Local News

Report released in Garner toddler's death

Posted January 26, 2009 3:35 p.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2009 6:28 p.m. EST

— Wake County Child Protective Services had heard from two individuals concerned about the welfare of a 19-month-old Garner boy found dead in his home in mid-November.

Social workers concluded, however, that neither report included information about child abuse or neglect that would give them grounds to intervene, according to a statement the agency released Monday.

Sherita Nicole McNeil, 23, of 1852 Spring Drive, Garner, was charged Thursday afternoon with first-degree murder and concealing the death of a person in the death of DeVarion Montrell Gross.

Garner police went to McNeil's home on Nov. 14 after DeVarion's grandmother reported finding his body inside a trash bag in an upstairs-bedroom closet. It had been drenched with bleach in an effort to conceal the smell, police said.

Investigators have said that they believe the boy had been dead since early October, when he was last seen alive.

According to Warren Ludwig, child welfare administrator for Wake County, social workers received reports from two sources on Nov. 3 about DeVarion's well-being. They had had no prior contacts concerning him or his mother.

The first source reported suspecting that McNeil might have been lying about DeVarion's whereabouts. Authorities referred that person to police and suggested the individual seek legal advice.

The second person was worried that the boy might have been harmed or given to somebody and alleged that McNeil never wanted the child and was having financial difficulties, Ludwig said.

Both sources told Child Protective Services that prior to DeVarion's birth, McNeil had arranged for a friend to raise him, but reclaimed him when he was 8 months old.

"The information provided by the second person was screened by an intake social worker and supervisor, according to the structured intake policy used to determine if CPS has legal jurisdiction to conduct an assessment," Ludwig said.

Those people decided it did not, he added, but Child Protective Services sent a letter detailing the information to the Garner Police Department for review.

According to a time line that police released Friday, police tried contacting McNeil four times after that and had a Nov. 13 appointment with her. McNeil, however, missed the meeting.

The state medical examiner is still working to determine a cause of death, but preliminary findings indicate DeVarion suffered multiple injuries in the months preceding his death, Garner Police Chief Tom Moss said.

Although police did not give a motive for the crime, search warrants suggest they suspected McNeil might have wanted to get rid of her son.

Investigators searching the home uncovered letters from DeVarion's father, Eric Chambers, expressing concern over McNeil getting rid of their son, according to a Dec. 3 search warrant.

Chambers, who was in the Wake County jail at the time on habitual-felon charges, has been cooperative with police, investigators said, and they do not believe he had any involvement in his son's death.