More than a year before a 2-year-old girl was allegedly murdered, a call was placed to the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline reporting her mother was physically abusing one of her children – but that call was screened out.
Now the girl's mother, Brittney Massey, faces charges of murder, battery resulting in death, and neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Her trial is scheduled to begin August 25.
In November of 2013, prosecutors allege Massey hit her 2-year-old daughter Destinee after a toilet-training accident. They say she then held her daughter face down on her bed until she stopped crying.
After the death, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney requested Brittney Massey’s file with the Indiana Department of Child Services in an effort to see if Massey had a history with the state.
DCS and the court released the file six months later on June 20.
Records show someone called the hotline about Brittney Massey on March 14, 2012, to report the mother had been physically abusing one of her children.
The call was “screened out” by the hotline worker, which means it did not meet the threshold for investigation at that time.
“What that means is a call came into our hotline did not meet certain criteria for it to be passed on," said James Wide, DCS spokesperson. “I don't know the specifics of why that particular call was non-assessed. That was early on in the hotline process. Since then we have changed the policy and the way we do business at the hotline to better serve Hoosiers."
Because of confidentiality, DCS cannot reveal the caller’s name or the content of the call.
Wide explained currently hotline workers can make recommendations but the ultimate decision to do an abuse or neglect assessment is at the local level.
The change came after criticism from the public and state lawmakers.
Kenney asked Wide if there was any way of knowing if the call could have saved Destinee’s life, had it not been screened out.
“Sadly, there’s no way to know,” Wide said.
Records show after Destinee’s death, investigators found Destinee and her older sister had markings consistent with physical abuse, including bruises, healing marks and looped marks.
The Indiana Abuse and Neglect Hotline takes in roughly 190,000 calls a year and Wide said they need as much information from the caller as possible.
“Please do call in 1-800-800-5556 and we will go through the process to make sure we can do everything we can to serve that child," said Wide.
Massey’s two other young children were placed in the care of Child Protective Services.
Massey has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.
Her public defender did not respond to requests for comment on the DCS file.