Sharllene MarilloSharllene Marrillo

Sharllene Marrillo was 2 years old. Sharllene’s story filled with cries for help from everyone around her. The only ones that did not seek help for her was her own parents. Sharllene’s parents were abusive. Calls to the Child protective Service in her area went unanswered. When an investigation did happen the case worker in charge couldn’t even speak their language, was overloaded with other cases and was showed blatant lack of care,when told that the mother didn’t know the name o her daycare, the name of the people that took care of her or their phone numbers. Trips to the doctors were covered up by lies. Sharllene would be grabbed by her jaw that would leave bruises, would be hit and shaken. On June 16, The day Sharllene got put into the hospital for the last time her father had shaken her and she fell out of his hands hitting her head on the floor. Sharllene died on July 28, 2006.

The riverdale press
By Tommy Hallissey

A city Department of Investigation probe into the death of toddler Sharllene Marillo charges the city Administration for Children's Services' review of her case "repeatedly failed to follow directives" in the six weeks prior to the 2-year-old's death.

Word of Children's Services' bungling came in a scathing report last week by the Department of Investigation. It outlines, day-by-day, the failing of Children's Services during the last painful days of the Webb Avenue tot.

Throughout the report the city agency stresses the point that Sharllene's death came after the high-profile death of Nixmary Brown, 7, and the scrutiny of Children's Services that followed.

"Everyone at Children's Services must act with urgency and absolute thoroughness when responding to allegations of abuse and neglect. That's what the city expects and that's what I expect," said John Mattingly, commissioner of Children's Services, following the death of Nixmary Brown in January 2006.

But a department investigation of Sharllene's death documents multiple missteps made by the caseworker and the agency. Without them, it may have been able to prevent her death.

On June 13, 2006, a day care worker placed the first anonymous call on Sharllene's behalf. "The hotline report alleged that [Paul Tejada-] Jimenez [the girl's father] had grabbed Sharllene by the jaw, leaving a purple bruise, and that she had bruises around her eye, a belt mark on her back, and a bite mark on her left leg from Jimenez hitting her and biting her," the Department of Investigation reported. The caller also said Sharllene's mother, Karen Mejia, knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

As Children's Services reeled from Nixmary's death and others, the agency vowed in March 2006 to bring down the average caseload to 12 per caseworker after hiring 325 new caseworkers. But Sharllene's caseworker in June 2006, five month's after Nixmary's death, had more than 20 cases when the Kingsbridge Heights tot was added to her load.

The caseworker also did not speak Spanish, so she couldn't communicate with Mr. Tejada-Jimenez, Ms. Mejia or Sharllene, and she did not know Children's Services had begun offering interpreter service by telephone. "Further, DOI's review showed the investigation suffered from a complete lack of supervisory oversight in that the caseworker repeatedly failed to follow directives," the report said.

Riddled with errors

The Department of Investigation charges the probe of child abuse was riddled with errors from the initial visit. When the caseworker visited Sharllene's home, she interviewed the parents with Mr. Tejada-Jimenez - the person suspected of abuse - acting as translator. Both parents denied abuse, but the caseworker failed to test their assertions through other witnesses like neighbors or the day care worker.

The mother insisted the daughter received her scratches and bruises at the day care center. The caseworker said she did ask for the day care worker's phone number, but Ms. Mejia said she couldn't recall her name, address or telephone number. "The caseworker accepted this facially ridiculous claim even though Mejia dropped Sharllene at this day care five days each week and paid for the services herself," the report said.

While Children's Services made missteps, matters were no doubt complicated by the day care worker not providing a name in the initial call of abuse, according to the report, which reveals it was the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center who compelled the day care worker to call Children's Services.

It also reveals two days prior to the hotline call, two staffers from KHCC went to the day care center and observed Sharllene's injuries. In the notes of a KHCC staffer, the hotline call to Children's Services was anonymous because the day care worker feared Mr. Tejada-Jimenez and his violent temper.

Her fear was not without reason: Mr. Tejada-Jimenez has a criminal past.

In September 2005, he was convicted of criminal contempt in the second degree stemming from charges of stalking and harassment. Two years prior, he was convicted of assault in connection with a domestic violence incident.

Meanwhile, the cogs of Children's Services moved at a snail's pace, the report said. On June 16, 2006, a supervisor at Children's Services instructed the caseworker to make an appointment for Sharllene at the Child Advocacy Center for medical evaluation. The caseworker called six days later and got an appointment scheduled two weeks after that.

After the evaluation was completed, it did not reach Children's Services until July 24, 2006 - after Ms. Mejia brought an unconscious Sharllene to Montefiore Medical Center.

Even if the evaluation had been delivered in a timely fashion it wouldn't have saved little Sharllene. "The report concluded that the noted injuries appeared to be consistent with the explanations offered by Mejia," the DOI report said of Children's Services' evaluation.

On July 11, 2006, another caseworker visited Sharllene's home and found her in good health.

But the very next day, Sharllene was in a doctor's office with complaints she hadn't been able to raise her arms above her head in four days. She was admitted to Montefiore the next day. She "underwent a battery of tests, including extensive blood tests, a spinal tap and an MRI." Sharllene improved over the next several days and was released on July 15.

Eight days later, Mr. Tejada- Jimenez, 29, was arrested for shaking young Sharllene and charged with first- and second-degree assault as well as endangering the welfare of a child. According to the criminal complaint on file with the Bronx district attorney, Mr. Tejada-Jimenez allegedly grabbed 2-year-old Sharllene "by her torso and violently shook her causing her to jerk forward and backward several times."

A doctor from Montefiore said Sharllene suffered retinal hemorrhaging behind the left eye and a subdural hematoma. She also suffered brain swelling from a fall on her head.

Full confession

Mr. Tejada-Jimenez spilled his guts to a detective on July 23, 2006. "I shook my daughter at her house," he told a detective. "I grabbed her by the stomach, and I started shaking her … her head went back and forth four to five times … she then slipped out of my hands and fell to the floor and hit her head."

The very next day Ms. Mejia told a caseworker that Sharllene had been visiting her and hit her head while playing with another child.

On July 25, 2006, a doctor at Montefiore said Sharllene's prognosis was poor and she might not fully recover. The doctor told the caseworker Ms. Mejia had attempted suicide and was awaiting admission to a psychiatric unit.

Sharllene Marillo succumbed to her injuries the morning of July 28, 2006.

A Bronx Grand Jury indicted Mr. Tejada-Jimenez on Aug. 4, 2006, charging him with two counts of first-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. He is set to stand trial Sept. 5.

In the wake of several highprofile deaths, Children's Services said it is already taking measures to ensure other children don't meet the fate of Sharllene. In March, the agency unveiled a plan of 21 initiatives, including reviews by field officers and managers of all 10,000 open protective cases, and assigning high-level managers to each of the 14 field offices. The agency also plans to hire 100 new investigators to consult with caseworkers. In addition, Children's Services took disciplinary action against 14 employees in nine cases outlined in the report. Eight employees have challenged these actions.

Those charges are pending like Mr. Tejada-Jimenez's.

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