Like a scene out of the fairy tales she loved, the little girl everyone called Princess was heard crying for help from her second-story window.
But unlike Rapunzel, no prince showed up to rescue 4-year-old Emily Rose Perrin, whose mother hallucinated about dark angels that told her to kill the child.
The state child protective agency with the power to take children from their parents didn’t save Emily either, despite receiving 10 reports of suspected abuse.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services now is calling Emily’s death a failure of the system and is making changes to stop it from happening again.
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A neighbor called DCFS’ hotline on June 3, 2015, detailing the incident. The caller told of calling Dupo police numerous times, but “all they did was pull up and leave.” The caller went on to tell the hotline that Emily and her 6-year-old brother, Ethan, were out unsupervised, “wandering the streets” between 12:30 and 2 a.m.
The caller also told a child protective worker that two days before she called the hotline, Ethan came to her with his hands tied behind his back and told her “they were going to get him with pliers and send him to heaven.”
But that report, one of 10 made in the 10 months before Emily’s death, would be deemed not credible after family members denied the allegations and said the child’s mother, Mary Lockett, was fighting with the neighbor.
The reports were made public after a Freedom of Information request was made by the Belleville News-Democrat. The report, called a “Quality Assurance Report,” details each of the calls made to DCFS.
The report outlines efforts to help a mentally ill mother — with a history of substance abuse — in parenting two small children, one of them medically challenged, and three older children without much of a support network. The report also points out opportunities the department missed to save Emily, who was suffocated by her mother the day before her fifth birthday.
Cases like Emily’s are causing a change in the way DCFS manages cases where they have found abuse or neglect but left the children in the home, opting to provide support, such as parenting classes or substance-abuse treatment, to parents rather than placing the children in foster care. But now, DCFS will be more assertive when another abuse or neglect report comes into the department, it says.
“We are making an effort to be much more aggressive in cases where we have children remaining in the home,” Neil Skene, special assistant to the director of DCFS, told the News-Democrat.
In Emily’s case, DCFS received multiple subsequent reports. Lockett was making little progress, and there was no effort to place the kids in foster care.
The Quality Assurance Report begins in January 2015 when DCFS received a call reporting subtance misuse, inadequate supervision and an injurious environment in the home. The allegations were determined to be unfounded — the term DCFS uses to mean unsubstantiated.
A month later, there was another report of abuse to Ethan. That report, too, was determined to be uunfounded. The details of those complaints were not available because at that time, DCFS did not keep details readily available on unfounded reports.
Six days after the unfounded abuse report concerning Ethan, DCFS received another complaint alleging Lockett beat her 18-year-old daughter, Corrine, in front of Ethan and Emily. The fight began, according to the report, because Corrine tried to wake Lockett to take Emily and Ethan to school. Lockett wanted Corrine to do it, but she refused, the report said, because “she had been watching the children for the past several days.”
The two argued, and when Lockett left to take the children to school, the report said Corrine began packing. When Lockett came home, she got angry and pulled Corrine from the car, jumped on the hood and kicked in the windshield. Corrine grabbed a knife to protect herself from her mother.
Lockett was arrested and charged with domestic battery, but DCFS closed the case with no services recommended. Lockett “appeared to be medication-compliant after a period of not regularly taking her medicine.” The three oldest children were living outside the home, and Lockett “was parenting Ethan and Emily without incident.”
Lockett “appeared to be medication-compliant after a period of not regularly taking her medicine.” The three oldest children were living outside the home, and Lockett “was parenting Ethan and Emily without incident.” DCFS report
On June 12, 2015, police again were called to the home. Lockett became angry and threw a glass. She threw a lamp and “almost hit Emily in the head,” according to the report. Lockett made suicidal threats. Lockett told police that she was smoking marijuana daily, but declined treatment because “she had stopped using crack eight years earlier” without help and so she was sure she could stop smoking marijuana on her own. She told the investigator that she didn’t want her older kids in the home because they were too difficult to manage. Lockett was psychiatrically hospitalized. Other family members took care of the kids. DCFS opened a case, with Lockett agreeing to receive services and acknowledging she needed help.
