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Father accuses DCYF of failing to protect daughter from mother’s fatal abuse

  • Sadee Willott was killed by her mother in 2015. Courtesy



Monitor staff
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The father of a 21-month-old who was killed by her mother in 2015 is suing the state and its child protective services, claiming a failure to investigate claims of abuse contributed to the child’s death.

The 26-page lawsuit was filed Monday by attorney Rus Rilee on behalf of Christopher Willott, the father of Sadence “Sadee” Willott, who died almost three years ago from fatal head injuries at her Belmont Street home in Manchester. The case will move forward in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester.

Sadee’s mother, Kaitlin Paquette, 23, is serving a 21- to 42-year state prison sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the child’s death on Sept. 7, 2015. Paquette confessed to pushing her daughter in the bath, causing Sadee’s head to smack against the cast-iron tub.

The girl was found unresponsive at her home and later died at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. An autopsy revealed Sadee had six other partially healed or healed broken bones at the time of her death, in addition to her head injuries.

Willott, who is the administrator of his daughter’s estate, is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages in his lawsuit against the state and the Division for Children, Youth and Families. Through his attorney, Willott has brought seven different claims, including wrongful death, negligence, negligent training and supervision, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Child protection case workers visited the family on multiple occasions, beginning just days after Sadee was born. Their first visit was to the hospital, where the newborn had tested positive for marijuana.

The next report came two months later when DCYF was told that Sadee was “being left in dirty diapers, causing blisters on her skin,” and that her parents were still using drugs.

Both reports were deemed “unfounded” – but the allegations of abuse were just beginning.

Child protection case workers met with Sadee’s family some 30 times over the course of the toddler’s life to check on whether she was being physically abused and neglected, according to agency records obtained by the Monitor. However, every report was dismissed, except for the last one – but by then Sadee had already been dead for more than a year.

Despite repeated warnings, DCYF failed to take appropriate action, the lawsuit says.

“DCYF failed to fully and vigorously follow-up on reports expressing serious concerns about Sadee’s safety and wellbeing while in the care of her mother, preferring instead to accept at face value the excuses and explanations provided by her mother for the many hospital visits and injuries,” Rilee wrote.

For the first time, the lawsuit sheds light on an investigation of DCYF employees who were “either detained, arrested and/or criminally investigated themselves related to their failure to cooperate with the criminal investigation into Sadee’s death.”

The suit specifically names caseworker Samantha Nolin, who performed two assessments but admitted to not reviewing prior DCYF investigations of the family. She told Manchester police she’d been trained not to do so “in order to avoid creating a bias.”

Christopher Willott’s lawsuit comes in the wake of a $6.75 million verdict against the state in another high-profile child abuse case brought by the grandparents of two young girls who were sexually abused by their parents while under DCYF supervision.

The girls’ parents pleaded guilty in 2014 to felony sexual assault charges and to manufacturing child pornography. Each was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Rilee, who represented the grandparents in that case, won a precedent-setting case before the New Hampshire Supreme Court that paved the way for him to publicly file the latest lawsuit on behalf of Sadee’s estate.

Rilee is also representing the father of 3-year-old Brielle Gage, who was beaten to death by her mother, Katlyn Marin, two days before Thanksgiving in November 2014. William Boucher Jr. filed suit against DCYF and Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire in fall 2017.

Agency records show that DCYF was warned of ongoing abuse in Gage’s Nashua home for more than a year before her death.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)