A case of child 'torture', Melody Clayton sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing children

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Normal A case of child 'torture', Melody Clayton sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing children

Post by Praying For Faith on Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:19 am

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A case of child 'torture'
11:27 PM, Feb. 25, 2012
Written by Sharon Coolidge




Bud and Jessica Strudoff of Delhi are photographed with their 12-year-old foster son. Bud was the 12-year-old's social studies teacher when it became apparent that the boy was abused. / The Enquirer/Carrie Cochran

Hamilton County Job and Family Services director Moira Weir reviewed the case and last week suspended two workers who investigated a February 2011 complaint. That meant 10 months went by before the agency helped the boy. That help finally came in response to another complaint and intervention by the boy’s school.

The person who finally forced JFS to take action: Bud Strudthoff, the boy’s teacher and now his temporary guardian.

He says Job and Family Services didn’t do enough.

“You have to remember there is a child out there,” Strudthoff said. “On an individual level I don’t think they’re forgetting that, but children get lost in the bureaucracy of the establishment.”

The boy’s biological mother, Stacey Rush, also blames Job and Family Services for not helping sooner. She said she made one of the first five complaints, but was ignored.

“They should have been in that house and checking,” Rush said. “And because they didn’t, look at where my son is and the abuse he’s been through.

“It is beyond awful.”

This is the third time in three months The Enquirer has reported on problematic responses to abused children by Hamilton County Job and Family Services.

Damarcus Jackson, 2, and Tyrese Short, 3, both were killed shortly after Job and Family Services allowed them to return to their biological fathers’ care after allegations of abuse. JFS found wrongdoing by the agency in Tyrese’s death. An independent assessment is being done in Damarcus’ case, although the county prosecutor said there was no criminal action by the agency.
JFS gave custody of boy to relatives as an infant

Job and Family Services was involved in the family’s life even before the boy was born in the fall of 1999, Hamilton County Juvenile Court records showed.

Stacey Rush had a lengthy rap sheet, struggled with drug addiction and was about to go to jail, according to records and Rush.

Clayton took custody of the infant. He came to live with her and her husband, Mark Clayton.

The first abuse complaint came when the boy was 3, according to Job and Family Services records. Details aren’t public records, but JFS workers found no evidence of abuse.

Three years later, in 2006, JFS workers investigated another abuse complaint. Again, they found no evidence of abuse.

In 2007, when the boy was 7, JFS looked at the family after getting a complaint about neglect and separately learned that Melody Clayton was being sent to prison for six months after being convicted of passing bad checks and misuse of credit cards.

A JFS review of those concerns, detailed in juvenile court records, showed that social workers found the boy wasn’t getting required counseling and missed a lot of school. Still, they determined he wasn’t neglected.

Workers devised a plan: The Claytons could keep custody if they sent the boy to school regularly and on time, if Melody Clayton took anger-management classes, and that the family follow up on therapy for the boy if it was recommended.

The boy stayed with Mark Clayton while Melody Clayton served her prison term.

A court-appointed lawyer charged with acting in the boy’s best interest reported to Hamilton County Juvenile Court that the boy called the Claytons “mom and dad” and that he told her “he wants to remain in their care.”

The Claytons followed through on the plan and court supervision of the family ended.

Then Mark Clayton died of heart-related issues in November 2008.
17-month-old girl abused, and incident connected to Clayton

JFS received two more complaints that the boy had been abused – one in January 2010 and another in February 2011 . Both times workers found no evidence of abuse.

Weir found problems with the agency’s handling of the February complaint after The Enquirer looked into the case, but at the time no one questioned workers’ findings.

In November 2011, Melody Clayton came under more scrutiny.

On Nov. 28, the boy came to school with a swollen nose, which alarmed Strudthoff and the school’s counselor. They reported possible abuse to Job and Family Services.

Two-and-a-half days later, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center notified Delhi Township Police that the 17-month-old girl Clayton babysat during the week had a broken leg, broken arm, had been burned with a cigarette on the foot and had a bruise on her head, according to JFS and court records. That case would be investigated separately, but JFS said workers knew both involved Clayton.

But Strudthoff said JFS didn’t act quickly enough to help the boy. Records show it took five days for workers to remove him from the home.

