A Department of Children and Families child protective investigator has been fired for falsifying documents in a case related to the boy who died a week ago after being left in his mother’s hot car, the agency's leader said.
DCF Secretary David Wilkins said falsifying records is a third-degree felony. Information has been turned over to law enforcement and the state attorney's office, and to his agency's inspector general, he said.
Shani Smith had been a child protective investigator for two years working out of the south hub, a DCF office that was featured in an NBC 6 investigation earlier this month.
DCF officials held a press conference Thursday afternoon on the case of Catalina Bruno, 30, who is charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of her 11-month-old son Bryan Osceola.
Bruno was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and child neglect in November. According to a DCF report, "Mom was driving recklessly and passed out. Mom hit several walls prior to the vehicle stopping."
The report also said, "Bryan was in the mother's lap at the time of the accident."
Records state Bruno underwent an evaluation and that a family intervention specialist recommended no services for the mother. Wilkins said she never had an evaluation and the case was never referred to a specialist.
“She is stating that these things occurred. None of our providers are saying that they did occur," Wilkins told NBC 6. "We can find no electronic records or documentation that said these things occurred, so we basically feel that there's been a crime committed. There's been a falsification of records in this situation, and so we have now terminated this employee."
Smith denies she falsified records, but all available evidence points to the contrary, Wilkins said at the press conference.
When NBC 6 went to Smith's home seeking comment Thursday, her husband referred a reporter to Smith's attorney, who said he wasn't prepared to give a statement.
DCF is now looking at other cases that Smith was involved in, Wilkins said.
"We're going back and doing an assessment of all the cases she has in essence investigated over the last year, which is slightly over 100 cases," he said.
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