Officials have now opened several investigations into the death of 10-year-old Takoda Collins. One of the three people arrested in the case was the boy's father, Al-Mutahan McLean, on charges of child abuse, endangerment, torture, and the rape of a person under 13 years old. Two women were also charged in the case.
Josh Sweigart, investigative reporter at the Dayton Daily News, has been following this case as it's been unfolding. He talked to WYSO's Jerry Kenney about what he's learned and how the investigations could play out.
Jerry Kenney: Josh, I understand that there is a history going back several years to this case. Can you explain to us a little bit about the background on this story?
Josh Sweigart: What we have heard and what the records we've seen have shown is that there was a history of contact between Children Services caseworkers and Dayton Police and this household, this family. Dayton Public Schools employees tell us that while Takoda Collins was a student at Horace Mann Elementary, where he was apparently from kindergarten through most of fourth grade, teachers say that there were multiple complaints made to Children's Services.
Superintendent of (Dayton Public Schools) Elizabeth Loli tells us there were 15 complaints. Teachers have said that they complained every year. He started school in 2014, and then in 2018 he was withdrawn from school by his father. The teachers we spoke to said that some of them even believe that the father took him out of school because there were so many abuse complaints. And, teachers said that there were issues that they're trained to see, such as evidence of bruising, evidence of neglect, just hygiene issues. So, those are the indications that they were looking at that caused them to call Children Services.
At the same time, records show that there've been at least three contacts with Dayton Police in that household since the beginning of 2018. In May 2013, around the same time that Takoda was taken out of school, a Dayton Police officer was dispatched to the residence because he received a call from a public school teacher, and from Children's Services caseworker saying, 'Hey, we have concerns of abuse. Can you check on this household?' The officer showed up, knocked on the door. Nobody answered, and that was the end of that interaction with Dayton Police. It's unclear what Children's Services did with that information when they found out that nobody appeared to be home, according to police.
JK: As you mentioned, he was pulled from school to be homeschooled. Is there any indication that that even took place, and what else do we know about his time after he was removed from Horace Mann?
JS: So, yeah, he was removed shortly before the end of the school year in 2018, according to school officials and he enrolled, becomes a homeschool student. The school officials have said that it appears that the father followed the proper procedures to enroll him in homeschooling. There's only a few steps that are required to file some paperwork. At no point in the home-schooling implementation process do school officials, or anybody for that matter, see you interact with the child. It's all done through the mail. So, at that point is the last interaction that school officials saw.
After that, there were at least two more police interactions at the home. One in November 2018, when the father called... It was a father that called saying that Takoda was being unruly. Takoda was briefly in the backseat of a police cruiser, according the reports, and then the father came out and said, 'No, actually, I'm going to take him to Kettering Behavioral Health.' Then in May 2019, the mother of the child, Takoda's mother, reportedly starts calling, or has been calling, saying that she's concerned about abuse. And again, the police go out to the house and according to the police records, they say that Takoda looks fine and they're told that he's being taken care of.
JK: Let's talk about the investigations that have opened up as a result of Takoda's death. You've got Dayton Police investigating the abuse and neglect crimes. Montgomery County Children Services doing their own investigation, and now Montgomery County is investigating Children Services’ handling of the case. Investigations can take a lot of time. What comes next?
JS: Like you said, the most pressing is the criminal investigation. No one has been charged in Takoda's death. The charges have to do with endangering children, neglect, and there's a rape charge on there as well against the father. The two women in the house are charged with endangering charges and that sort of thing. So, there's still an open criminal investigation to determine the circumstances more specifically and whether any other charges need to be filed.
Reviewing how things were handled might even take a backseat to that criminal investigation. They might step back and say, let's let that finish first. And then, what some have said is that actually somebody else outside of all of those agencies needs to step in, review all their actions and see from a global perspective whether things should be reviewed. And so, some state lawmakers have told us there needs to be an independent outside review, maybe by the sheriff's office or by the attorney general's office into how all these agencies handled this thing.
JK: How's the community reacting to this case?
JS: People are deeply disturbed. We get phone calls and e-mails and letters, and it is objectively heartbreaking. And this little 10-year-old boy, the circumstances that are described in these court documents are horrific. The allegations are terrible and I think everyone sees that, everyone's heart goes out to this kid. And if there were indications that there could've been anything done to step in and stop this and save this little boy then I think everyone wants to review that and see what can be done to prevent something tragic from happening again.
JK: Josh Sweigart, investigative reporter with the Dayton Daily News. Thanks for the update on all of this.
JS: Thanks, Jerry, and always a pleasure talking to you.