A Foster Father & A Baby’s Death
by Tiffany Revelle, January 22, 2013
While authorities still aren't saying much about the violent death of a 5-month-old baby girl in Fort Bragg, details have come to light about the events that led up to the December tragedy.
Wilson L. Tubbs III, 38, the baby's foster father, was arrested last month and booked under $500,000 bail at the Mendocino County Jail on suspicion of child abuse resulting in death, a charge the District Attorney's Office says carries the same weight as murder.
Fort Bragg police responded to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital Dec. 2, where the 5-month-old girl had arrived “not breathing and blue,” and with bruises on her face and skull, according to a “suspected child abuse report” filed Dec. 3 with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency. The baby had “acute or chronic brain injury, including subdural hematoma and hemorrhages,” according to the report.
Subdural hematoma is the accumulation of blood on the brain's surface, and is most often caused by serious head injury, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The baby was flown to Oakland Children's Hospital by REACH helicopter, and an examination revealed she had two skull fractures, the Fort Bragg Police Department reported previously. The child abuse specialist who examined her told police that the injuries could not possibly have been caused by the fall Tubbs initially said the infant took in his home.
Tubbs allegedly admitted to authorities that he slapped and violently shook the baby, after he initially claimed she fell from a changing bench onto a hardwood floor when the family dog walked by and bumped it, according to the FBPD.
Tubbs was due in Mendocino County Superior Court Friday at 1:30pm to confirm the date of his preliminary hearing.
The Daily Journal requested information about the case under the Public Records Act, and the Mendocino County Counsel's Office and the Health and Human Services Agency on Tuesday released documents pursuant to that request.
The names, birth dates, addresses and other information for all involved parties are blacked out on the 182 pages of documents the county released. The documents include reports and evaluation sheets from social workers, police reports and Child Protective Service reports for the baby's birth mother going back to 1999.
The mother, whose name is redacted in the released county records, has had three children taken from her care since then. According to county CPS records, she had been referred seven times to CPS and had three cases between July 2005 and June 18, 2012, the day she gave birth to the baby girl, for general neglect and one incident of physical abuse.
The Mendocino County HHSA's Chuck Dunbar wrote a letter to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital's obstetrics unit on May 22, 2012, asking the unit to make a CPS referral when the mother went into labor, stating the mother “is a (Redwood Coast) Regional Center client with significant intellectual deficits” and “some drug history.”
A report was made to CPS the day she gave birth stating that the mother had used methamphetamine in the past and had tested positive for marijuana three weeks before the day she gave birth, but didn't have any drugs in her system when she was admitted.
The baby's father was in jail at the time, and the mother was living with friends, according to the report, which also notes that the mother was “very cooperative.”
Social Worker John Melnicoe notes in a June 21 safety assessment report on the mother that she had used methamphetamine and had mental health issues more than a year ago, and that she had “a lot of CPS history as to older children,” citing “anger issues in past, etc.” Melnicoe also notes the mother is “willing to work with CPS, looks a lot better — but still warrants a case.”
In a “notice of referral disposition” on the same date, Melnicoe writes, “I am opening up a voluntary case, all looks quite good actually, even after consulting with this mother's Reg. Center SW and MH person — many people are involved with her now, she is clearly motivated, and appears to have grown emotionally. I will follow this one for awhile — at least several months.”
On June 28, the county's records show, the mother's roommate called CPS and law enforcement to report she was “very worried about this child's safety” as the mother hadn't been sleeping and had become “increasingly upset and frustrated.”
The roommate reported the baby's father had called collect from the jail that day, and that the roommate had asked the mother not to accept collect calls to keep the phone bill down.
The mother became upset, the roommate reported, saying the mother held the baby with one arm and that the baby's head was “basically being flung around due to a lack of proper support” while the mother gathered her belongings with her other hand.
Police found the mother at another location the same day and confronted her, but the mother reportedly claimed she had cradled the baby and supported its head.
Officer Stephen Gray of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office describes in his report about the June 28 incident how the roommate reported the mother had, “as with any newborn and corresponding sleep deprivation ... slept little,” and wouldn't let anyone else in the house hold the baby.