JFS spokesman Brian Gregg said caseworker Mary Martini responded to the call the next day – within 24 hours, as required by law. Martini’s first solo case was the previous month.

Strudthoff had been monitoring the boy since the beginning of the school year. The boy’s teacher from the year before told him she suspected abuse.

Strudthoff said he would ask the boy about bumps and scrapes and cuts, but the boy always had an explanation.

“I backed off, I gave him space,” Strudthoff said.

Until the swollen nose.

The boy didn’t come to school the next day, so Martini interviewed the boy at home, both alone and with Melody Clayton in the room, Gregg said. The boy denied having been hit, Gregg said.

Martini determined the boy was safe, but opened an investigation. That meant she would follow up with other people in the boy’s life.

The boy returned to school Wednesday. There, for the first time, he opened up to Police Officer William Murphy, who worked at the school. The boy later told Strudthoff he finally admitted the abuse because “everyone already knew it was happening” and “I felt I didn’t need to live there anymore.”

The school counselor’s calls to Job and Family Services weren’t returned, Strudthoff said.

“We didn’t want to send him home, but we had to,” Strudthoff said.

He shed tears at the thought of sending the boy home that day.
Teacher, counselor and police officer intervened to help boy

Thursday, back at school, the boy continued to open up to Murphy and the counselor. Strudthoff joined them after classes.

Murphy took photographs of bruising and scarring and the boy told him how it happened. The hitting. The burning. He remembered most, but not all, Strudthoff said.

“We had no idea things were as bad as what he was telling us,” Strudthoff said.

Strudthoff asked him: “Do you feel safe going home?”

The boy: “No.”

Strudthoff, the counselor and Murphy took the boy to an emergency shelter.

He came to school the next day. That afternoon Murphy took the boy to be evaluated at the Mayerson Center, a special unit of doctors, police and prosecutors at Children’s Hospital who investigate abuse.

Strudthoff and the counselor were in the counselor’s office at about 2 p.m. when JFS caseworker Martini called. She said she was developing a plan to send the boy home to other adults, but Melody Clayton would have to leave.

The counselor questioned the decision, Strudthoff said.

When they hung up, Strudthoff took the phone.

He called Martini’s supervisor, Katie Ray, and got her voicemail. He hung up.

He called 241-KIDS, the agency’s emergency-abuse hotline. He was connected to the voicemail of Traci Marr, Martini and Ray’s boss. He hung up.

He called the emergency hotline again.

“I am not letting you get off the phone until I have a warm body on the other end,” he told the call taker.

By now, it’s 4 p.m.

Marr, got on the line. Marr told Strudthoff she wanted to review the case. She said she would call him back.

The boy was still at the Mayerson Center.

Two hours later Marr called and said she was taking over the case.

At 8 p.m., she called again. The boy was being taken from the home.

“We were relieved,” Strudthoff said. “He was not going to be back in that house.”
Two suspended, while worker in November case resigns

The Enquirer reviewed the personnel files of the workers suspended over handling of the complaint in February.

Rebecca Hammoor got a one-day suspension.

She has been with the agency three years. The most recent review in her file dated January 2011 shows she was wasn’t keeping up with paperwork and hadn’t met deadlines her bosses had given to her.

She received a written reprimand in October 2011 for having completed only 16 of the 41 cases she was handling.

Hammoor’s supervisor, Scott Gall, received a five-day suspension.

In an earlier case in 2009, he was given a written reprimand for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, nonfeasance and failure of good behavior” after a caseworker he supervised failed to follow up with a family being investigated for physical abuse to children.

“They didn’t follow all the policies and procedures in regards to an investigation of an allegation of abuse,” Weir said about the boy’s case.

“In my opinion, the quality of the investigation was not where it could have been,” Weir said. “The supervisor signed off on it and shouldn’t have.”

Weir found no wrongdoing by workers in the November case.

“Based on the evidence gathered through the preliminary investigation – which consisted among other things of talking to the child alone – the worker took appropriate action,” JFS spokesman Gregg said. “Further investigation was planned, but before that occurred, the child came forward with a different story and immediate action was taken to ensure his safety.”

