ROCKDALE, Texas (KXAN) - A foster parent in Milam County is in jail charged with murder after the two-year-old girl she was taking care of died in her custody.
According to Rockdale police, emergency crews responded to Sherill Small's home in Rockdale when they received a 9-1-1 call on Monday evening stating that a child was not breathing and unresponsive.
The child, Alexandria Hill, was flown to Scott and White McLane Children's Hospital in Temple where she was placed on life support.
Doctors determined that Alexandria had brain hemorrhaging and retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes.
Detectives said the explanation Small, 54, gave of the child's injuries were not consistent with the nature of the injuries determined by the doctors.
The child was removed from life support on Wednesday and Small was arrested for murder the following day.
Small admitted to authorities that she threw Alexandria to the ground.
An autopsy is being performed by the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office to determine the child's official cause of death.
Alex's father, Joshua Hill, saw his daughter three days before she was injured.
"We went to McDonald's to have lunch, she played on the playground," said Hill tearing up. "I never really thought that would be the last bit of time I would spend with her, or I would've done more."
Alexandria was taken from her Williamson County home and placed into Small's foster home in January; according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service (TDFPS), Small was a licensed foster parent through Texas Mentor.
"She was placed into foster care for neglectful supervision because her mother and I smoked pot at the time," explained Hill.
According to court records, Alexandria's mother had a medical condition that does not allow for the child to be left alone with her. The TDFPS also received allegations that Hill used marijuana on a regular basis and on one occasion Hill almost dropped Alexandria while going down the stairs of the home as he was trying to hand the child to his sister.
During the month of November, Alexandria was being cared for by her paternal grandmother before the State intervened on Nov. 26.
The TDFPS concluded that "Through the assessment of the Department and family members of the parents, it appears the parents have limited parenting skills and need to develop their understanding of being protective of their child. Until these services are offered, the Department does not feel either parent can be the sole caregiver for the child."
Residential Child Care Licensing is investigating the foster home and the agency, Texas Mentor.
"We rely on the child placing agencies to do their due diligence in doing background checks and home studies and training for potential foster parents," explained Julie Moody with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service. "There was one allegation of a previous foster child in her care that had bruising and lead poisoning, but no deficiencies were found."
According to State records, during the last two year Texas Mentor has 15 deficiencies ranging from lack of updated background checks to leaving children unattended for extended periods of time.
Texas Mentor released a statement stating:
The on-going law enforcement investigation and privacy laws, as well as the fact that our own internal review is not complete, limit our ability to provide some of the specific information requested. However, we can inform you that Sherill Small and her husband met the requirements to foster children, including background checks in accordance with state regulation (Texas Department of Public Safety criminal history database check, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Central Registry abuse/neglect database, Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) criminal history and federal Office of Inspector General exclusion check). During each month since the Smalls began fostering Alexandria, our staff has met or exceeded the state requirement to visit their home monthly, including the most recent visit in mid-July.
Hill said they are filing a lawsuit against Child Protective Services and Texas Mentor.
"We want to make sure -- if nothing else -- so this doesn't happen to anybody else's kid. Nobody deserves this at all," said Hill.
According to Hill, their last court date was scheduled for Nov. 14 -- they were hoping for their child's return shortly thereafter.
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