DA reviewing staffer’s action in foster care case

Henry County District Attorney James Wright is reviewing whether one of his prosecutors intervened to help place a foster child with a former office intern, who is now charged with beating, starving and killing the little girl.

The DA said he is looking at whether assistant district attorney Mary Evans-Battle communicated with the state child welfare agency, and whether the contact was appropriate.

The agency placed 2-year-old Laila Marie Daniel with Jennifer Rosenbaum, who is charged with child abuse and murder in connection with the girl’s death Nov. 17.

Family members of the girl have raised concerns that Rosenbaum, who had served as an intern in the local court and state Legislature, received undue help in obtaining the girl.

Rosenbaum had served as an intern in the DA’s office under Battle last spring, Wright said.

“We’ll be looking at whether any recommendation was made, and whether it was appropriate or not,” Wright told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday. He added that, “I don’t have any indication that it was (inappropriate) at this point.”

Rosenbaum has a bond hearing today. Her husband, Joseph, who is charged with child abuse, was granted a $10,000 bond.

The state Division of Family and Children Services said Battle emailed the agency in June asking about the status of the agency’s home evaluation on Rosenbaum. Battle noted the prospective caregiver had been her intern, the agency said.

DFCS is looking into the matter.

“Henry County will follow up with ADA Ms. Battle re her involvement in terms of recommending and supervising (Rosenbaum),” said a Nov. 24 email from State Child Advocate Ashley Willcott to DFCS officials regarding the girl’s death.

The AJC obtained the email through the state open records law.

Relatives of the deceased girl raised concerns about Rosenbaum receiving help from people in high places. They said the email obtained by the AJC, noting involvement from the assistant district attorney, bolstered those worries.

“That’s high up,” the girl’s maternal grandmother, Gina Banks. “We’re just normal people.”

The AJC could not reach Battle by phone Monday. Battle played no formal role in the foster care case involving Laila.

Kim Smith, Laila’s great-aunt, has questioned whether DFCS properly vetted Rosenbaum before handing over Laila and her 4-year-old sister.

Following Laila’s death, DFCS said it fired both the caseworker and supervisor involved in the girl’s case. Officials cited problems with a background check on Rosenbaum and other policy violations.

Coroner Donald Cleveland said Laila died of “blunt force trauma to the abdomen.”

The arrest warrant for Jennifer Rosenbaum said she killed the girl by striking the child in the abdomen “with such force the child’s pancreas was transected. The child was believed to enter shock due to the blood loss resulting from the injury.”

Authorities say the girl was also malnourished, had bruises on her body and breaks in her arms and legs. The Rosenbaums also abused her sister, authorities said.

The Rosenbaums’ attorney, Corinne Mull, said the couple never abused the children. She said Laila died after Jennifer Rosenbaum applied the Heimlich maneuver and CPR to help the child while she was choking on some chicken. She said the force of the compressions may have caused the injury to the pancreas.

Mull attributed the children’s other injuries to either abuse prior to their stay with the Rosenbaums or the general bumps and bruises of childhood play.

Smith, the girl’s great-aunt, said the family was in Henry County court in about May when they ran into Rosenbaum. The girls had already been removed from their mother’s care.

Rosenbaum approached the family and said she had known their mother when they were both in foster care years ago. She said they had been good friends, Smith added.

“She said, ‘We’re willing to take both your girls,’ ” Smith said.

Smith said she has subsequently learned from the girl’s mother that she was not close with Rosenbaum, just acquaintances.

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