DCFS received another complaint on Oct. 8, 2015, that Brendan, 16, was locked out of the house and the family had been living on peanut butter. An investigator questioned Lockett about the allegation. She denied anyone was kicked out, but did acknowledge that there was an argument and he “kicked down the front door.” The investigator found food in the house. The children denied the allegation. Lockett denied smoking marijuana or letting Brendan smoke marijuana. The allegation was determined to be unfounded.
Three weeks later, DCFS received another complaint. A caller reported that Mary Lockett’s father grabbed one of the smaller children by the arm and fell, causing the child to fall. The grandfather told the investigator Mary Lockett was always dropping off her children, but the grandparents were too old to be able to care for them. Mary Lockett said her father was suffering from dementia and was abusive to her as a child.
The investigator found credible evidence that Lockett’s children were being neglected. But the children remained in Lockett’s care.
On Nov. 11, 2015, Brendan said that Lockett poured water on his head, beat him with a belt, hitting him in the head with the buckle, then punched him in the nose. Lockett then ordered him out of her house, saying she was going to “beat his ass.” The teen told an investigator that his mother was smoking marijuana before the fight. The investigator found no evidence of the abuse. There were no visible injuries when Brendan’s father let the teen be interviewed three weeks later. Corrine told the investigator she didn’t see any marks when she picked Brendan up from the Lockett home.
A worker from Emily’s and Ethan’s school came to the Lockett home on Dec. 22, 2015, to deliver Christmas gifts for the kids. The school worker called the DCFS hotline after finding Ethan outside with no shoes or socks on. Ethan told the worker that he didn’t want to go inside because he was afraid his mother would beat him. She hit him with hangers and belts, Ethan said, and he hid in the closet to avoid being beaten. From inside the house, the worker could hear Lockett screaming and tried to console the trembling Ethan. Lockett came out and told the worker that she was “having a nervous breakdown.” The house was dirty. Animals were running around. The worker reported Lockett appeared intoxicated and having extreme mood swings.
The DCFS worker didn’t see any bruises, and Ethan denied being abused. But they did find that Emily and Ethan were being abused due to Lockett’s “extreme and erratic behavior,” according to the report.
It was Jan. 28, 2016, when DCFS received another report of abuse. This time Emily began crying at school and showed a teacher a mark on her right arm. She said her mother hit her. Ethan confirmed the abuse, saying he was hit with broken hangers and belts. He told the social worker that “he was so tired of the yelling in the home, he would go outside and sit until things got calm.”
The same day, a babysitter told DCFS that Lockett had been late to pick up the kids, too. She was an hour and half late to get Emily and nearly an hour to get Ethan. Lockett had called the babysitter and told her she needed to keep the kids overnight because she was in jail. The babysitter didn’t feel comfortable providing extended care for the kids because Emily had cystic fibrosis and needed medicine the sitter didn’t have. The babysitter took the kids back to school. The police took them to their grandparents.
After that report, the children still remained with Lockett.
On Feb. 17, 2016, Lockett left the kids with a new babysitter. She didn’t tell her about Emily’s cystic fibrosis. She didn’t leave medicine. In fact, the sitter didn’t know the kids’ last names. She would later tell investigators that she got a text from Lockett, saying she needed $400 to get out of jail. Once again, the babysitter took the kids back to school, where officials got in touch with their grandparents. Police delivered the kids to the grandparents.
This report was initially found to be not credible, and the children were allowed to stay with Lockett. But that changed after Emily’s death.
On April 10, Lockett was naked when she laid on top of Emily, cupping her hand over her nose and mouth, cutting off the air supply. Eric Kirk, who was living with the family, knocked Lockett off Emily, called 911 and tried to revive the girl. Lockett told police, “The dark angel has come” and “the dark angel doesn’t walk on the ground.” God told her to kill her daughter, she said.
