to decide whether to charge Osborne, who lives on Georgia Highway 334 near Nicholson, until they receive the results of toxicology tests, said Chief Deputy David Cochran.

An autopsy performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Decatur confirmed that Jessica died from heat stroke.

"The next step, I guess, for the parents, is to talk to the district attorney and to ask him to move forward with charges on this case," said Crandall Heard, attorney for Jessica's birth parents, Robert Scovil and Evelyn Carter. "That's all they can do as they work to get through this."

Deputies and emergency medical personnel were called to the Osborne home Tuesday afternoon, after Wendy Osborne found Jessica unconscious in the minivan.

Osborne told sheriff's investigators that she came home from a doctor's appointment shortly before 3 p.m., unloaded two adopted 3-year-old girls from the van and went inside. Once inside, Osborne lay down for a nap while the other two children played. She woke up about 5 p.m., Cochran said, and rushed outside to find Jessica unresponsive in her car seat.

Osborne's doctor had prescribed medication that may have contributed to her disorientation and drowsiness, Cochran said. She was sick for several days before she went to the doctor, he said.

Some people who know Osborne and her husband see them as dedicated foster parents who consider it their mission to help children, said Edna Stroud, who owns Creative Kids day-care center where Jessica spent some days this summer.

"I have the utmost respect for the Osborne family," Stroud said. "I remember thinking when I interviewed Mrs. Osborne before Jessica stayed with us that she was really choosey about who was keeping Jessica. She acted more like a parent, really, than a foster parent. She was very patient, and very loving towards the children, you could see they had a passion for what they were doing."

Scovil and Carter lost custody of Jessica early this year, but were close to regaining guardianship, Heard said.

A custody hearing was scheduled for Sept. 16 in Jackson County Juvenile Court, and Heard expected that Jessica would have been returned to her parents at that time.

"This mom is a good lady," Heard said. "She's done everything I have asked her to do to get her child back, and so has the father. I could not have had two people do more to get their child back. ... If there had been cooperation on both sides, we could have had this cleared up weeks ago. But we weren't getting any cooperation, so we were having to go back to court."

Heard, a public defense attorney serving Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties, would not say why Scovil and Carter lost custody of Jessica, but he did say that it wasn't related to any type of criminal charges, substance abuse or physical abuse.

"(Division of Family and Children Services officials) were telling my clients that, 'We don't think they're able to take care of their child right now,' " Heard said. "Instead of sending her home, they sent her to a home where she eventually died."

Calls to Robert Scovil's home were not immediately returned Thursday. Calls to Wendy Osborne's home went unanswered.

2008 Sep 4