Investigators: Therapist's records don't add up

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by By / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 21 at 2:42 PM

Video: Therapist's records don't add up

LYNNWOOD, Wash. - It's been exactly two years since firefighters rescued Shayne Abegg from his family's apartment in Lynnwood. The little boy was on the verge of death from starvation.

His father and his girlfriend are both serving prison time for withholding food from Shayne as a form of punishment.

The KING 5 Investigators have obtained new documents which question whether the one person paid plenty to make sure Shayne was safe was really doing the job.

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Four-and-a-half months before Shayne Abegg was rescued in a life-threatening, emaciated state, his Department of Social and Health Services social worker had a strong hunch there was trouble in the house.

She wanted the little boy taken away from his parents, whom she suspected were abusive.

But her supervisor said no. Shayne would stay and DSHS would help make sure he was safe. They hand picked a contracted family therapist, Brad Simpkins, to do the job.

Simpkins works for the Snoqualmie Tribe at Snoqualmie Behavioral Health, which provides contract work for DSHS.

His mission was to help the Abeggs with parenting skills and family communication.

The parents also complained that Shayne raided the kitchen cupboards and hoarded food in his room. Simpkins was going to help them solve this problem as well.

According to Simpkins' monthly reports to supervisors and daily progress notes, he worked on the case non-stop.

Over the final four months Shayne lived with his parents, Simpkins' records show he had two-hour visits with the family in their apartment nearly 20 times.

Right after each visit he typed up detailed observations. Some of his notations include, the "parents seem happier," "Shayne moves easily around the house," and "Shayne's eyes are red" from having a cold.

The records also detail his phone calls to state social workers after each check-up to update them on the progress.

With that kind of oversight, the KING 5 Investigators wanted to know how someone could miss that Shayne was crumbling from a round, 38-pound 3-year-old to a skeletal 24-pound 4-and-a-half-year-old who couldn't stand or walk on his own.

KING 5 reviewed more than 1,000 documents including billing records, chart notes and time sheets to get to the bottom of it.

The records show Simpkins was getting paid. But they also raise the question: Was he really doing the work?

Remember those detailed notes Simpkins said, under oath, he'd written after each visit? We've found that's not true.

In a deposition last month, Simpkins admitted he'd actually re-created all those notes after seeing news reports on TV that Shayne had been rescued and was near death from starvation.

He says the original records were lost when his laptop was stolen.

He also said the tribe couldn't find any of their files on the little boy either.

When the news stories came out Simpkins says his bosses at the tribe told him to go home and reconstruct the records.

Simpkins and his attorney turned down our offers to talk about the case. When approached at his home he told KING 5: "I'm about to leave, and I've been advised by my attorney not to talk to anyone."

We wanted to ask Simpkins about his billing records for that time period. They don't match up with his re-created reports.

We found dozens of dates he billed for working with the Abeggs where there's no documentation it really happened; there's no accompanying record of what he saw, what he did, or who he talked to.

He billed for one day that he'd actually called in sick.

Another day he said he spent two hours with the family at their apartment at the very same time DSHS social worker Ada Sharp says she was there. Sharp doesn't remember seeing Simpkins that day.

She doesn't recall getting all those phone calls Simpkins got paid for either.

We also wanted to ask Simpkins about his re-created notes describing Shayne as looking "happy and healthy," and eating "three meals a day." Just two weeks before he was rescued Simpkins wrote he "looked good."

Those descriptions don't match the photos taken of Shayne by firefighters showing a frail, gaunt boy with infected wounds and hair falling out of his head from malnutrition.

At Simpkins' home he told us he had seen the photos of Shayne, but he closed the door on us as we asked if he'd actually been to the Abeggs or worked on the case as much as he'd been paid for doing so.

Brad Simpkins still works as a family therapist for the Snoqualmie Tribe. The Department of Social and Health Services still contracts with the tribe for services, but since the Shayne Abegg case, DSHS hasn't used Simpkins' services.

Shayne is 6 years old now. He's still living in foster care. His attorney, David P. Moody, has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit on Shayne's behalf against DSHS and Brad Simpkins.

The lawsuit claims DSHS social workers ignored warnings of abuse and neglect and that Brad Simpkins had a legal duty to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to police or to CPS, which never happened.

The trial is set for June 22.

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