TESTIMONY A LITANY OF PAIN KAYLA'S DOCTOR DETAILS INJURIES IN WORKERS' HEARING
Orlando Sentinel; Orlando, Fla.;
Apr 15, 1999;
By Kathryn Quigley of The Sentinel Staff
WILDWOOD - A pediatrician who examined Kayla McKean said the 6- year-old was bruised and battered all over her body, including black eyes, scratches on her face and bruises on her chest, abdomen and backside.
Dr. Mona Patel of Clermont Pediatrics told a hearing of the Public Employees Relations Commission on Wednesday that the little girl's father told three different stories to explain the injuries - none of which added up.
Patel's testimony was part of the case against four former employees of the Lake County office of the Department of Children & Families who were fired for failing to protect Kayla from abuse.
Kayla's father, Richard Adams of Clermont, has confessed to beating Kayla to death in November and then burying her body in woods. He is being held in the Lake County Jail, awaiting trial.
The employees - protective investigators Kelly Mahoney and Keith Bracey and supervisors Chuck Herkal and Kate Busby - are appealing their dismissals and want their jobs back. Their attorney, Larry Johnson of Winter Park, said his clients did not deserve to be fired for their roles in Kayla's case.
Busby said she is fighting for her job because she loves being a social worker. She also wants to clear her name because she can't get hired at any other child service agency with the firing on her record, she said.
Department lawyers on Wednesday laid out their case against the employees, including testimony about how many people saw Kayla's injuries and tried to help her.
Kayla's mother, Elisabeth McKean, testified briefly that none of the fired employees ever talked to her about the girl. McKean, looking thin and drawn, burst into tears outside the hearing room and was comforted by her boyfriend. McKean was asked if she thought the employees deserved to be fired.
"My daughter is dead," she said, crying. "That should be answer enough."
Richard Adams brought Kayla to Patel's office in June, after two abuse reports about the first-grader had been called in to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Patel called in the third report after determining the child was in "imminent danger" of abuse from her father.
Adams told Patel several stories of how Kayla got her multitude of injuries, including Kayla fell off her bike and hit her eyes on the handlebars; Kayla hit her head on the doorjamb; and Kayla fell on the ground while he was making her do jumping jacks.
Patel didn't believe him.
"It seemed unlikely that any or all of these explanations would have caused all these injuries," Patel said.
Black eyes especially cannot be caused by a fall from a bike, she said. Such injuries require blunt-force trauma to the face.
Another doctor a month earlier had reached a different conclusion when Adams brought Kayla to the emergency room of South Lake Hospital. Dr. Christine Murphy, who will testify later in the week, determined Kayla's injuries could have resulted from a fall from a bike.
Mahoney relied on Murphy's conclusion last May when asking a Lake County judge to send Kayla back to her father after one night in foster care. Bracey also referred to Murphy's conclusion when he investigated another report of abuse to Kayla.
Administrators with the department testified that Mahoney and Bracey were at fault because Bracey never contacted Patel.
Lonnie Stooksbury, a friend of Adams, testified that he was horrified when he saw Kayla's bruised and battered face in May. At first, he thought the little girl was wearing a Halloween mask.
"The whole side of her face was swollen all the way down," he said.
One of her eyes was swollen shut and oozing. The other was bruised and red. Her left hand was so swollen and purple that her knuckles had disappeared.
Adams said Kayla got hurt by riding her bike into a brick wall.
Stooksbury eventually persuaded Adams to take the girl to the emergency room at South Lake Hospital. Stooksbury said he was relieved when Mahoney showed up at the emergency room to interview Adams and Kayla because he figured she would see the abuse and take the little girl away from her father.
"I just figured if I could take her to the hospital, then everything would be OK," he said.
The appeal hearings continue through Friday at DCF headquarters in Wildwood. A decision on whether the employees will be rehired by the department will not be known for another month.
A fifth employee who was fired, Bob Froeman, said he decided not to appeal his termination. Froeman, the longtime operations administrator in Lake County, had worked at the department for 31 years before he was fired.