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Infant dies after removal from ‘deplorable’ home

The youngest of eight children removed in December from a filthy North Las Vegas home often targeted in child welfare investigations died last week, according to the Clark County Department of Family Services.

The 3-month-old boy had been found by police covered in vomit and living in conditions deemed “an extreme environmental hazard,” according to a Dec. 20 North Las Vegas police report. The discovery was made while officers were serving a search warrant in a robbery investigation.

Donald Hemmings III died on Jan. 20 — one month after his father, Donald Hemmings Jr., 42, and Geneva Morgan, 39, were arrested by North Las Vegas police. The eight children in the blended family were taken into protective custody. The two adults in the home, who have an extensive history with child welfare that includes an open case, face multiple abuse and neglect charges.

Although the Clark County coroner’s office has not yet released the cause and manner of the infant’s death, Family Services wrote in a Jan. 23 child death report to the state that “no abuse or neglect is suspected with the death.”

County officials declined to elaborate on that and cut short questions from the Review-Journal about why police and not the involved child welfare workers instigated the children’s removal from the home. Family Services has investigated and upheld abuse and neglect allegations in past cases against the adults involved, according to the agency’s own records.

County spokesman Dan Kulin would only say Tuesday that the baby’s death is still under investigation.

The county agency placed the children with family members after Hemmings and Morgan were arrested, according to the police report. Family Services’ documents said the baby had been found unresponsive in a home and died at a hospital.

North Las Vegas police officers stumbled onto the situation while working a robbery case, police reports said. When officers entered the apartment, they were alarmed by “an extra­ordinary amount of live German cock­roaches crawling about the floor, walls and ceiling” throughout the three-bedroom home.

The master bedroom, where police said the adults slept, was the cleanest of the rooms, but officers reported conditions were still “deplorable.” Numerous children were in the room, including the infant, who was sleeping with vomit covering his face, the report said.

Officers observed that the children’s rooms were littered with soiled linen, toiletries and about 6 inches of garbage stacked against the wall. Multiple children shared one bed. The cockroaches were everywhere, crawling across the sleeping children. The children’s names are redacted in court documents. They include the 3-month-old, a 9-month-old and a 1-year-old. The rest of the juveniles were ages 3, 7, 11, 13 and 17.

Elsewhere in the apartment, a closet held dirty clothes and garbage stacked several feet high. A broken toilet was filled with human waste, police said.

The apartment housed up to 12 family members at any given time, but the kitchen contained only a few boxes of food, a quarter-gallon of milk and “loose deli meat, left (lying) on a rack for storage” in the freezer, police said.

When Child Protective Services was notified, the officers learned that Morgan had at least 12 prior abuse and neglect investigations against her — at least one per year since 2006 and as many as three in 2013. The investigation initiated that night was Morgan’s third for 2014. Substantiated cases from 2008, 2010 and 2014 dealt with filthy living conditions, infant drug exposure and missing school, respectively.

Morgan had a prior arrest in connection with child neglect allegations in 1997 and other arrests, the police report said. Hemmings had prior arrests in connection with marijuana and miscellaneous traffic offenses.

Morgan and Hemmings were each charged with eight counts of felony child abuse and neglect.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl.

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