Emily, the little girl who loved princesses, died the day before her fifth birthday.
Mary Lockett was charged with murder. In June, 2017, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and placed in the care of the Illinois Department of Human Services. Ethan and Brendan went to live with Corrine. She wasn’t old enough at 19 to be a foster parent, but her boyfriend was, so the kids went there. Machenzie was already living with her father’s ex-wife in Columbia. (Machenzie is a teenager, but her exact age was unavailable.)
“Although this family presented as chaotic, unpredictable and at high risk for harm to the children in the household, the approach to service intervention appeared passive,” the report states. “Rather than act quickly to move to the next step of safety planning or requesting assistance from the state’s attorney to obtain a court order or custody, the caseworker offered prompts for a consistent medication and therapy regimen for family members.”
The caseworker did try to link Lockett with treatment and resources, the report found, and talked to a supervisor regarding the case.
“The points of alarm that were shared with the supervisor seemed to be met, at times, with a muted response regarding how to problem-solve the issue,” the report states.
DCFS Director Beverly Walker told a joint legislative committee hearing on July 25 that her department must do a better job of monitoring children under their watch.
“When we make a decision to leave children with their parents, it is not about the adults — it is about the kids — because they want it so bad. Our job therefore is to contemplate the risks and then support our decision with a full-court press,” she said. “We often find that what we are doing on the front line is not a binary choice between safety and danger.”
When we make a decision to leave children with their parents, it is not about the adults — it is about the kids — because they want it so bad. Our job therefore is to contemplate the risks and then support our decision with a full-court press.
DCFS Director Beverly Walker
She added, “Vulnerable families live complicated and convoluted lives; we often find ourselves needing not just to evaluate safety but also needing to evaluated risk and well-being — which may not be as straightforward.”
As a result of cases like Emily’s, Walker said DCFS has:
▪ Changed the numbering and case record search capabilities so investigators can get a better history of each family, including reports of abuse or neglect that at the time were found not to be credible.
▪ Created a report for supervisors on the 2,700 cases being monitored by DCFS that have new allegations of abuse or neglect.
▪ Come up with a plan to review cases with new reports at a higher management level in the agency to ensure the quality of the work.
▪ Come up with a plan to facilitate regular contact between the family’s caseworkers and investigators regarding additional needs.
▪ Come up with a plan to try to make sure investigators and caseworkers will visit the home together to make sure each understands the family situation and the scope of the new allegation.
The agency also will seek the help of police, school officials and mental health professionals, according to Skene, the assistant to the DCFS director.
“We can’t do this by ourselves,” Skene said. “In dealing with DCFS families, it really does take a whole community.”
In Emily’s case, it appears social workers tried to guess the risk of leaving the kids with Lockett posed.
On June 24, 2015, they found “no information ... that would lead a reasonable person to find the children are in immediate danger of harm.” On Sept. 23, 2015, the social worker noted Lockett was participating in services, taking her medication, but hadn’t began counseling for herself and the children. There was no violence in the home, the assessment noted. On Dec. 9, 2015, no safety threats were identified, the report stated. On March 10, 2016, just a month before Emily was killed, the worker noted “there appear to be no children likely to be moderately or severely harmed.” That finding was despite three investigations that found credible evidence of abuse or neglect and Lockett’s lack of cooperation in getting help with her anger and substance abuse, and not getting counseling for herself and her children.
The 10 complaints didn’t save Emily. She didn’t have a birthday party, a cake with five candles on it or open the wrapping paper to reveal a new princess doll.
Her calls for help from her bedroom window on that night in 2015 did not allow her to escape a chaotic, abusive household. What happened to Emily that night of the first report to DCFS is unclear. One line in a DCFS report supposes a sad answer: A social worker, according to the report, “guessed she cried herself to sleep.”