Martini resigned from the agency on Feb. 14. Gregg would not say why.
Clayton facing felony charges; boy safe with the Strudthoffs

Clayton was arrested on Dec. 23. She’s being held in jail on eight felony charges – four each of child-endangering and felonious assault. She is scheduled to appear in court on March 7. If convicted, she faces up to 64 years in prison.

Her lawyer did not return a call for comment.

A juvenile court magistrate already has said the boy will never go back and live with her.

Almost three months have passed since Strudthoff rescued the boy. At first he was sent to foster care, but now he lives with Strudthoff and his wife, Jessica Strudthoff.

It all started with a simple warning from the boy’s teacher the year before. “Watch out for him,” she said.

Bud Strudthoff took that to heart. “We clicked first as student and teacher, but he’s a fantastic kid, easy to talk to, easy to connect to,” Bud Strudthoff said.

After the boy revealed the abuse, Bud Strudthoff didn’t want to send him to live with a stranger, even a licensed foster parent vetted by the system.

“I wanted him to have a safe place go with people he knew,” Bud Strudthoff said.

Jessica Strudthoff saw how her husband connected with the boy and agreed to let the boy live with them without ever meeting him. Now, the couple wants to adopt him. They had always considered adopting. They thought the child would be a baby.

“But now we know it’s (the boy),” Bud Strudthoff said.

This is the third time in three months The Enquirer has reported on problematic responses to abused children by Hamilton County Job and Family Services.

Damarcus Jackson, 2, and Tyrese Short, 3, both were killed shortly after Job and Family Services allowed them to return to their biological fathers’ care after allegations of abuse. JFS found wrongdoing by the agency in Tyrese’s death. An independent assessment is being done in Damarcus’ case, although the county prosecutor said there was no criminal action by the agency.

studies teacher when it became apparent that the boy was abused. / The Enquirer/Carrie Cochran


How we reported this story

The Enquirer reviewed Melody Clayton’s criminal records and the boy’s juvenile court record. Prior complaints were discovered through a public-records request, though specific details of each complaint are not public record under Ohio law. The Enquirer conducted interviews with Job and Family Services officials, police and prosecutors.
Want to help?

Become a volunteer child advocate or help abused children in other ways. Call ProKids at 281-2000 or go to ProKids.org to learn more.
Complaints date to 2003

May 2003: Abuse complaint
no evidence found
April 2006: Abuse complaint
no evidence found
May 2007: Neglect complaint
no evidence found
January 2010: Abuse complaint
no evidence found
February 2011: Abuse complaint
no evidence found
November 2011: Abuse complaint
arrest made, child removed
Hamilton County commissioners react

Todd Portune, D: “We need a full and thorough evaluation of this case. There are several checks in place at JFS to review reports and investigations that should have caught this sooner. If it is evident today that a report failed I want to know why that wasn’t caught before.”
Greg Hartmann, R: “It’s important in every one of these cases to have an independent examination to see what – if any – changes were made. I want to see the facts of this case. We have somebody who stands ready to do outside reviews. If those are the facts, it would certainly warrant an outside review. There has been reduction close to 50 percent in federal and state finding. To expect the same level of service is unrealistic. There is no more important job than ensuring the safety of children in our care. That’s how I look at the foster care system. We are responsible for them. That is job number one.”
Chris Monzel, R: “I’m still waiting for the full investigation to be completed. We do need to do a full investigation and make sure we take appropriate action. That includes discipline if deemed necessary. The nature of their mission is dealing with issues. I do believe (Agency Director) Moira (Weir) is providing good leadership, but we need to be constantly vigilant. There are not easy issues.”

This is the third time in three months The Enquirer has reported on problematic responses to abused children by Hamilton County Job and Family Services.

OMG, What a story. It made me think of Zahra while I was reading it. These JFS or CPS's need to get their act together. This is just uncalled for. Bless this teacher and his wife.

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Normal Re: A case of child 'torture', Melody Clayton sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing children

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:23 am

Terrible, Horrific story!!! Thanks for posting it! OMG!

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Normal Re: A case of child 'torture', Melody Clayton sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing children

Post by Praying For Faith on Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:39 am

Wrap, the link is at the top of the post. I always post it first so that I do not forget.

