Keenan Taylor Lawsuit Pending Against DHS

Wednesday, February 13th 2008, 6:50 pm
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is already facing a lawsuit over the death of little boy named Keenan Taylor.  Keenan's story was the subject of a News On 6 Investigation last fall.  DHS removed him from his mother's care and gave him to his father, who then abused him so severely, Keenan died.  Keenan's maternal grandfather believes DHS is just as guilty.

"When DHS put him in a different system, this kid lasted for six months.  they gave him six months to live," said Archie Taylor, Keenan's grandfather.

December of 2004 was when DHS convinced a judge to order Keenan removed from his mother's care.  According to state records, Keenan's mother tested positive for drugs and had just had a baby who tested positive as well.  Based on those results, and on reports that she had neglected her other children, too, the judge sent all six to live with their fathers.

Keenan lived with his father, Carlis Ball, for about six months.

On June 9th, 2005, Ball called 911 to report Keenan had been badly burned.  In spite of how he acted at the scene, investigators say Ball caused those burns.  They say he poured boiling water on Keenan, and didn't make the call to 911 until almost a day later.

Keenan died at the hospital, just nine days before he would have turned three.  A jury sent Keenan's father to prison for the rest of his life for murder and child neglect.

"They told me that there was an accident and that Keenan was dead," said Archie Taylor, Keenan's grandfather.

But, Keenan's maternal grandfather says he knew right away Keenan's death was no accident.  And that's part of why he's suing DHS and six of its employees.  He says Keenan died as the result of abuse and neglect, but also something more.

"I mean a lie is a lie," said Archie Taylor, Keenan's grandfather.

Archie Taylor says the caseworkers should have known Keenan was being abused.  But he says the caseworkers never checked, and lied to cover their tracks.

State investigators seemed to agree with him.

"This case was not handled according to DHS's established policies and procedures," said Lisa Smith with the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.

The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth oversees all state agencies that deal with children, including the Department of Human Services.

It released a report on how DHS handled Keenan's case.  The investigation found evidence workers mishandled reports in the weeks just before Keenan's death, and even made them up.

Last fall an appeals court upheld the conviction of Keenan's father, Carlis Ball.  But, it overturned his two life sentences.  He's expected to be re-sentenced sometime this year.