I-Team: Lack of communication may have led to system failure in Takoda Collins’ death

A joint I-Team and Dayton Daily News investigation is uncovering new information about the possibly missed opportunities to save Takoda within the system responsible for protecting children in danger.

DAYTON — The death of Takoda Collins has touched a nerve across the Miami Valley. Montgomery County prosecutors say the 10-year-old died after his dad, Al-Mutahan McLean, tortured and abused him for years, as McLean's fiancée and her sister did nothing to stop him. Prosecutors also say McLean raped his son shortly before his death.

A joint I-Team and Dayton Daily News investigation is uncovering new information about the possibly missed opportunities to save Takoda within the system responsible for protecting children in danger, and what's being done to prevent what many say was a preventable death from happening again.

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News Center 7 has widely reported there were numerous red flags reported before Takoda Collins' death. But for the first time, this investigation between the I-Team and the Dayton Daily News is uncovering records showing that the home where Takoda Collins spent the final moments of his life was more well known to law enforcement than we previously knew. Over the course of three-and-a-half years, beginning in June 2016 until Collins' death in December, police were at the home more than 10 times.

Including a welfare check on Feb. 19, 2016, after a report Takoda's older brother had a black eye. Officers wrote that no one was at home and they let Children Services know.

"No ans at door. Spoke with CSB worker who advised that when home, father evasive and will never allow workers to enter home to check conditions. Suggested having school call to investigate issue further on alleged/possible abuse."

Police also responded to the home in March 2016 and May 2016 after Hinze called for help.

On March 3, she reports McLean is drunk and refusing to leave the home. Officers respond and find McLean drunk and argumentative. They advise Hinze of the eviction process.

On May 25, Hinze calls police "crying hysterically" saying McLean hit her and will not leave. There was no record of further interaction after police arrived.

Four of the calls from 2016-2019 specifically involved Takoda.

Police records show the first communication between the Dayton Police Department and Montgomery County Children Services about Takoda came a little more than three years before Collins' death. McLean called police when Takoda's half-brother ran away in August 2016. Dayton Police records show officers made a referral to Children Services after the incident — but the county cited privacy laws when the I-Team asked how the agency followed up on that referral.

Dayton officers were back at the home the next month when McLean called police about another neighbor dispute in September 2016. Again, Dayton police don't have any contact with Takoda during this call for service.

In May 2018, DPD was back at the house when a Dayton Public Schools worker and Children Services staff reported concerns to Dayton police about Takoda being abused. No one answered the door at the home, so police left. Montgomery County Children Services cited privacy laws when the I-Team asked how that welfare check was followed up on. Just two weeks after that welfare check, in May 2018, McLean pulled Collins from Dayton Public Schools and into homeschool.

Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli would not provide records to back up her claims staff reported abuse and neglect at least 15 times. The district cited privacy laws when it refused to answer what and when teachers reported.

In November 2018, police were back at the home for another neighbor dispute — but again, had no contact with Takoda.

Later that same month, Dayton officers put Takoda in the back of a police cruiser when they responded to the home. McLean and his fiancée, Amanda Hinze, told Dayton police they wanted an unruly Takoda taken to juvenile detention. But then, the couple changes their mind, saying they wanted to take him to Kettering Medical Center for a behavioral analysis instead. A Kettering Health Network spokesperson told the I-Team there was never a record Takoda was brought to the hospital as McLean and Hinze told police they would.

Six months after Takoda was placed in the back of that police car at his home in May 2019. Robin Collins said she found out her son was here in Dayton. She called the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center's non-emergency line asking for law enforcement for a welfare check on Takoda at the home on Kensington Drive.

"I believe that his father is hurting him and abusing him and that he's too scared to tell anybody because his father won't let him talk to anybody," Robin Collins told a Montgomery County dispatcher over the phone from her home in Wisconsin. "(McLean) has pulled him out of school."

Dispatch records show after that call, Dayton police showed up to the home and reported they believed Takoda was being cared for.

Then, seven months later, on Dec. 13, 2019, Dayton police respond to the home for the final time before Takoda's death. A 911 call from McLean himself sent police and medics rushing to the home.

"Yes, um, my son is unresponsive right now," McLean told the dispatcher.

Dayton paramedics rushed Takoda to Dayton Children's Hospital in an ambulance, but doctors at Dayton Children's could not save the boy. Takoda Collins died later that night.

