Prosecutors announced Thursday that they will not charge a supervisorwith the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) who they believe was misidentified in indictments brought last year in the Bradley McGee case.
The announcement fueled speculation that indictments against four state child protection workers are unraveling.
Earlier this week, the State Attorney's Office dropped a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse against HRS worker Judy Ross. Assistant State Attorney John Aguero said Ross is not the person who took a phone call in December 1988 alleging that Bradley McGee, a 2-year-old foster child, was in danger when he visited with his mother and step-father.
Last April, Bradley was returned to Sheryl and Thomas Coe, who had
abandoned him as an infant. Two months later, he was dead. The Coes are scheduled to stand trial on murder charges in July after telling deputies they dunked the boy headfirst into a toilet after a potty training accident.
The trial of Ross, a former foster care supervisor now working in child support enforcement, was scheduled for March 1. The State Attorney's Office now believes Pat Lawler, an HRS supervisor, took the phone call about Bradley. But Lawler will not be prosecuted, the State Attorney's Office said.
Steve Konicki, an HRS spokesman, criticized the State Attorney's Office and called for all charges to be dropped.
"The prosecutor based these indictments on our investigation, which was not a criminal investigation and did not recommend criminal prosecution," Konicki said from Tallahassee. "Now his case is crumbling, and he is blaming us. It doesn't wash." Aguero said he would not comment on Konicki's statements. Neither would State Attorney Jerry Hill nor his spokesman, Chip Thullbery.
Hill said when the grand jury announced the indictments that his
department had not investigated the case but relied on the HRS inspector general's report.
Aguero also said Thursday that dropping the charge against Ross and declining to prosecute Lawler will have no effect on the cases of three other HRS workers charged in the Bradley McGee case.
The charge against Ross was dropped because it was learned last week that Teresa Jacobs, the woman who said she told Ross that Sheryl Coe was abusing alcohol and cocaine, had actually talked to Lawler.