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Review places no blame on child welfare system in fatal dog attack on Clearwater infant

Lynnie, a female mixed breed dog, was euthanized after fatally attacking 7-month-old Khloe Williams of Clearwater. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Nov. 16, 2018

CLEARWATER — An internal review places no blame on investigators or case managers in a fatal dog attack on a 7-month-old girl while she was in foster care.

The Florida Department of Children and Families report also provides new details in the death Khloe Williams last month: the infant was in her car seat on a couch at the time of the attack and her foster grandmother called family members afterward before calling 911.

Meantime, Clearwater police detectives have concluded a separate investigation into the death and sent it to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted, police spokesman Rob Shaw said. Prosecutors with the office are still looking into the case, a state attorney's representative said this week.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Mother of baby killed by dog in foster care thought family would be reunited soon

According to the Department of Children and Families review, child protective investigators had checked out two reports involving Khloe and her birth mother, Shavon Grossman. The first report in February raised concerns about Grossman's drug use. Her daughter had amphetamines and benzodiazepines in her system at birth, the report says. Grossman kept custody of Khloe and enrolled in drug treatment.

The second report came in May, after Grossman had dropped Khloe off at her sister's house with no supplies, the report says. She was also not fulfilling requirements of her drug treatment program. Investigators removed Khloe from her mother's care May 15.

The review found the action taken in both cases was appropriate and that communication between the agencies "was collaborative and occurred at multiple junctions, from investigations through case management."

Khloe's foster parents, John and Melissa Maser, were properly licensed to take in a foster child, according to the review. They also practiced fair judgment when they decided to drop Khloe off with John Maser's mother while they went to a movie with their other children. Florida law gives leeway for foster parents to leave children with babysitters as long as the decision is "reasonable and prudent."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: New details emerge in fatal dog attack on Clearwater 7-month-old

Melissa Maser dropped Khloe off about 1:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at her mother-in-law's house at 1125 Fairwood Ave., according to the report. Khloe started to cry, so Pamela Maser, 72, took her to the kitchen to prepare a bottle.

The dog, Josie, started barking and scratching in her kennel. Pamela Maser thought she needed to go outside, so she put Khloe in a car seat and placed it on the couch. As soon as she opened the kennel, the dog ran past her and jumped onto Khloe.

Pamela Maser pried the dog's mouth open to get her off Khloe then put the dog outside. She called her son, a Clearwater police detective, as Khloe cried. She then called her husband, a retired Clearwater police deputy chief, and asked him to come home, the review says.

She saw that Khloe was bleeding but couldn't tell from where. She took her into the bathroom to wash her face. At that point, John Maser called his mother back. He and his wife were home within 15 minutes, the report says. John Maser called 911, said Kevin Hayslett, a lawyer representing Pamela Maser.

Hayslett said his client made a reasonable decision to call her son and husband considering they both had law enforcement experience. She didn't know how bad the injury was, he said, and was in shock from the attack.

"My client was acting, in her mind, reasonably under the circumstances and as a woman who was in total shock," Hayslett said.

A lawyer representing Grossman, Khloe's birth mother, said the review left out what he called a crucial fact: The dog, who has since been euthanized, bit Paul Maser when Maser encountered the dog in March at Pinellas County Animal Services, according to the dog's records.

The Masers contend it was a scratch and that Paul Maser bleeds easily because of blood thinning medication, Hayslett said. The dog had also spent time around the family's other children, who, according to the review, visited their paternal grandparents about once a month.

Still, Grossman's attorney, Nioti Koulianos, said the attack stemmed from poor judgment.

"Would a prudent parent leave their kid around a dog that has bitten somebody before?" Koulianos said. "It's clear that if this girl was never put around this dog, she wouldn't be dead."

Contact Kathryn Varn at kvarn@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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