AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Child Protective Services (CPS), a division of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS), has launched an internal investigation after the body of Colton Turner, a two-year-old Cedar Park boy, was found in a shallow grave in Southeast Austin last Friday, despite multiple prior abuse complaints being filed against the child’s mother in the months before his death.
As reported by Austin TWC News, over the course of Colton Turner’s short life, four separate complaints of suspected abuse were filed against his mother, Meagan Work, 20. CPS told TWC News that two of the complaints had been investigated and closed, but two cases were still open, active investigations, and confirmed that an internal investigation is being conducted regarding how case workers responded to the complaints. The troubling circumstances of the child’s death have led many in the community to question whether something more could have been done to save his life.
The child’s death was discovered last week after Cedar Park Police received a “check welfare call” regarding the child, when a friend of the boy’s mother reported that photos of the child on social media showed severe bruising on his back and head. According to officials, the bruises appeared to be in different stages of healing, which indicates “suggested continued abuse,” and their investigation also revealed that the child had not been seen publicly since July.
When Work was questioned, she gave inconsistent stories regarding the boy’s whereabouts that were quickly proven false. Work was arrested, charged with a child endangerment/ abandonment charge, a third-degree felony, and booked into the Williamson County Jail. Investigators then questioned Work’s boyfriend, Michael Turner,29, who was already in custody in the San Saba County Jail on a probation revocation. Turner admitted that the child was dead, and agreed to show investigators where his body was buried.
As described in the arrest affidavit, back in early July, Work and Turner had been staying at a hotel with the child. The toddler had hit his head on an air conditioning unit inside the hotel room, severely enough that he had not been able to walk or act normally afterwards, and then had a seizure later that day. Work and Turner apparently debated taking the child to the hospital — they gave conflicting statements to police, each blaming the other for not wanting to go to the hospital — but stayed at the hotel, attempting to care for the child there. When Work awoke the next morning, the child was dead. The two ended up burying his body in a shallow grave in Southeast Austin, where Turner led investigators.
Both Work and Turner are in custody at the Travis County Jail, charged with tampering with physical evidence, a second-degree felony with a potential sentence of two to twenty years. Bond is set at $250,000.
Breitbart Texas contributing writer and legal analyst Lana Shadwick, has investigated other reports of problems at CPS for Breitbart Texas and was skeptical that an internal investigation conducted by CPS would be effective. “When CPS says it will investigate its own actions in closing case referrals of abuse and you now have a dead baby, what you have is a classic case of the Fox guarding the Hen house,” said Shadwick. “The Legislature must act next session to have an entity outside of the Department itself, investigating this and other acts and omissions.” Shadwick, a 22 year lawyer who has served as a family court associate judge and TDFPS lawyer, has also expressed frustration at overzealous CPS actions, such as the recent case of the Austin mother investigated for letting her six year old son play outside by himself. Regarding that case, Shadwick commented, “Far too often, Child Protective Services leaves common-sense behind and wastes precious government resources raining terror on the innocent. Real evils go unchecked, and lives are lost.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.