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Father files wrongful death lawsuit in death of abused son

A wrongful death lawsuit alleging several state and county agencies failed to protect a 7-year-old boy from beatings that proved fatal was filed Thursday on behalf of the boy’s father.

Roderick “RJ” Arrington’s physical abuse, alleged to have been inflicted by his mother and stepfather, was reported Nov. 28 by Roundy Elementary School officials to county child welfare personnel. School employees had seen “extensive scarring” on RJ’s back, according to the lawsuit in Clark County District Court.

But RJ was allowed to return to his mother and stepfather and died Nov. 30.

Attorney Matthew Callister, who represents RJ’s father, Roderick Devon Arrington Sr., said the boy’s death was preventable.

Negligence and the failure to act by the agencies responsible for determining the severity of reported child abuse led to RJ’s death, he said.

“This was a disposable child in the eyes of somebody,” Callister said. “I do not believe if this were my kid, this would have happened.”

RJ had told school employees that when he got in trouble, his mother and her boyfriend hit him on the back or butt with a TV cord, broom handle, spatula and belt, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit names several defendants, including the state of Nevada, state Division of Child and Family Services, Clark County, Clark County Department of Family Services, Clark County Child Protective Services and the Clark County School District.

Kristi Jourdan, spokeswoman for Clark County Family Services, said her agency does not comment on pending litigation. Officials with the School District could not be reached late Thursday afternoon.

Las Vegas police said RJ was beaten by his stepfather, Markiece Palmer, 34, for lying about reading a Bible verse.

Police said the boy was whipped and pummeled by his mother, Dina Palmer, 27.

They have been charged with murder and two counts of child abuse. They remain in county jail awaiting a preliminary court hearing March 1.

They were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Last month, officials with Family Services announced that an employee was fired after RJ’s death. The employee was not named.

Family Services released a statement acknowledging that some of its staff failed to follow policies and said a special Child Death Review Team would convene so that responding parties, including police, Family Services, state partners and the school district, could 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 last month’s 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.”

In addition to wrongful death allegations, the lawsuit also alleged civil rights violations.

“Plaintiffs also allege, upon information and belief, that it is the policy, practice and custom of the State of Nevada and Clark County to inadequately hire, train and supervise its officers, agents and employees in responding to extreme cases of child abuse and neglect as in the case of the Decedent.”

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.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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