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Baby under DCF’s watch dies

Cause of death sought for infant in Weymouth

WEYMOUTH — A 10-week-old girl died in her family’s motel room Thursday, the first death of a child under the care of the state Department of Children and Families since the agency’s commissioner resigned less than two weeks ago amid concerns that it could not keep children in its care safe.

“The department is deeply saddened by this news,” spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen said in a prepared statement. “DCF had recently opened a case with this family when this tragic incident occurred. We received a report, and the investigation is ongoing in coordination with law enforcement.”

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The Norfolk district attorney’s office is investigating the death of the baby, according to a statement from the office, which did not identify either the parents or child.

Police were called about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to a statement from the district attorney after the baby was found.

Weymouth police logs show that a man called 911 at 8:06 a.m. “screaming and yelling about his [baby] not breathing” in their Super 8 motel room on Washington Street in Weymouth.

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An autopsy conducted Friday “did not find any trauma or injury to the body consistent with foul play,” said the statement from the district attorney’s office. The cause and manner of death will not be determined, however, until toxicological testing is completed, the statement said.

No one answered the door of the room where the family lived Saturday, and a “Do Not Disturb” sign hung on the doorknob. Weymouth police logs appear to list the parents’ names, but neither could be reached Saturday.

A woman at the front desk at the Super 8 said no one was available to comment. One resident said she thought the family had been living in the motel room for about a year.

Residents described a terrifying scene Thursday morning, when the baby’s teenage brother ran out into the second-floor hallway screaming, bringing shocked neighbors rushing from their rooms.

“My sister’s dead! My sister’s dead!” shouted the boy, who neighbors said lived in the motel room with his parents. His father followed him out into the hallway, yelling for someone to come help.

“I went into the room to help, but once I saw the baby, I had to go back out,” recounted Nikia Davenport, 36, who lives across the hallway. The baby was gray, Davenport said, and her mother was frantically trying to give her CPR on the bed.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said she stayed in the room and tried to talk the mother through her efforts to breathe for her daughter, but that there was no sign of life.

Neighbors said the family seemed normal and happy.

Davenport said that on Tuesday, she had seen the teenage boy playing with the baby in the hallway, and the little girl was alert and playful, making eye contact and apparently enjoying the attention.

“She looked great,” said Davenport.

The woman who tried to talk the baby’s mother through CPR said that when the baby was born, the father proudly showed her pictures on his cellphone.

The Department of Children and Families has been roiled by harsh criticism after the deaths of several children in its care. In December, DCF acknowledged it had lost track of Jeremiah Oliver, a Fitchburg preschooler who was supposed to be under agency watch but had not been visited since April 2013. His body was found April 18 by the side of a highway in Sterling.

The agency also acknowledged misplacing a fax from the Grafton police sent April 3 warning of possible harm to a 1-month-old infant. The fax was not found until April 9. Two days later, the baby, Aliana Lavigne, died.

Also last month, Bailey Irish, a Fitchburg newborn under DCF care, died shortly before a meeting was scheduled between her parents and the agency’s officials.

After Commissioner Olga Roche resigned late last month, Governor Deval Patrick announced he was appointing Erin Deveney, a lawyer who spent most of the last decade at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, as interim commissioner of DCF.

A spokeswoman for the governor declined to comment on the death of the baby in Weymouth, saying that “the DCF is commenting for the administration on this.”

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.
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