The family of a 7-year-old beaten to death last month is outraged that school officials who suspected abuse allowed the boy to go home without investigating.
George Roach, paternal grandfather of Roderick "RJ" Arrington, said he wants to know why officials at Roundy Elementary School allowed the boy to leave school after social workers didn't respond to a call to the child welfare hotline. RJ was beaten into a coma hours after he left school.
"I want answers. I don't want to let this die," said Roach, 49, during a phone interview from his Bloomington, Ill., home. "If a teacher had responded the right way, he would have never gotten killed."
RJ went to school Nov. 28, a day after Las Vegas police say 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 Department of Family Service's hotline.
When no one showed up, RJ went home. That night, police say the boy was whipped and pummeled by his stepfather. He was hospitalized the next morning with severe brain swelling and died Nov. 30.
Markiece and the boy's mother, Dina Palmer, 27, have been charged with murder and two charges of child abuse.
RJ's funeral was in Illinois last week. His body and face were covered in bruises when he was buried, Roach said.
Roach said he can't stop thinking about his grandson's suffering and wonders whether cries for help went ignored.
"I know RJ. I know him to the point where I know he will cry out to someone if he's in trouble," he said. "Then they (the school) allowed him to go home and receive the same beating he got the day he went to school."
Both the Clark County School District and Family Services are reviewing protocols to determine whether either agency could have done more to save the boy's life.
Neither agency will face any criminal inquiries. Schools are required to report possible abuse or neglect to authorities, and Las Vegas police concluded that administrators satisfied legal requirements when they called the child abuse hotline.
But a memo from CCSD Superintendent Dwight Jones several months ago encouraged principals to be resourceful when dealing with possible abuse, especially when child welfare officials aren't responsive. Family Services handled nearly 30,000 suspected abuse calls in the first 10 months of this year.
"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 the April 20 memo.
Roach plans to contact the School District and ask why police weren't called.
"If he had bruises, the school should have never let him go home," he said.
Roach said RJ recently moved to Las Vegas with his mother, Dina, who had been investigated on abuse claims before. She was investigated, but never charged, by Illinois authorities for striking her son at a video store six years ago.
Normal, Ill., police were called to a Blockbuster Video store after a customer saw Dina, then known as Dina James-Beverly, strike her 17-month-old son, squeeze his head and push him face first into a video rack, according to a report obtained by the Review-Journal.
Palmer told an officer "she had hit her child as punishment for not listening to her" and "that she was raised to discipline children physically," the report said.
She added "that if the witness did not agree with her parenting, that was her problem."
No criminal charges were filed for the Oct. 3, 2006, incident, which was investigated by the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.
Roach said he and his wife were often primary caregivers for RJ and didn't agree with his mom's decision to take the boy to Las Vegas.
He did not have many concerns about Dina but had questions about Markiece. The two met online. "You don't meet a man on the Internet and bring your child out there," he said. "That was my concern from day one."
Roach said his son, Roderick Arrington, was a loving father but did not delve into details about the custody arrangement. RJ's father did not return a call on Monday.
Roach said RJ was his "football buddy" who would attend games with grandpa on Friday and Saturday afternoons and go to church on Sunday mornings.
He recalls a phone call his wife received from RJ several weeks before he died. RJ was calling at 9 a.m. on a school day and seemed distressed, Roach said.
"My wife said, 'RJ what are you doing? You should be at school,' " he said.
Neither Roach nor his wife uncovered what was bothering the boy at the time, but now the grandfather has a theory.
"I feel like I knew he was calling out to me because that's the relationship me and my grandson had."