The man, Bud Strudoff is the little boy's Social Studies teacher who is the one that forced the JFS's to take action on this little boy's case. The lady is Bud Strudoff's wife. They are his foster parents now, but want to adopt him.

I thought this was pretty horrific also. That poor little boy. What a great teacher this Bud Strudoff is, IMO. I wondered why the teacher from the previous year did not force anything. That teacher told this Bud Strudoff to watch him, because of suspected abuse. Of course it sounds like this Bud Strudoff stayed right on top of this little boy's case. I hope they are able to adopt him and that they all have a wonderful life. That picture sure portrays to me that the couple love and care about that little boy.

Bud and Jessica Strudoff of Delhi are photographed with their 12-year-old foster son. Bud was the 12-year-old's social studies teacher when it became apparent that the boy was abused.


Last edited by Praying For Faith on Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:40 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : correction)

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Normal Re: A case of child 'torture', Melody Clayton sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing children

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:45 am

LOL, I noticed it and edited my post before I thought you would see that. You are Quick, my friend!!

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Prayers for our little HaLeigh Cummings, wherever she may be!!

Nine-tenths of wisdom is appreciation. Go find somebody’s hand and squeeze it, while there’s time.
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Thank you RAINE for all you ARE!! I will ALWAYS hold you in my Heart!!
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Normal 'This is the most evil woman I have ever dealt with'

Post by Praying For Faith on Fri Jul 27, 2012 4:32 pm

[url=nky.cincinnati.cBud Strudthoff,om/article/AB/20120723/NEWS0107/307230023/-most-evil-woman-ever-dealt-?odyssey=obinsite]nky.cincinnati.cBud Strudthoff,om/article/AB/20120723/NEWS0107/307230023/-most-evil-woman-ever-dealt-?odyssey=obinsite[/url]

'This is the most evil woman I have ever dealt with'
Child abuser gets 9 years in prison
5:58 AM, Jul. 24, 2012

Written by Kimball Perry
|

Melody Clayton with attorney Perry Ancona./The Enquirer/Kimball Perry

For eight years, Hamilton County’s Job & Family Services department received complaints suggesting Melody Clayton was abusing children.

That agency, which handles abuse complaints involving children, could find no evidence of that abuse even though one of her victims had burns all over his body, including his penis. The sex organs of the 17-month-old girl she babysat for weeks at a time were so infected, an operation was needed.

Teachers in Delhi Township complained for years, Assistant Prosecutor Katie Pridemore said, but nothing was done until November.

“This is the most evil woman I have ever dealt with,” Delhi Township Police Lt. Joe Macaluso said of Clayton, moments after she was sent to prison for nine years.

That was the sentence imposed by Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Winkler who told Clayton, “You did create a hellish environment for those children entrusted with your care.”

Clayton, 42, pleaded guilty July 11 to four counts of child endangering in exchange for four other counts being dropped. She was a relative and legal guardian of the boy.

The girl’s other injuries included two broken bones each in her left leg and left arm, cigarette burns in a foot and lesions on her legs and head.

The boy’s other injuries included teeth broken by being hit or slapped, a gash in his head caused when hit by a broken glass thrown by Clayton and numerous cigarette burns on his face, head and other body parts.

The boy now lives with his teacher, Bud Strudthoff, who pushed JFS to take action involving the abuse.

After The Enquirer investigated anonymous tips about Clayton’s abuse, two JFS workers were suspended.

“Anyone convicted of child abuse should be held accountable for their crimes. The spotlight is where it should be today – on the perpetrator of the abuse,” JFS spokesman Brian Gregg said Monday.

Clayton also served a prison term in 2007 for passing bad checks and credit card fraud.

I remember posting on this case back in February. This is just horrific to me. These child protection agencies are not doing their job at all. For 8 years this had been reported. My heart went out to this Bud Strudoff and his wife, the teacher of this little boy for taking him in to live with them. This POS was a relative and guardian of this little boy and abused him like this. Put burns all over his body including his penis. I can't imagine! OMG! what she did to that little baby girl. I wish we had more judges like this man and I hope that someone steps up in the child protection agencies everywhere to and watch over them. This is just horrible what these children go through. I wonder what the four charges were for that were dropped in a plea deal. And she only got 9 years in Prison!!!!

