WARNING: This story contains details and photographs that some may find disturbing.
A Houston Grandmother describes her little granddaughter as "always laughing" and "willing to play". Mikisha Vaughn says that her granddaughter A’lona “Halo” Williams was always willing to help her cook. She was a typical toddler until early last year when Vaugh suspected that "Halo" was being abused.
Vaughn said the little one showed up at her house with her arm in a splint that he mother, Vaughn's daughter, claimed came from a trampoline accident.
“The bruise was too bad, and her arm was swollen all the way up,” Vaughn said.
And, she said, those were just the beginning of Halo’s injuries: “Her eye, her back, her leg, a lot of random places.”
Vaughn began taking the appropriate steps to report the suspected abuse. She repeatedly called Houston's Child Protective Services leaving "911" messages over and over but never receiving a response.
"In March, Vaughn said Halo was covered in scratches, bruises and what appeared to be belt marks. Vaughn said her daughter told her that a live-in boyfriend had given the girl "whoppings."
In April, Halo was taken to the hospital with a knot the size of a lemon on her head. Her mother claimed she hit her head on a slide at the park.
Then in June, Vaughn got a phone call from her daughter that she will never forget: Halo was in the emergency room. Vaughn raced to the hospital. She said her daughter wasn’t there.
“They were trying to save her. They were asking me a lot of stuff, ‘What had happened and where was I?’ I told them, ‘I was at home and got a call.’ They told me, ‘You want us to do what we can?’ I said, ‘I want you to do everything,’” Vaughn said."
Vaughn now has custody of "Halo's" two brothers and vows to seek permanent custody.
Attorney Mike Craig was appointed by the court to represent Halo's two brothers in custody proceedings after she died. Craig believes that the CPS system failed Halo by not acting fast enough.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is that it (Halo’s death) was completely preventable. It's clear that the system failed this vulnerable, defenseless child,” Craig said. “It (CPS) failed at intake. It failed at placement. The proper action did not take place in time to save this kid's life."
Vaughn's lawyer, Katie Flynn, says “There’s a breakdown somewhere. We are seeing a lot of lack of action by CPS, where serious allegations are being called in and they are not removing these kids but seeking to take temporary custody of these kids until it reaches a point, like A’lona, and someone ends up dead,” Flynn said.
Of course CPS has failed to comment.
What would you suggest someone do who's in this situation, knowing there's abuse yet, unable to get legal assistance for the child involved?