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Systemic Failure Complicated By Pandemic Led To Fall River Teen's Death, Report Finds

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Fourteen-year-old David Almond’s death at the hands of his father and girlfriend was preventable, according to a state report. WBZ-TV's Cheryl Fiandaca reports.

Video Transcript

- An investigation found that every safeguard failed a Fall River teenager who starved to death. I'm Paula Ebben.

- I'm David Wade. 14-year-old David Almond died last fall around seven months after DCF returned him to his father and the father's girlfriend. DCF was supposed to keep an eye on him, but as WBZ chief investigator Cheryl Fiandaca shows us, a state report found almost all of the protections collapsed.

CHERYL FIANDACA: 14-year-old David Almond's death at the hands of his father and girlfriend was totally preventable.

MARIA MOSSAIDES: There were missed warning signals by staff at the Department of Children and Families.

CHERYL FIANDACA: The investigation by the Office of the Child Advocate says the systemic failure of the Department of Children and Families, the State Education Department, and the Fall River Schools was complicated by the pandemic.

MATTHEW MALONE: I failed my responsibility, because this happened under my watch. Without eyes on, we had no idea the depravity that was happening in this home, and this is a house of horrors.

CHERYL FIANDACA: In October, police found David in this Greenstreet apartment, emaciated, covered in bruises and feces. His triplet brother was also being starved to death. DCF reunited the boys who were living with autism and developmental disabilities with their father John Almond, and his girlfriend Jaclyn Coleman, just as schools shut down.

MARIA MOSSAIDES: Very evident that they were being starved to death. The father and his girlfriend staged the virtual visits, which only occurred in a bad cell phone view and answered for the children. There was not a clear view of the state of both David and Michael.

CHERYL FIANDACA: For eight months, no one ever saw the children in person, and DCF could not explain why it decided to return the boys to their father who had a history of abuse and neglect.

LINDA SPEARS: In-person visits were rebuffed by the family, and we did not catch it. We did not catch that there was purposeful efforts to avoid visits and avoid in-person contact.

CHERYL FIANDACA: The state report says all safety nets failed to protect the children and recommended sweeping changes, including in-person visits for high risk families and better training for staff to detect abuse and neglect. DCF says two management level employees have been terminated.

CHARLIE BAKER: The report itself is incredibly damning. I expect and anticipate that everything in there is going to get implemented as fast as it possibly can be.

CHERYL FIANDACA: DCF tells us, David's brother and a half sibling who were living in the home are now doing well. A third sibling was not living with the family. As for the child's father and his girlfriend, both are now facing second degree murder charges. Cheryl Fiandaca, WBZ News.