A county Family Services employee has been fired following the death of a 7-year-old boy two days after the department received a call to its hotline alleging the boy had been abused.
The Clark County Department of Family Services released a statement Thursday acknowledging some of its staff failed to follow policies before Roderick "RJ" Arrington's death on Nov. 30.
RJ went to school Nov. 28, a day after Las Vegas police said he was beaten by his stepfather, Markiece Palmer, 34, for lying about reading a Bible verse.
Officials at the school suspected abuse and called the Family Services hotline.
When no one showed up, RJ went home. Police said he was whipped and pummeled by his stepfather and mother, Dina Palmer, 27.
Markiece and Dina Palmer have been charged with murder and two counts of child abuse.
Family Services officials said a special Child Death Review Team will convene so that all responding parties, including police, Family Services state partners and the school district, can learn from the case.
"I strongly believe there are systemic lessons to be learned from this case," Lisa Ruiz-Lee, director of the Clark County Department of Family Services, said in the statement. "It will take all partners to come to the table to discuss what happened and how we can work together to best ensure the safety of our community's children."
Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Brett Zimmerman, who oversees the Crimes Against Youth and Family Bureau, said shortly after RJ's death that investigators determined school district officials fulfilled their legal requirements by contacting Family Services.
Police also deemed Family Services had not committed a crime, but the crux of the matter was "their reporting protocols" and would therefore be handled internally, Zimmerman said.
Police, with personnel with Family Services, are expected to soon review the department's findings.
Criminal charges are not expected, Zimmerman said.
RJ's paternal grandfather, George Roach, reached in Illinois on Thursday night, said the fact that a county employee was fired brings him no solace.
"That is what the agency is for, to protect our kids," Roach said. "When a kid says, 'I'm being abused,' something has to be done immediately."
Others, in addition to RJ's stepfather and mother, need to be in jail for his death, Roach said.
"Somebody is liable for this child being dead," he said. "It could have been prevented. ... The child was crying for help."
Kristi Jourdan, a spokeswoman for the Family Services Department, said the agency's investigation concluded this week.
Jourdan said she couldn't name the fired employee or state the cause for termination because the personnel matter is a confidential one.
Jourdan also said she couldn't reveal how many employees within the department didn't follow internal policies.
"The specifics of this case cannot be discussed in further detail because of statutory confidentiality restrictions regarding hotline reports," Jourdan said.
RJ attended Roundy Elementary. The last day he was seen at school, he was uncomfortable while sitting in class and told officials he had been "spanked" by his parents.
According to a police report, RJ was beaten with a paddle and whipped with a belt.
School officials are required to report abuse or neglect to authorities.
Melinda Malone, a spokeswoman for the school system, said all district employees were cleared of wrongdoing.
"We're always looking to be better and do better," Malone said. "But in this situation, protocol was followed."
A memo from Clark County School District superintendent Dwight Jones in April encouraged principals to be resourceful when dealing with allegations of child abuse, especially if child welfare officials aren't responsive.
"It is usually more expedient to report such cases to school police, as school police officers are more accessible to take these reports," Jones wrote in a memo.
A police report said RJ suffered massive brain swelling and bruising over much of his body, including arms, abdomen, back, legs, thighs and buttocks, where he had open wounds.
Markiece and Dina Palmer remain in the Clark County jail without bail as they await a preliminary court hearing March 1.
Police said the pair had custody of RJ for no longer than three months before his death.
He used to live with his father and grandmother in Illinois, police said.
Roach said he can't look at a picture of his deceased grandson because he gets too emotional.
Roach last saw RJ in September. He recalls being in awe of his athletic ability and his vigorous vocal cords.
"That boy could sing," Roach said.
He will never forget some of his last words to his grandson.
"I'll be seeing you on TV," Roach told RJ. "I will always remember that talent you got. God gave you that talent."
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.