Deadly child abuse cases reach new record in Arizona

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PHOENIX -- It's a new record for Arizona and no one is happy about it. Seventy children died in 2010 from severe abuse. But experts have a plan to fight the disturbing trend.

They are the littlest ones among us, too small to stand up for themselves and last year dozens were silenced by the very people who were supposed to protect them.

"The severity of physical child abuse is getting worse," said Robert Bell, the justice coordinator with Child Help. "To see the third straight year of a rise of deaths related to child maltreatment, child abuse, we're certainly alarmed."

The numbers don't lie. According to the Arizona Child Fatality Review Team's latest report, of the 70 children who died from maltreatment last year, Child Protective Services only knew about 18 of them and had launched investigations into five more. That means, 57 Arizona children were being abused and nobody knew it.

Unfortunately this year, we're seeing much of the same. No one knew 3-year-old Dani Mayo was repeatedly beaten by her stepfather until she died.

Corey Daniels reportedly punched little Dani in the chest with his closed fist for not eating a hot dog.
"The families were never reported to any agency -- CPS or law enforcement," Bell said. "So we can make it a priority to investigate this and take it seriously. If the crimes are not reported to us, it makes it very difficult to make a difference."

Another frustration is those who don't do anything. Who can forget 10-year-old Ame Deal? Her little body was discovered stuffed in a footlocker this summer.

"There are cases here in Phoenix where people realize that a child has been abused and haven't made reports on it and it's cost the child their lives.," Bell said.

"We're missing something; we're not doing something right," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

That's why Montgomery is heading up the first-of-its-kind Arizona's Child Safety Task Force.

"We finally have people in place who are committed to bringing about serious reform to helping Arizona's children when they need it most," Montgomery said.

Bell is hopeful the Child Safety Task Force will turn the trend around.

"The reality is that children are our business whether you're in the actual business of protecting children or not. Children don't have the emotional or psychological voice most times to stand up and tell their abuser, 'You can't do this to me.'"

Part of the review process for the task force involves holding two public meetings. The first one is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 9 a.m. at 1700 W. Washington Street in the Executive Tower’s second-floor conference room.