Nicholas' six siblings were removed and now live with their maternal grandmother in Hollywood. Lori Bahamundi, the children's mother, said she and her husband are good parents and are doing everything they can to regain custody of their children.
* Then there is the story of Jimmy Alford, whose case, which spanned more than a decade, was mired in problems from the beginning. Jimmy was physically disabled and mentally impaired. He could barely speak. He had a genetic disorder that made it hard for him to fight illnesses or infection. Calls to the abuse hot line started when he was just a toddler.
"Paramour beats, hits and kicks Jimmy, " a Nov. 2, 1990, report to the hot line said. "Michelle [Wesson, the mother] fails to protect the child. Child has a mass of bruises."
The DCF closed the case two months later without taking action, noting: "no indicators of bruises, failure to protect." But things became worse as the years passed, records show.
"Jimmy wandered away from his house; he was observed a mile away wearing only a diaper, " a June 29, 1992, report said. "There were bruises on his back and arms."
Again, the DCF closed the case, saying, "no indicators of bruises, inadequate supervision."
But just a year later, Jimmy arrived at school with facial injuries and a bruised buttock. He had "switch marks" and bruises under his eyes.
"Jimmy was prone to falling, " his mother told investigators. The DCF suspected abuse.
A SILENT VICTIM
But Jimmy, then 6, could not tell caseworkers what had happened. The department repeatedly referred his mother to counseling and parenting classes. Sometimes Wesson resisted, arguing that the DCF was picking on her.
Wesson, a former housekeeper arrested on charges of criminal child neglect after Jimmy died, said the DCF's complaints were blown out of proportion.
"I love my children with all my heart, " Wesson told The Herald. "DCF overstated every report, especially Jimmy's. I would never put my children in harm's way."
Investigators, however, were worried about her living conditions, records show. The shack was hard to find, tucked off a dirt road, and coming apart.
Spiders abounded. Cockroaches lived inside the refrigerator. Maggots wiggled about the kitchen.
On July 7, 1995, caseworkers tried to inspect the house.
"Mother refuses access to the home and children, " the report noted. "No further attempts to enter the home." Wesson said she had cooperated.
Once again the DCF closed the case, suspecting hazardous conditions but taking no action. The agency, in its death review, called that a mistake: "The Child Protective Investigator should have attempted to complete a home visit the following day with law enforcement" or gone to court.
In 1996, a relative warned the DCF that Jimmy and his siblings needed to be removed, saying they "should be placed in an environment [where] they can grow up and learn and be provided for emotionally, physically and mentally so they don't end up in prison or dead."
On Sept. 19, 1996, the DCF got a call that Jimmy had arrived at school with welts - 32 of them - on his buttocks and thighs.
Caseworkers were told to see him within 24 hours. It took them four days.
"Mother admitted she hit James with a switch, " reports show.
Social service workers involved with the family concluded that Wesson's children were in danger. The Health Department said her house "was not in livable condition."