With his system overloaded with cocaine, amphetamines, morphine, and opiates, William De Jesus went on a bloody spree at a Deerfield Beach RV park in February 2012. He shot and killed a 76-year-old Canadian man, then locked himself inside a trailer with his family. By the time police broke through the door, the 41-year-old Port Orange man had stabbed his two young sons and wife, killing one boy and maiming the other two, before killing himself.
On Monday, the surviving 9-year-old boy filed a lawsuit in Broward County against the Department of Children and Families. Besides detailing the horror-show home life of the children, the suit also says government agencies were asleep at the wheel here. All the warning signs -- including past allegations of abuse -- were there regarding De Jesus; no one seems to have read them.
According to the suit, De Jesus (who isn't named throughout the document) was arrested in September 2007 after an argument about his drinking with his wife. During the incident, the father allegedly choked his wife and punched a hole in his children's bedroom door. The mother told police she feared De Jesus would kill her "if she left with the children."
At the time, De Jesus had already racked up a criminal record that included aggravated assault and domestic violence charges; Florida authorities also learned soon after that De Jesus had physically abused his two children by another woman back in New York City.
By early 2008, DCF began looking into the allegations of abuse in Florida. Eventually, the "mother admitted that she and the father had been sexually abusing their children by fondling their penises and further stated that the father had done the same thing to his children in New York," the complaint says. "The mother said she acted alongside the father as she feared he would kill her if she did not."
By February 2008, the kids were placed in a Polk County foster home, and the state began working toward terminating the parental rights of the De Jesus mother and father.
According to the complaint, while in foster care, both boys showed the scars of past sexual abuse, including "sexually aggressive behavior, staring blankly, screaming for no clear reason, urinating and defecating in an inappropriate manner," as well as engaging in "child-on-child sexual abuse in their foster home."
Both parents were put through evaluations as part of the state's effort to keep the kids away permanently. In January 2009, DCF learned that investigators in New York had sustained allegations of sexual abuse on De Jesus' other children in that state. His kids in Florida also told DCF they were "terrified" of going back with their parents.
Despite that stack of evidence, in April 2009, the De Jesuses were given supervised visitation. The state appears to have bailed on the idea of taking the boys away.
But the terrible signs continued to add up. The boy's teacher sent home a letter expressing "a fear of having to return to a man that had threatened him with a knife." The boy's behavior at school continued to spiral downward. DCF received a tip through the Florida Abuse Hotline that the boy was being molested during supervised visitation. The allegation was confirmed by the boy in an interview with investigators.
Still, in January 2010, a therapist recommended the parents be given unsupervised visitation with the children, and reunification was put in motion. By June 2010, an evaluator submitted paperwork to the court that testified "[t]he reasons for removal have been remedied and the safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the children is not endangered by allowing the children to be reunified or remain in the custody of the parents."
Based on the faulty info, the family unit was put back together that month. Even though more red flags popped up -- problem behavior at school, admissions of abuse in therapy sessions, more allegations of past abuse from New York -- the children remained in De Jesus' custody until he drove the family to Broward County in February 2012.
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