Family says CPS knew about years of abuse before Fort Worth child’s death but did nothing

·4 min read

The family of 3-year-old Elena Joiner says the fatal beating she allegedly received from her father, 22-year-old Billy Ray Joiner Jr., was not a lone incident and that Texas Child Protective Services failed Elena and her four surviving siblings.

Elena, who died Wednesday after police say her father repeatedly hit her at their Fort Worth home on Sunday, suffered from a heart attack due to her injuries and went into cardiac arrest, family members said. She was declared brain dead before she died.

According to Elena’s great-aunt Latisha Carter, the children would suffer days of abuse.

Carter said Elena’s 5-year-old sister was beaten the same day the 3-year-old was hospitalized. On Saturday, she said, Elena was severely burned with scalding hot water.

“This is not just some guy that flipped out and went insane one day,” Carter said. “The state of Texas failed my nieces and my nephews.”

A representative with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said in a statement that the state has now removed the other children from the home.

“DFPS is investigating the child’s death, alongside law enforcement, looking into all allegations,” the statement said. “There is history, but the details are confidential, per state law. We have four surviving siblings in our care, and we’re making sure their needs are being met.”

“Now they want to pull the kids, yes, and I get that because now one is dead but [she] could not be dead right now,” Carter said.

A GoFundMe was created to help with medical and funeral expenses for 3-year-old Elena Joiner and was taken down once enough money was raised for the funeral.
A GoFundMe was created to help with medical and funeral expenses for 3-year-old Elena Joiner and was taken down once enough money was raised for the funeral.

Carter said she knows of at least six instances CPS was called and the children were not permanently separated from Joiner, as well as multiple calls from neighbors about the family. She said relatives reported to CPS several times and warned that if the children were allowed to stay in the home with Joiner, at least one would die.

Court and jail records show Joiner was arrested on Monday in connection with the injuries that led to Elena’s death. He faces charges of injury to a child and evading arrest. He’s also being held on charges of aggravated assault in retaliation from a December 2020 incident. He remained in custody as of Thursday at a Tarrant County jail.

When the oldest child, now 5, was 6 months old, Carter said the first case of abuse was reported. In the past, Carter’s mother tried to take the children under her care, but she said they were later taken back by CPS to live under Joiner’s roof.

“[CPS] could have saved them five years ago when all this started with him,” she said.

Carter said the case workers would warn the family when they were on their way and had seen Joiner at the home with the children. As recently as two months prior to Elena’s death, Carter said, another report was sent to CPS asking them to step in.

Fort Worth police were dispatched to the Taj Mahal Apartments in the 2600 block of Merrick Street on a “meet ambulance call” Sunday at 5:31 p.m., police said in a news release Thursday. Authorities said Elena’s mother told officers that Joiner had repeatedly struck the child, and Elena was taken to an area hospital in serious condition.

“Detectives have been in contact with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the manner and cause of death, and advised the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office of the situation,” police said in the statement Thursday.

An investigation into Elena’s death is currently underway, and an autopsy is pending.

Going forward, Carter said she isn’t sure what steps her family can take as far as legal action against the state once the investigation is finished. For now, the family is focused on burying Elena and giving her a proper funeral.

A GoFundMe was created to help with medical and funeral expenses and was taken offline once enough money was raised for the funeral. The fundraiser raised $1,028 at the time it was taken down. Carter said a victims of violence program has stepped in and contributed the remaining funds for the funeral costs.

“My niece would not be laying dead right now if it wasn’t for so many mistakes that CPS has made, so many mistakes,” she said.

In an GoFundMe update on Wednesday, a relative of Elena Joiner informs donors of 3-year-old Elena’s death.
In an GoFundMe update on Wednesday, a relative of Elena Joiner informs donors of 3-year-old Elena’s death.
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