DAYTON — Minutes after the three people who were involved in the death of Takoda Collins were sentenced, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. didn’t hold back with what the case has meant for our region and the changes that are already in the process of being made.
“This case shocked and horrified our community,” Heck said, adding that it’s “a damn shame” that Al McLean, Amanda Hinze and Jennifer Ebert will get better treatment in prison than they gave to Collins, who died in December 2019.
Heck said the case caused him and his office, as well as hospitals, police departments, children services and schools “to take a real hard look” at how they investigate potential child abuse cases.
“What we learned was very concerning,” Heck said.
An investigation into the response by agencies involved in Collins’ homicide investigation showed those agencies did not share information with each other that is permitted under law, Heck said.
“It is not enough to suspect, or be concerned,” Heck said. “We all have a responsibility to act.”
Heck’s office issued a series of recommendations after his office’s investigation into Collins’ case that wrapped up in June 2020.
“We had one goal and I had one goal and that is to never, ever let what happened to Takoda Collins happen to any other child in our community,” Heck said.
County officials said some of the proposed changes are already happening within departments.
“These recommendations we are supportive of and in fact many of those are already underway or in progress,” a county spokeswoman previously said.
Dayton police also welcomed the Prosecutor’s feedback.
“The safety of our residents is a top priority for our police department, especially the young and most vulnerable. We appreciate Prosecutor Heck strengthening the safety net designed to protect our children when it comes to additional sharing of information,” the department said in a statement in June 2020.
Heck said some of the recommendations are included in House Bill 4, which is state legislation proposed by Phil Plummer that sets new rules for child abuse and neglect reporting. The bill has passed the Ohio House and is currently in committee with the Ohio Senate.
The reform bill requires sharing and even has an audit requirement to make sure agencies are working together.
“This is a lack of communication so they would report to Children’s Services and really didn’t hear any follow-up. So, we’re not sure where the case is at. Is anybody held accountable? Is the child safe? It’s another layer of protection of these children,” Plummer said.
Plummer, the former Montgomery County Sheriff, said previous state law can interfere with agencies working together on cases. Now, under House Bill 4, it is not only allowed, it is required.
If passed, anyone who reports a suspected case of child abuse can request to be notified when the investigation is complete and can receive an update from authorities.
“We should be able to set the example of how child abuse investigations are handled,” Heck said. “There’s got to be better communication and we’ve already started that.”
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