Damaud Martin died July 2 at a home run by LifeLine Inc. in Laurel, Maryland, where state inspectors had found significant problems with staffing. The state has removed the other 10 children living there, said the Maryland health secretary, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein.
The Anne Arundel County police began investigating Damaud’s death, but brought in Baltimore police after determining that there had been a “prior trauma abuse incident in Baltimore city.”
That incident occurred in January of 2008, when Damaud was hospitalized with severe brain trauma. Damaud’s mother, Tamekia Martin, was convicted of child abuse in May of 2009 after accepting an Alford plea, according to Damaud’s grandmother, Rosita Martin. That’s when a defendant maintains her innocence, but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict her.
Rosita Martin said after Damaud was hospitalized, his 7-year-old sister, Sandoria, was placed in foster care.
The children were first taken into state custody in 2006, then placed in Rosita Martin’s home. The Department of Social Services returned the children to Tamekia Martin in November 2007, two months before Damaud’s hospitalization.
Baltimore Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said Friday that the direction of the investigation into Damaud’s death will depend on the findings of the state medical examiner’s autopsy.
“If they do rule the death was the result of the incident that happened in Baltimore city, this will become a homicide,” Silbert said.
Rosita Martin said Friday that her daughter never abused her children.
“This is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever experienced. These were two sweet, innocent children and they robbed us,” Rosita Martin said of the Department of Social Services. “They robbed us of our happiness with them.”
She said the Department of Social Services notified the family Friday that Damaud had died.
Sharfstein said Damaud’s group home was inspected regularly by the state, and reviews this year indicated more significant problems than in the past. A survey by the state in February found that four of eight employees did not have documents to support the successful completion of training for the special needs of the children at the facility. A complaint was filed in May alleging neglect at the facility because of a youth’s bed sore. In June, the state noted inadequate staffing at the facility.
“In 2014, they began to have more significant violations, and those included problems with the care that they were providing and that led us to No. 1, intensify our oversight, No. 2, start a process of closing them and transitioning the youth,” Sharfstein said.
The facility indicated it would give up its license in September, and the remaining children were moved over the July 4 weekend.
LifeLine did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The Baltimore Sun first reported the boy’s death and previous problems with the facility.