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Iowa settles with boy allegedly abused in Perry home where girl died of starvation


DANIEL LATHROP   Des Moines Register

Iowa taxpayers will pay $500,000 to a boy said to have been abused at a child care center run by a Perry couple now serving lengthy sentences in connection with the death of another child under their care.

State officials voted to award the damages to the now-10-year-old boy who, according to his family, is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from his time under the care of Marc Alan Ray and Misty Jo Bousman-Ray. The couple pleaded guilty in connection with starving to death their adopted daughter, 16-year-old Sabrina, in 2017. The then-Iowa state ombudsman wrote in an investigative report in 2020 that the case "brought me to tears."

Bousman-Ray is now serving a life sentence, and Ray received an 80-year prison term.

The boy's family says he was kicked and denied food while attending Sunshine Day Care, according to the settlement approved unanimously by the three-member State Appeal Board.

'It's past due': 17 months later, Sabrina Ray's friends, family hold celebration of life service

"It was not only a tragedy for Sabrina but it created this ripple effect of her siblings as well as the other children in that day care," said attorney Scott Wadding, who represents the boy's family.

Wadding said his investigation leads him to believe that other children at the day care may have been abused as well.

Former Ombudsman Kristie Hirschman's report said suspicions of abuse at the day care went uninvestigated despite the fact that it was state licensed. The report also said that, over 13 years, the 112 children it cared for included both those of employees of the Iowa Department of Human Services and a private agency that contracted with DHS to provide child welfare services.

Grandmother of starved teen Sabrina Ray sentenced to 20 years in prison

What the boy's family reported

The boy began attending Ray and Bousman-Ray's day care in 2013 and continued until 2017, when the couple were arrested in Sabrina's death and the abuse of her two younger sisters, Appeal Board records show.

The boy's family says the DHS, now part of the Department of Health and Human Services, was negligent in supervising the couple, whom the agency had licensed for child care and had approved for foster care and adoption.

Beyond the couple, several other family members were charged with involvement in starving and abusing Sabrina, who weighed only 56 pounds when she died, court records show.

Brother of starved teen Sabrina Ray reaches plea deal with prosecutors

Ray and Bousman-Ray's older son, Justin, then 26, pleaded to two counts of willful injury in relation to charges of "drop kicking" his adopted sister down a flight of stairs. Bousman-Ray's mother, Carla Raye Bousman, and younger sister Josie Raye Bousman pleaded guilty to charges in connection with Sabrina's abuse and attempts to cover up her and her sisters' injuries.

Carla and Josie Bousman remain in prison pending completion of their sentences. Justin Ray is currently on parole, records show.

The charges against Ray and Bousman-Ray also included theft and fraud in relation to obtaining state adoption benefits. The adoption, foster care and child care subsidies the couple received from the state totaled more than $640,000 from 2006-2017, the ombudsman's report found.

In approving the claim, the three-member board did not admit specific wrongdoing by state officials. Department of Health and Human Services officials maintain the agency had met its statutory duties, but signed off on the settlement.

Sabrina Ray's parents can keep adoption payments even if they're convicted of abuse. Here's why:

The Des Moines Register is not naming the boy under its policy of not identifying juvenile crime victims.

Ombudsman report: Agency failed to identify abuse

The abuse case involving Sabrina and her siblings came on the heels of similarly alarming abuse allegations involving West Des Moines 17-year-old Natalie Finn, who starved to death in October 2016, and Malayia Knapp, who fled an abusive home in Urbandale in late 2015.

The ombudsman's lengthy report found DHS had wrongly rejected some reports of abuse against Ray and Bousman-Ray — who, witnesses said, had allies within DHS and in Perry, where day care was scarce.

The report also said that caseworker records were inaccurate and not thorough enough, and that the agency failed to retain records long enough to help workers identify patterns of abuse.

Hirschman said she and her staff found it “unfathomable” that the agency conducted no internal review of its own actions and decisions leading up to Ray's death.

“There were plenty of official eyes and ears on this family,” the report said. “When it came down to it, there was not sufficient communication among DHS officials.”

Before becoming effective, the settlement with the boy will require approval from a Dallas County District Court judge overseeing his interests.

Watchdog columnist Lee Rood contributed to this article.

2022 Nov 7