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Dead Girl Walking
June 15, 2006 permalink
Here is the story of a father who paid child support for eleven years after the death of his daughter, without knowing she was dead. It is not the first concealed death in family law. The fathers group FACT has found cases of fathers who paid child support for years to a deceased mother. At least the Texas father by rights ought to have been notified of his daughter's death. Parents of crown wards have no legal right to notice of the death of their children.
Girl's death lost in the system
Dad paid support for 11 years after child killed
A check in the mail led Daniel Davenport to a terrible discovery.
The Wichitan had lost his daughter, Ashley,when he and her mother broke up in 1988. Ashley stayed in the Golden State with her mother. Davenport left California in 1990 and returned to Wichita Falls.
Davenport lost Ashley again - this time to a fatal car accident in July 1995.
But he wouldn't know about the wreck until 11 years later after, receiving a refund check for child support, arrears and medical insurance from the Texas Attorney General's office.
Davenport pulled the check from his mailbox one day in April - of this year.
When Davenport and his fiancee Kelly Reece contacted the office to question the refund, they were told "the child is deceased and no more payments are required."
A check for $2,160 was all that remained of Ashley's life.
Davenport is sickened by the fact that his daughter's life was shuffled away, lost in 11 years worth of paperwork, like a file on a messy desk.
"I thought they meant she had been dead six months since that was how much child support the check was for," Davenport said. Davenport said the Texas office told him he'd have to contact the Stanislaus County Department of Child Support Services in California to find out more.
The Stanislaus County office told him Ashley had died in July 1995.
A news story Davenport obtained, published in the Modesto Bee, stated that Ashley, then 6 years old, was killed in a car accident on July 3, 1995. Her mother was driving and accelerated through a red light. The car was broadsided on the front passenger side.
Ashley was riding in a passenger's lap in the front seat. She was ejected from the vehicle and suffered fatal chest and head injuries, according to an accident report from the Modesto Police Department.
A later article in the Bee stated that Ashley's mother stayed one day in jail and received three years probation as a result of the accident.
Janece Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General's office child support division, said Texas was notified of the death in September 2005 by the Stanislaus County office - 10 years after Ashley's death.
Rolfe said Texas is in discussions with California at this time about the Davenport case.
"We're going over everything with a fine-toothed comb," Rolfe said.
In Texas, "we routinely match our case load with death certificates issued by the Vital Statistics Unit through the Texas Department of State Health Services," Rolfe said. Rolfe said the systems differ state by state, and the same procedures might not be in place in California.
Neal Selover, public information officer with the Stanislaus County Department of Child Support Services, said he was not able to speak about specific cases, citing privacy laws in California. He did not comment on any safeguards the office has to ensure clients are paying child support on live children and directed calls to the complaint division at the Stanislaus office.
In 1993, California opened a case on Ashley, and Texas was enlisted to collect the money from Davenport, who is now working as a mechanic in Wichita Falls. He said he did get behind a few times on the support payments and owed arrears.
He said he had been called to court numerous times, after 1995, and his bank account was even frozen in 2004 by the Texas Attorney General's office to pay arrears - nine years after Ashley's death.
He said he spoke with the Stanislaus office Tuesday, and they offered to send him a check for $2,000. But Davenport said he will not accept the money until they answer his questions, namely, how could both Texas and California lose a child for 11 years.
"I've got a bunch of questions they still have not answered," Davenport said. "The money is not the deal. I just want somebody to take responsibility for this."
He said he was considering obtaining legal counsel to deal with the agencies and get the story straight.
"They knew how to find me to take me to court, but they couldn't find me to tell me my little girl was dead."
Davenport and Ashley's mother had separated shortly after Ashley was born in 1988, and Davenport hadn't seen Ashley since she was 6 weeks old.
"We didn't get along," Davenport said of his former girlfriend. I was young and crazy, and one day I left to go to work and when I came home, she and Ashley were gone," Davenport said.
Davenport said he did a three-month stint in jail in California in 1988, and, by the time he got out, he had lost track of both Ashley and her mother. He said he decided to come back to Wichita Falls, his home, in 1990.
"I've tried to contact her all these years, and I haven't been able to find them," Davenport said.
Davenport has had a checkered past with the law, according to the Web site PublicData.com. He admitted his criminal history.
"My past is my past. This isn't about me. This is about the state of Texas and the state of California losing my daughter for 11 years," Davenport said.
He said he was looking forward to this fall, when Ashley would have turned 18, so that he might be able to establish a relationship with her. Now, Davenport must deal with Ashley's death.
"Nobody should have to go through this, to send payments every week on current child support only to find out their daughter died all these years ago," Davenport said. "I don't know how to even express how I feel about this."
He just found out two weeks ago where his daughter is buried.
But Davenport is not ready to mourn.
He is preparing letters to send to every Attorney General's office in the United States. He said he's written letters to Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has contacted Sen. Craig Estes' office.
"I'm too upset to mourn right now. I am very mad. It sounds like to me, the system is the deadbeat," Davenport said.
Source: Times Record News