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Normal Delhi Township Babysitter Gets Nine Years For Abuse

Post by Praying For Faith on Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:40 pm

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Delhi Township Babysitter Gets Nine Years For Abuse
Published: 7/23 1:38 pm Updated: 7/23 1:56 pm

Melody Clayton (She sure looks different in that picture than the picture in the video of her in court.)

There is a video at the above link but I was having trouble getting it embedded.

Nine years in prison - that was the sentence handed down today for a Delhi Township woman for abusing two children in her care. Melody Clayton had pleaded guilty to four counts of child endangering.

Prosecutors say Clayton burned two children, a 17-month-old and a 12-year-old, with cigarettes and broke one child's teeth and the other's leg. But, today in court, it was revealed there was even more abuse.

Clayton told the judge that she was sorry for her actions and took full responsibility. Her attorney said his client was bipolar and was ill-equipped to babysit children.

The grandmother of the 18-month-old who was burned and had her leg broken, talked about how her granddaughter will be scarred emotionally as well. The biological mother revealed how her 12-year-old son had been burned and had his teeth broken. In addition, she and prosecutors confirmed that he recently revealed he had been burned on his genitals. Assistant Prosecutor Katherine Pridemore says, "At that time they did find there was scarring on his penis while they can't say it's from a hair straightener, it is physical evidence of corroboration that what he is saying is true."

Defense Attorney Perry Ancona says, "It's tragic and sad for everybody involved... Not fitted to be in position... As she did in court today."

For more on the case, click here.



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Normal Delhi Township Toddler Beaten, Burned By Babysitter

Post by Praying For Faith on Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:05 pm

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Delhi Township Toddler Beaten, Burned By Babysitter
Published: 7/20 10:13 am Updated: 7/20 10:37 am

There is a video on the above website link about the toddler's injuries. Sorry, I found this article after I posted the above one.

Two children, beaten and burned-now, just days before a babysitter is sentenced, a grandmother breaks her silence about the case.

Melody Clayton pleaded guilty to four counts of child endangering. The prosecutor says she burned a toddler and her 12-year-old nephew with cigarettes, and caused broken bones and teeth.

Local 12's Angenette Levy reports a story you will only see on Local 12 News. Melody Clayton has been in jail since Christmas Eve. Yesterday, the grandmother of the 17-month-old victim is talking about how the abuse is causing her granddaughter pain nearly nine months later. "Our family has been tortured enough through this."

The torture started for Nancy Williams's family late last year when doctors discovered her then 17-month-old granddaughter had been physically abused. Prosecutors say babysitter Melody Clayton was to blame. "She was like really, really lifeless. And it was scary."

Photos show where the now two-year-old girl had been bandaged due to fractures and a cigarette burn on her foot. "My granddaughter has nightmares at night. My granddaughter got burnt. And, she points to her little boo-boo every time I put sandals on."

Williams says her daughter trusted Clayton, a mother of six, to babysit her two children for a week at a time while she worked to earn money for Christmas gifts last November. As police investigated what happened to Williams's granddaughter at Clayton's Delhi Township home, they discovered Clayton had also abused her 12-year-old nephew whom she was raising for years. "I feel now that everything happens for a reason. What she endured I believe was to help that little boy out."

Now Nancy Williams hopes Melody Clayton will get the max when she's sentenced next week. "I hope for her to get her sentence and be able to do her time and think about what she has did, not only to our family but to her own, too."

Nancy Williams says at first, she thought Melody Clayton may have been getting too close to her daughter. But then she met her face-to-face and thought she was a nice woman. Her former in-laws had also vouched for Clayton.

Melody Clayton faces a maximum sentence of 32 years in prison.
(OMG, She faced a maximum sentence of 32 years on only got 9 years.)
The Department of Job and Family Services had complaints on Melody Clayton dating back to 2003 involving her nephew. A spokesperson for the agency says the nephew had been interviewed several times but denied any abuse occurred. When the most recent allegations surfaced, the boy admitted he'd been hurt. A Job and Family Services case worker and manager were suspended as a result.


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