DSHS to pay $2.85M settlement in child starvation case

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on January 7, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 7 at 11:46 PM

SEATTLE – Washington state will pay $2.85 million to a boy who was nearly starved-to-death by his father. He's the second sibling to get millions from the state.

The settlement for Joey Abegg from the Department of Social and Health Services comes about 17 months after his younger brother, Shayne, received $5 million from the state in a near-death starvation case. It also comes three days before Joey's case was set to go to trial.

Their father, Danny Abegg, is suspected of starving them as a form of punishment.

Until age 3, Joey was a healthy boy. But when DSHS placed him in the home of his father, doctors' records show he began losing weight.

"As soon as DSHS placed Joey in the home of a known meth addict, his weight dropped off a cliff. In the first six months, he was down to the 50th weight percentile. Within 3 months after that, he was in the 25th weight percentile," said David P. Moody, Joey's attorney.

Moody says a neighbor called CPS four times over the next two years to report Joey and Shayne were starving, but she was never called back.

Joey's principal at Odyssey Elementary School in Mukilteo suspected Joey was a victim of neglect and abuse and called Child Protective Services with her concerns. Cheryl Boze says Joey was "unusually skinny" yet "ate voraciously" -anything he could get his hands on-at school. He was even caught fishing food out of the garbage.

Three days after that call, Joey’s dad yanked him out of school and moved him to another state. After that, no one from the DSHS checked on Joey again.

"Simply checked the box and said Joey's no longer in our jurisdiction, shrugged their shoulders and that was it," said Moody. "Out of sight, out of mind."

In November 2007, DSHS conducted an internal review of its role in Joey's case, concluding its caseworkers failed to take warnings seriously.

"DSHS takes in more than $9 billion in taxpayer money each year, and it's through lawsuits like this that we can hold DSHS accountable," said Moody.

Joey and Shayne have now been adopted together by a couple in Clarkston, Wash.

Danny Abegg and his girlfriend, Marilea Mitchell, are serving 8 year sentences for mistreatment in the case.

KING 5's Lori Matsukawa contributed to this report.
 

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