The mother of two children recently found dead in a South Florida canal had endured years of abuse before she was killed and dumped in a West Palm Beach landfill, records released Tuesday show.
The documents released by Florida's Department of Children and Families paint a sorrowful portrait of Felicia Brown, 25, whose body turned up last August. The woman wasn't identified until the discovery of two of her children _ 10-year-old Jermaine McNeil and 6-year-old Ju'tyra Allen _ whose bodies were recovered March 2 from luggage dumped in a Delray Beach canal.
Brown gave birth three times as a teenager, the records show, and was forced to give up all three children, at least for a time. But she earned the trust of child welfare officials by eventually undergoing parenting classes, substance abuse treatment and home supervision and was again given custody of the two children later found dead.
"Felicia was a young mother from a very disadvantaged background and she had a lot to learn," said John Walsh, an attorney for the Foster Children's Project who once represented Jermaine. "But the Felicia we knew would have died to protect these children."
All told, the department said it had investigated ten reports of abuse involving Brown when she was a child. After giving birth to Jermaine, it said it investigated another five such reports of alleged abuse, against either the mother or son. Brown was not accused of any abuse against her children.
The agency has sought to distinguish this case from that of a set of 10-year-old twins found doused in chemicals in a parked truck last month, leaving the boy dead and the girl critically injured. Subsequent records releases showed a child protective investigator who had visited the home of those children a day before the girl was killed said the children weren't in danger even though she had no contact with them and didn't know where they were.
Perry Borman, the agency's regional director for southeast Florida, said he didn't believe there was anything it could have done differently that might have changed the tragic outcome for Brown and her two slain children. It had not received any reports of abuse involving the children since 2005.
"The fact is even when we do the best job, it can result in tragedy," Borman said.
An ex-boyfriend of Brown, Clem Beauchamp, has been singled out by police as their only suspect in all three killings, though he has not been charged with any crime related to the deaths. He is being held on unrelated firearms charges.
A third child of Brown's, now 8 years old, was given up for adoption at birth but was visited by Brown until her death, the department said.