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Dead or Alive
February 19, 2008 permalink
Today's story of social worker incompetence comes from Endwell New York where a social worker entered the home of her ward and reported him well, though the boy had been dead for three days. Twelve-year-old Peter Munck is the latest addition to our list of children who died after separation from their parents. We used to say this was a fair measure of abuse in foster care since there can't be controversy about whether a person is dead or alive. Maybe we were wrong.
posted Tuesday February 19, 2008
DSS worker unaware boy had died
Official visited house Friday, met at door by brother
By Brian Liberatore, Press & Sun-Bulletin
ENDWELL -- A Broome County child protective services employee, who was dispatched Friday to check on 12-year-old Peter Munck, did not know the boy had been dead since Wednesday, according to the Broome County Sheriff's Office.
"Whatever the worker did to verify the well-being of Peter, he wasn't able to detect that Peter was deceased," Detective Lt. Patrick Isenburg said Monday. "Whether (the CPS employee) didn't get close enough (to the boy), I don't know."
After the visit, a CPS official did call an aunt who went to 228 Hastings Ave. early Friday night and discovered Peter's lifeless body, Isenburg said.
"We know from the autopsy and the investigation that (Peter) was deceased for some time (by Friday night)," Isenburg said.
Deputies have determined that Peter's brother, 22-year-old Shawn Munck, on Tuesday night put his foot on the boy's midsection and pushed down with enough force to cause internal bleeding during what police described as "a physical altercation."
Peter then went to bed and died sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Shawn Munck has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, a felony, and committed to Broome County Jail.
Isenburg said that when a CPS employee visited the home, Shawn Munck answered the door and let the CPS employee into the house. Munck's friend, Joseph Menard, 23, of Endicott, was also at the house at the time.
Arthur Johnson, commissioner of the Broome County Department of Social Services, which heads CPS, said confidentiality laws forbid him from commenting.
Maine-Endwell school officials had called CPS on Feb. 12, which was the day of the "altercation," deputies said. Isenburg said he did not know whether CPS employees responded to the Feb. 12 complaint.
M-E officials called CPS again Thursday, when Peter failed to show up to classes, according to district Superintendent Joseph Stoner. Peter was a sixth- grader at Maine-Endwell Middle School.
Peter Munck's legal guardian and grandmother, Carolyn Mitrus, 71, was not in the house at the time because she was reportedly in an area hospital for heart surgery. Since 2000, Mitrus has had custody of Peter (and Shawn, too, although he is now an adult).
The boys' father, Erik A. Munck, 39, has been in Southport state prison since 1999 serving a 10-12 year sentence imposed by Broome County Court for attempted burglary, criminal possession of a weapon and attempted assault.
Their mother, Carol Wilbur, is not incarcerated, Isenburg said. Sheriff David E. Harder had said Saturday that he believed the mother was also in prison.
A woman claiming to be Wilbur called the Press & Sun-Bulletin on Monday to refute Harder's claim. The woman, who talked with a newsroom clerk, would not stay on the line long enough to talk with a reporter.
At the time of Peter's death, only Munck and Menard were in the home, said police, who do not intend to charge Menard with any crime.
"There's no indication he (Menard) knew the situation," Isenburg said. Menard told a Press & Sun-Bulletin reporter Saturday that he heard Shawn and Peter "horsing around" in a different room at the time deputies believe Shawn put his foot on his younger brother's midsection.
Peter and Shawn Munck's aunt, whose identity was not released, arrived at the house about 7 p.m. Friday after receiving a call from CPS. She called emergency personnel at 7:15 p.m.
Deputies initially ruled the death suspicious. Law enforcement cordoned off the house, which is located between Watson Boulevard and Country Club Road, and took Peter's body to Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton for an autopsy.
Shawn Munck stayed at Menard's house Friday night. Deputies arrested Munck there on Saturday and charged him with his younger brother's death.
A woman presumed to be Peter's aunt did not want to talk about the child or the circumstances surrounding his death when contacted Sunday. A phone call Monday to the same number was quickly aborted.
The boy's sister, Cara Munck, who did not live at the Hastings Avenue address, did not return messages sent to her college e-mail account.
Johnson said DSS was "cooperating fully with police and the District Attorney's Office.
The state Office of Children and Family Services investigates all circumstances where a child dies and a social services department is involved, Johnson said. That report, by law, would be available to the public upon its completion.
Staff writer William Moyer contributed to this report.
Source: Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Addendum: A reader points out the irony that social workers claim the insight to spot child abuse from telltale signs, yet cannot tell whether a boy is dead or alive.