Lost in the shuffle: DSS emails shed light on death of 4-year-old Lucas Webb

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Emails between employees of the Missouri Department of Social Services show notes missing as Lucas Webb's case was transferred between investigators.

The 4-year-old died in October 2012 from blunt force trauma to his abdomen. Prosecutors have charged his stepmom, Melissa Webb, with kicking him to the stomach. Both she and Lucas' dad, Justin Webb, face second-degree murder charges for Lucas' death.

People with concerns about Lucas called into the child abuse hotline five separate times over three years. Despite repeated calls about unexplained bruises, documents show the Missouri Department of Social Services dismissed each call, labeling them as unsubstantiated.

RELATED | Two Department of Social Services employees fired after 4-year-old's death http://bit.ly/19XnlVf

The department released hundreds of pages of documents Monday about Lucas' case. Included in those records are dozens of emails between Missouri Department of Social Services employees which detail how that may have happened.

The emails surround the final hotline call made to DSS in September, just weeks before Lucas' death.

Emails show the case assigned to one employee but another employee assigned to visit the home. She turns her notes over to the other worker to complete the investigation.

Some notes appear to never have made it into the file as emails between workers show supervisors repeatedly asking one worker for her notes

After Lucas' death, emails fly between employees again.

One supervisor details what she knew about the case writing, "I also want to note that I can't re-do every case that workers go out on, so I put my trust in the others involved."

She also writes that even though the caller to the hotline said Lucas was complaining his stepmom kicked him in the stomach "the main focus was child hungry and looked underweight."

It again highlights that information was missing from the file.

The supervisor writes: "Had I had all the information that we have now, then the report would have been different. I went with the information I had at the time I closed it."

The Department of Social Services released the following statement about Lucas' case:

The death of any child is a tragedy and the Department of Social Services deeply regrets the death of Lucas Barnes. 

In all cases where we have a child death or serious injury, we review those incidents to determine whether staff complied with law and policy, or to determine whether policy needed to be changed.  The department looked into the case of Lucas Barnes and determined that policy was not followed.  As a result, appropriate personnel actions was taken and two employees are no longer working for the Department of Social Services.

We asked the department to clarify which specific policies they found were not followed and they provided us the following links.

  • 4.1.1.2 Reviewing Prior History

http://dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section2/ch4/sec2ch4sub1.htm#n4112

  • 4.1.4.1 Interviewing the Child(ren) Alone

http://dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section2/ch4/sec2ch4sub1_4.htm#n4141

  • 4.1.3.1 Investigations Involving Reported Physical Injuries and/or Sexual Abuse

http://dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section2/ch4/sec2ch4sub1_3.htm#n4131

  • 4.1.5.1  Chief Investigator

http://dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section2/ch4/sec2ch4sub1_5.htm#n4151

  • 4.1.4.4 Collaterals

http://dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section2/ch4/sec2ch4sub1_4.htm#n4144

  • 4.1.10.1  Minimum Contact Standards for Delayed Conclusions

http://dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section2/ch4/sec2ch4sub1_10.htm#n41101

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