Ex-DCF Investigator Arrested for Falsifying Records in Fatal Hot Car Case: FDLE

A former Florida Department of Children and Families child protective investigator is expected to be released Thursday. This, after she was arrested for allegedly falsified records in the case of a Miami-Dade mother whose son died after he was left in a hot car.

Shani Smith, 35, was ordered released Thursday for pre-trial services. She is facing six counts of official misconduct in the case of Catalina Bruno, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

Smith turned herself in to the FDLE Miami office and was booked into the Turner Gilford Knight Correctional Center Wednesday. She appeared in court Thursday and was later released from jail on $60,000 bond.

Smith's attorney, David Kubiliun, said she will "fight this to the end" and said Smith was "being made a scapegoat of the flawed DCF system."

DCF officials released a statement after the arrest.

"The DCF Office of Inspector General referred this case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and assisted in the investigation. DCF has very high standards for its employees and employees must to do their jobs fairly and honestly," the statement read. "In this particular case, this former employee violated the public trust and did not uphold the standards we expect for those entrusted with the duty of protecting children in our community. We appreciate the work of FDLE and the State Attorney's Office in bringing criminal charges."

Bruno's 11-month-old son, Bryan Osceola, died after he was left in a hot car in the family's driveway in May 2013. Miami-Dade Police said Bruno had placed the boy in a rear car seat and driven to her home at 1071 Southwest 150th Place. Bruno exited the car, a Chevy Impala, and went inside but forgot the boy in the car, police said.

After an undetermined amount of time, the boy's father, Amos Osceola, asked about his whereabouts, police said. Bruno remembered leaving the boy in the car seat but by the time they found him, he was unresponsive, police said.

The boy was transferred to Kendall Regional Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. At the time of his death, Bruno was drinking alcohol, FDLE officials said.

Just six months earlier Bruno had been charged with a DUI after falling asleep behind the wheel of her parked car. Bryan was by her side then too.

According to Smith's case notes, Bruno had been referred for a substance abuse evaluation which came back negative. But an investigation found Smith never referred Bruno for the substance abuse evaluation, FDLE officials said.

Smith's investigation closed just five months before Bryan died. Smith abruptly resigned after the death.

Bruno later pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated manslaughter and child neglect.

Lonnie Richardson, Bruno's attorney said it "was about time" Smith was charged.

"If DCF had done their job, and if Smith had done her job, maybe none of this would've happened," Richardson said.

Contact Us