The mother complained about her small living area in the home, the roommate told Gray, comparing her attitude to that of a drug addict. The mother told social workers later that day that the roommate had taken the phone from her, and that she resented the roommate telling her what to do, among other things.
Authorities ultimately decided it was “at least plausible in all the excitement” that the infant's head wasn't supported, and that, combined with her history, guided the county's decision to take the baby from her custody.
In his July 2, 2012 risk assessment report on the mother, Melnicoe writes in his comments: “Sad situation. This mother is low functioning, is a Regional Center client since 1998, main issues however revolve around anger management/MH issues, not on meds for years though. Mom had angry outburst — child in arms — detained child due to prior lost/adopted out sibs/anger issues remain.”
The baby's Dec. 2, 2012 admittance to the coast hospital is the next CPS report in the county's records.
“Child is in very critical condition and now has been transferred to Oakland Children's Hospital for surgery,” according to the report. “Foster father reports that child fell off bench in the kitchen area of foster home on the evening of 12-1-12.”
Also included in the released documents is a report stating that the baby died at the Oakland Children's Hospital Dec. 4 after she was “injured very seriously by relative caregiver.” Her cause of death is “confirmed abuse,” according to the county demographics page.
Marie and Wilson L. Tubbs III (also known as Josh Tubbs), relatives of the mother, were approved as the baby's foster parents in late October. The most recent CPS report notes that the foster mother was away on a trip at the time of the alleged abuse, according to county records.
They were screened using checklists for standards of approval and health and safety standards for foster homes, and passed Live Scan testing for criminal history.
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The foster father accused of beating a five-month-old baby girl to death in December while she was in his care was in Mendocino County Superior Court Friday to schedule a future appearance.
Wilson L. Tubbs III, 38, faces a charge of child abuse resulting in death, which carries the same weight as murder, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.
He had on Dec. 2 brought the baby girl, who had months earlier been taken from her mother, to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital not breathing and blue, and with bruises on her face and head.
Tubbs, the girl's foster father, initially claimed the infant was injured when she fell from a changing bench onto a hardwood floor in his house, and later admitted he slapped and violently shook the baby, the Fort Bragg Police Department reported previously.
Mendocino County Public Defender Linda Thompson, who is representing Tubbs, asked the court to set another court date next week to prepare for the preliminary hearing.
Thompson said that rather than having a typical preliminary hearing where the district attorney makes a case to show that the defendant should be bound over for trial for the crime, the hearing might take more than a day because she plans to make her own case in Tubbs' defense.
“I may be putting on medical evidence and (calling) other witnesses,” Thompson said, and asked the court to give her adequate time to contact expert witnesses.
No autopsy report was yet available, according to Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira, who is prosecuting the case.
Records about the case released earlier this week by the Mendocino County Counsel's Office and Health and Human Services Agency contain a Live Scan criminal background report that, while the foster parents' names are redacted from the form, shows a clean result.
The Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force arrested Tubbs in July 2010 on suspicion of illegally possessing a controlled substance and possession for sale. He allegedly had 20 generic hydrocodone pills and eight Valium pills, according to Sequeira.
Tubbs entered a diversion agreement with the court, whereby his case would be dismissed with no criminal charges on his record as long as he completed a yearlong drug diversion program, according to Sequeira.
As part of the arrangement, Tubbs on Nov. 9, 2010, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of possessing the hydrocodone, Sequeira said, and the misdemeanor charge of Valium possession was dropped. Tubbs' sentence was deferred for a year on the condition that he completed the drug diversion program, according to Sequeira, who also noted that such a program didn't exist on the coast, so coastal residents took an online course to complete the requirements.
A year later on Nov. 9, 2011, the court found that Tubbs had complied with the terms of the agreement and successfully completed the diversion program, and the case was dismissed.
Sequeira said that while the felony would not have gone on Tubbs' record because of that, the arrest and subsequent diversion agreement would still show up if someone were to “run his rap sheet.”
Tubbs is due in court for a pre-preliminary hearing date on the child abuse charge at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Courtroom B of the Ukiah courthouse.
Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.