New Jersey child agency in spotlight after mother decapitates two-year-old son and fatally stabs herself in the neck

 

New Jersey's child-welfare agency, long under federal oversight for high-profile lapses, said it will review its role in the case of a mother who decapitated her 2-year-old son and killed herself just five months after regaining custody of the child.

The Department of Children and Families said last night it had been working with members of Chevonne Thomas' family to support the woman and her son, who were reunited under a court order in April.

Police yesterday found the decapitated body of 2-year-old Zahree Thomas on the first floor of the Camden rowhouse he shared with his mother. Chevonne Thomas fatally stabbed herself in the neck after calling 911 to report her son's slaying, authorities said.

The agency said in a statement that its staff had visited the family regularly and was providing "extensive" support and counseling services, including substance abuse testing and treatment. Thomas lost custody of Zahree after being charged in 2010 with child endangerment.

In that case, Thomas admitted to police that she had smoked marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP, blacking out in a park and leaving her son unattended in a car. The charge was ultimately dropped due to a problem with a witness, according to Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor's office.

But some neighbours reported that Thomas remained troubled. Hours before police were called to the gruesome scene, neighbor Melanie Troutman reported seeing Thomas topless and "clearly upset" on the steps of her house. However, another woman insisted Thomas was clothed.

Former neighbour Thelma Moore said Thomas had exhibited mental health issues during the several years she'd known her. Moore described her as being in "a world all to herself," and said Thomas had seen a behavioral health therapist.

"She just walked around and talked and cursed to herself," Moore said.

Thomas' landlord, who did not want to be identified, said the woman had lived at the home for two months and was a perfect tenant, keeping the apartment tidy and clean.

Thomas told the 911 operator that she used to take the antidepressant Prozac.

"I didn't take it today, but I should have," she said, according to a recording of the rambling, often incoherent call released Wednesday evening.

She also initially blamed her son's grisly death on her boyfriend, but quickly recanted.

"You know what, I did it, I'm lying, I'm lying, I'm lying, I did it," she said.

The Department of Children and Families supervises more than 7,000 children living in licensed foster and group homes. The state has spent $1 billion to reform its child-welfare system since 2003.

The overhaul was ordered after authorities discovered the mummified remains of a 7-year-old boy in the basement of a Newark apartment, and four boys in Collingswood were found starving because their adoptive mother withheld food.

Mary Coogan, assistant director of the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, said the state agency has made progress in reducing case loads and training staff. But she said the department has not made enough headway on engaging troubled families and quickly developing support plans for them, "which are the basic tenets of good social work."

"We're not saying this is an easy task," Coogan said. "It's a very difficult task and it does require everybody's participation."

Coogan's colleague, Nancy Parello, said that while the deaths of Chevonne and Zahree Thomas "may not be a reflection of the entire system, it is a teaching moment."

AP

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker