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DFCS knew girl wasn't being fed months before death

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on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 20:06
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State documents obtained exclusively by CBS Atlanta News show the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) suspected a Cobb County girl was not being fed 20 months before she died of starvation. 

Markea Berry, 16, was found dead in her Mableton home on June 15. Police said she was severely malnourished.

Police charged her mother, Ebony Berry, with her death. According to the arrest warrant, the mother starved Markea, who was mentally challenged.

Markea ran away in August 2010. She was found in a Walmart in Austell the next day after police issued an Amber Alert. She told police she ran away because her mother was overwhelmed caring for her and her siblings.

According to DFCS documents, a witness reported Markea looked malnourished and scared.

A caseworker who visited the family in November 2010 commented that a child in a home was "underdeveloped," and her "ribs were visible." The caseworker also wrote that she had concerns that the child was being isolated in a room and "was not being fed."

On Dec. 10, 2010, DFCS closed the investigation after telling the mother she needed to schedule medical exams for her children.  The documents did not indicate whether Ebony Berry scheduled those appointments.

Before closing the case, DFCS obtained records showing a history of abuse allegations against Ebony Berry by her family when she lived in Michigan.

DFCS director Ron Scroggy has agreed to be interviewed about this next week. 

This is a timeline of events as indicated in the DFCS case file and police reports:

9/29/09  - Ebony Berry reported to Atlanta police that a man at her church sexually molested her daughter, Markea. An investigation was opened and closed a month later when the mother became uncooperative. 

8/19/10 - Ebony Berry reports to police that child is missing from her home at 649 Concord Ln., Mableton.

8/20/10 - Child found in Walmart at 1133 East-West Connector, Austell.

8/20/10 - Ebony Berry told police she was overwhelmed with providing for Markea and her two siblings. She stated if Markea was not around it would be easier.

10/25/10 - Ebony Berry seen dragging Markea out of same Walmart. Incident caught on security camera.        

10/31/10 - Witness filed report with Cobb County Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

11/3/10 - DFCS case  manager visited home. She found girl sitting in dark corner of kitchen. Worker reported child was thin and small with dark circles around eyes. She lists she was concerned that the child was not being home schooled, not exposed to community or provided socialization, was being isolated/locked in room and not being fed.

11/10/10 - Cobb DFCS faxed request for documents to DHS in Michigan.

11/10/10 - Caseworker advised Ebony Berry to schedule medical appointments.

11/16/10 - Michigan DHS faxed documents to Cobb DFC.

Documents reveal family members alleged Ebony Berry was abusing children beginning in 1999 to 2004.

Family members alleged Ebony Berry slapped her 4-month-old child; told to the child to "shut the f--- up;" placed child in freezing water for wetting bed; hit a child in the head with a shoe.  Documents also say Ebony Berry made her children fearful of talking with child protective services officials. 

12/10/10 - DFCS closed investigation into Berry family.

6/15/12 - Markea found dead in her home. Autopsy revealed she weighed 43 pounds at time of death. Ebony Berry charged with murder and cruelty to children for allegedly starving Markea.

By Jeff Chirico