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Judge rules against DCS, finds agency in contempt in child death civil lawsuit

DCS ordered to search emails by Oct 19
DCS Director Eric Miller
DCS Director Eric Miller was ordered to appear before Judge Robert Freese on September 25 at 1 pm
Posted at 3:24 PM, Oct 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-05 15:24:47-04

HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind.— In an order handed down Thursday, a Hendricks County judge ruled against the Indiana Department of Child Services and found them in contempt of court.

Judge Robert Freese ordered DCS to immediately search emails to or from former DCS director Terry Stigdon and current Director Eric Miller related to Judah Morgan, a 4 year old boy who was murdered by his birth father.

DCS must complete the email search by October 19, according to the order.

Judah’s foster mother, Jenna Hullett, filed a lawsuit in Hendricks County against Judah’s birth father Alan Morgan.

DCS is not a party in the case, however, they had been ordered to turn over documents and emails related to Judah Morgan.

“While some compliance has been achieved, the question before the Court is whether DCS is in full compliance,” read the judge’s order handed down Thursday. “Given that DCS did not even search the email mailboxes for former Director Stigdon and current Director Miller—and both email mailboxes contain responsive emails—leads this Court to conclude that DCS is still not in full compliance with this Court’s Order.”

WRTV Investigates has reached out to Hullett’s attorney as well as DCS for comment.

A DCS spokesperson said they are reviewing the order.

DCS attorneys said last month the agency turned over 130,316 total pages of records after reviewing more than a million documents.

PREVIOUS | New court docs allege DCS director was aware of child 9 months prior to death

“I’ve been advised by counsel that the entire production of discovery was provided and is complete,” testified DCS Director Eric Miller.

Judah lived with his foster parents for four years before he was forced to return to his birth parents.

Six months later, on Oct. 9, Judah was found unresponsive at his birth parents' home and suffering from blunt force trauma.

PREVIOUS | 4-year old killed after custody granted to birth parents

Alan Morgan, Judah’s biological father, is currently serving more than 60 years for murdering Judah.

While DCS is not a party to the lawsuit, it criticizes the agency for how it handled Judah’s case and for not producing records in the civil lawsuit.

“This is a high profile case: The torture and death of Judah Morgan shortly after DCS abandoned him to drug addict parents with a disturbing history of domestic history of domestic instability and abuse,” read a September 19 court filing by Hullett’s attorney. “If DCS is unable to account for documents in this case, it calls into question the ability (or desire) of DCS to preserve records in tens of thousands of other cases.”

Hullett’s attorney questioned Miller at a September 25 hearing as to why Miller’s email account had not been searched for records pertaining to Judah Morgan’s case, as well as former DCS director Terry Stigdon.

“At any point did you raise your hand or instruct the people who work for you, make sure you include my emails in order to make sure we are producing everything?” asked Hullett’s attorney Charles Rice.

“What I said was to make sure all discovery was provided because that’s what we are required to do and that’s why we have a staff of attorneys and non-attorney who work on courtroom issues including discovery,” responded Miller. “I would not be aware of my email being searched, but I would expect my email to be searched if I had documents.”

Miller denied DCS destroyed any records in Judah Morgan’s case.

  • Hullett’s attorney: That's the most important part of your job is to keep children safe, correct?
  • Miller: There are many important parts of my job.
  • Hullett’s attorney: You think there's anything more important than keeping children safe in the state of Indiana?
  • Miller: Our number one priority is the safety of children.

DCS also said that it has not turned over employee text messages because they are not stored on a server.
DCS said Hullett’s attorney will have to subpoena the wireless providers.

Hendricks County Superior Court Judge Robert Freese criticized the agency for not providing Miller’s emails on Judah Morgan’s case.

“I am concerned that the current director and prior director’s emails were not searched,” said Judge Freese. “This is the death of a child. I don’t care if there’s 10 million CHINS (Child In Need of Services) cases out there there’s not 10 million child deaths in a year. If the department is such that the department doesn’t have one email regarding the death of a child that’s suspect to me.”

Jenna Hullett’s attorney Charles Rice said he hopes this case will prompt DCS to be more transparent.

“No one is above an order to produce documents,” said Rice. “If you have documents, you should be producing them. That’s all we wanted today was to get everything produced in regard to Judah and his death.”

Jenna Hullett doesn’t want Judah’s death to be in vain.

“If we can get answers as to what went wrong in his case then maybe that will help correct things in the system to better save other kids,” said Hullett.

Eric Miller already knows the inner workings of DCS because he served as chief of staff since 2017 until taking over as director on May 8.

Earlier this month, WRTV Investigates told you Miller has refused to sit down with WRTV to talk about his plans for the agency—a decision that’s not sitting well with foster parents and lawmakers.

PREVIOUS | DCS Director declines interview despite calls for transparency

"As the director, the buck stops with him,” said Sen. JD Ford, D-Indianapolis. “He has got to answer those tough questions."

As for Mary Yoder, Judah’s mother, she was convicted earlier this year for neglect of a dependent resulting in death and will be sentenced on November 1.

The most recent numbers available show 60 children died from abuse and neglect in Indiana in 2021.