"I do," is what Robin Collins said when the I-Team asked her if she ever thinks about her son's final moments. "Was he asking for somebody to help him? Was he saying please ... stop? I don't know what he went through. It's hard for me to imagine."

The end of Takoda Collins' story is unfathomable for Robin Collins.

But long before he came to Ohio, the tumultuous times in Takoda Collins' short life started where he was born: in Wisconsin. Court records show Robin Collins was sentenced to probation for hitting Takoda when he was 11 months old. Later, she lost custody after using drugs. That probation violation landed her in prison.

Robin Collins told the I-Team she wanted her family to get custody. But Takoda ended up in foster care instead.

"I failed him. My family failed him. We have to take some of that responsibility. As his mother, I have to take that responsibility. I feel guilty as hell," Robin Collins said. When asked why she feels guilty, Collins told the I-Team, "That I never got off the drugs to get him back. That I didn't get my (expletive) together in time to save him."

While Robin Collins was in prison — seven years before her son's death — Takoda's father was building a violent criminal record in Wisconsin. Al McLean pleaded guilty to charges related to choking out a stranger because he thought the guy stole his phone.

A police officer and witness also accused McLean of attacking his his fiancée, Amanda Hinze, in Wisconsin. Again, Hinze is now facing charges herself related to Takoda's child abuse. McLean was accused of hitting Hinze over the head with a pipe, dragging her by her hair to a car and punching her before driving away. But the Wisconsin charges were dropped after Hinze denied being a victim.

Just three days before that incident, McLean had been granted sole custody of Takoda. But with that violent past, how was McLean able to eventually move away from Wisconsin with Takoda? The I-Team just obtained records that add context.

Days after the court gave McLean custody, Robin Collins started a year-long fight asking a Wisconsin judge to prevent McLean from leaving the state with Takoda, citing abuse allegations. But in October 2014 the court ruled in favor of McLean saying Collins had not proven her case.

The judge agreed to let McLean move to Pennsylvania with Hinze and take Takoda with him.

Only the couple ended up in Dayton. Montgomery County property records show Hinze bought the home on Kensington about one month after the Wisconsin court hearing. McLean's name is not listed on publicly available county records. In fact, Wisconsin records show the court still thought McLean lived in Wisconsin.

By the time Takoda Collins died, at least half a dozen Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio agencies were suppose to have played a role in protecting his well-being. The joint I-Team and Dayton Daily News investigation uncovered concerns those organizations not talking to each other may have led to a cumulative system failure.

Here's where we started to notice a pattern in our search for answers: when the I-Team asked how the calls to help Takoda were followed up on, agencies often told us privacy laws prevented them from answering.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl declined an on camera interview with the I-Team, but said in a statement there are, "undoubtedly possibilities for improved communication."

Biehl went on to say it is not clear whether police officers are routinely made aware of any open Montgomery County Children Services cases when they're dispatched to reports of neglect or abuse.

"I'm hopeful this terrible tragedy opens that up so we can start to share information across these different groups," Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told the I-Team, "I don't think Dayton police obviously did everything they could in their purview, but now the question needs to be broader: what can county and city do to connect to really make sure that something like this never happens again?"

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley went on to tell the I-Team last week she thinks accountability for the lack of inter-agency communication will be key as she waits to learn the results of an internal investigation. That lack of communication has emerged as our News Center 7 and Dayton Daily News investigative team has continued to report on the death of Takoda Collins.

Former Montgomery County Sheriff and current State Rep. Phil Plummer, a Republican from Butler Twp., wants an independent review of every agency involved in the Takoda Collins case.

"We're not pointing fingers at any organization," Plummer told the I-Team. "But let's just do a serious debriefing of this — an investigation of this and see where the ball was dropped and let's not drop the ball again."

And that is what brings us back to Robin Collins and her claim that that's exactly what happened: she thinks someone dropped the ball. When records obtained by the I-Team show Wisconsin authorities telling her she'd have to contact Ohio authorities, she did multiple times. But there are no documented indications her calls for help were ever communicated between multiple agencies.

Now, just like past calls for change, after critical mistakes led to child abuse deaths like Makayla Norman and Brayden Ferguson here in the Miami Valley, Collins is a mother once again echoing a plea for action.

"All of this stuff that happened that failed him, this stuff needs to be fixed," Robin Collins said. "Or another child is going to lose their life because of it."