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BEVERLY HILLS, California — (DMN/CBS News) – There is a developing story out of Southern California this afternoon that Bobbi Kristina Brown, only child of the late singer Whitney Houston, has been rushed to an LA-area hospital, CBS has confirmed. Bobbi Kristina had been staying at the Beverly Hilton, the same hotel where her mother had registered to stay at for a pre-Grammy party Saturday night. Beverly Hills police confirmed to CBS that Bobbi Kristina was transported at 10:30 a.m. PT to Cedars Sinai.
A Beverly Hills Police Dept. watch commander told CBS that Bobbi Kristina was treated for anxiety at the scene. Houston was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton. She had been planning to attend a party that night at the Hilton. “There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent,” said Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen. An autopsy was set to begin Sunday.
The death of Whitney Houston has hit me pretty hard. Not so much that it comes a shock but that it means that something I hoped for is no longer possible. In the late 90′s and the earliest years of the 21st century I was a party/circuit DJ spinning club music at events throughout the Midwest and South. The music of Whitney Houston was a huge part of that time. Anyone who has ever dealt with substance abuse knows the difficulty of pulling ones self out of the spiral of self destruction. It’s not easy. While we don’t know the cause of Whitney’s death, her lifestyle choices and struggles with addiction probably played a part. That’s not hating on Whitney…I love her…it’s more the reality of a scene that lives truly for the moment.
I had just received a copy of what would be her last dance floor mix, a song called “You’ll Never Stand Alone”, and I played it at a party in Atlanta, Georgia. I can still remember the moment I went into the mix. A young man in his 20′s approached the DJ booth and asked, “is that Whitney?” Yeah, I said. Both of us connected in a way DJ’s and fans sometimes connect in a non-verbal environment. It was in his eyes and in my voice that we both realized this was probably the last hit of her storied career.
I sat last night stunned, not shocked but stunned that the diva of pop had died. I had hoped, prayed for a miracle in the life of a woman who had meant so much to me and to countless others would be able to overcome the demon of addiction and find peace in her life. The police don’t suspect any foul play and continue their investigation. Sources in Los Angeles say that prescription drugs were found in the room at the Beverly Hilton hotel where Houston died.
There will be plenty of opinion and commentary on the demise of this tremendously talented woman. Experts will weigh in on the perils of substance abuse, which are obviously true, there will be accolades, well deserved, for her incredible talent and there will be mourning for the loss of someone we enjoyed. For Whitney, I am just sorry life took the path that it did and like many others the destructive power of drugs was too much to overcome. I do know this, today she sings with angels in the Kingdom of God.
Greensburg, Indiana is a town with a tree growing out of it’s courthouse roof between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, Ohio on I-74. You might remember Greensburg as the city where 15 year old Billy Lucas was bullied to death in the halls of Greensburg High School completely unbeknownst to faculty and administrators. You might also remember Greensburg where 12-year old Devon Parson’s was beaten to death for hiding his Mom and boyfriend’s dope. Growing up should never be as hard as it seems to be in Greensburg.
It’s pretty apparent, in hindsight, that school administrators failed to intervene and protect Billy Lucas from his tormentors at Greensburg High and now, it’s becoming apparent that the Department of Childrens Services didn’t step in to protect Devon Parsons from his dope fiend Mom and her trashy boyfriend. The Indianapolis Star reports that Devin Parsons awoke June 2 anticipating a glorious day. It was, after all, the last day of school. No more textbooks. No more homework.
For Devin, that last day of school was a good one. He played games during field day. He went to a book fair. He beamed with pride while accepting an end-of-the-year award — a certificate for reading achievement. After the awards program, Devin spotted Nicole Holste-Hoegeman, the mother of one of his classmates. The soft-spoken boy ran to her. “Mrs. Hoegeman, I haven’t seen you in awhile,” Devin exclaimed. “Look! I got an award this year!” Devin threw his arms around her waist. She hugged him back. Not long after, the last bell rang. Finally, his whole summer was ahead of him.
He would have plenty of time to fish — he’d received a new pole for his 12th birthday in April. Surely, there would be countless hours to play with his brother and sister and neighborhood friends. Devin then stepped one last time into the big yellow school bus — a bus that would take him on a short ride to a place far from the hugs and the friends and the praise. It was a place that belied his smiling face and his outward optimism. It was, in fact, a place the little boy feared. Devin was going home.
There was good reason for Devin to be concerned. The only life he ever really knew was defined by the ravages of poverty, domestic violence and drugs. In that volatile environment, allegations of abuse and neglect were among the few constants in Devin’s life. The reports to Indiana child protection officials began just days after he was born in April 1999. An investigation led to Devin’s parents, Randy and Tasha Parsons, being cited for neglect. That initial case spawned the first example of a troubling pattern: his mother’s inability — or refusal — to do what was best for Devin and her other children.
The family would be called to the attention of child welfare workers at least 18 more times over the next 12 years. That included five additional cases where Tasha Parsons was cited for abuse or neglect. Still, caseworkers never removed the children from the young mother. Not even temporarily. Instead, they referred the family to local services such as parenting classes or conflict-resolution counseling. Other times, the agency pressed Parsons to take better care of her children while monitoring her for a few months. Neither approach really worked — despite repeated optimistic reports from counselors assigned by the state agency to help the family.
DCS officials declined to talk about Devin’s case, citing a court-issued gag order. But files obtained by The Indianapolis Star through a public-records request detail the agency’s long history of interaction — and inaction — with Devin’s family. The problems called to the attention of DCS fell into two basic categories. The first four cases dealt with his mother’s failure to properly care for Devin, who was born with health problems and required a feeding tube.
The later allegations began when Devin was 9, after his mother moved back to Greensburg following about four years of living in Florida and Kentucky. Those new reports had a more sinister tone: physical abuse, domestic violence, drug use and the kind of neglect that placed Devin and his little brother and sister in danger. By then, Devin’s mother and father were no longer together. In summer 2010, a new man had entered his mom’s life — and reports to DCS reached a fever pitch.
Waldo Lynn Jones Jr., an ex-con and part-time tattoo artist, soon moved in with Parsons and the children. The couple met during a tattoo session, family members said, and the presence of Jones added to the explosive mix inside the run-down house Parsons rented at 604 E. Washington St. From September 2010 through June 2011, DCS received at least 11 reports about the children. Three reports came from Greensburg police. Six came from Greensburg Elementary School. Two came from Jones’ relatives.
At points in that nine-month span, reports were coming into DCS so frequently that the agency was opening new cases before workers had fully investigated a previous report. During that period, four DCS case managers worked on separate investigations of the family. At least two of the reports alleged drug use by Parsons and Jones. DCS asked them to take drug tests. Both times, they refused. Not all of the reports were investigated. Two were “screened out” by DCS hotline workers in Indianapolis — deemed not to meet the threshold for an investigation despite the onslaught of reports and the family’s extensive history with the agency.
If there was one critical moment, however, it might have been April 29. School officials called DCS that day about scratch marks on Devin’s neck. The agency sent a worker to interview Devin at school. He was hesitant. First he blamed a cat, then his brother. Finally, Devin said his mother had grabbed him by the neck in a fit of anger, leaving the scratches. He told the DCS investigator his mother had threatened him: If he told anyone what had happened, he would be in trouble. “Devin is afraid of getting his mother in trouble,” family case manager Nicole Whallon wrote in her report. “Devin is also afraid to go home because he fears what will happen now that he has told.”
The agency could have sent Devin to stay with a relative while sorting out the allegations. Or it could have placed him in a foster home for a few days. And not just because of the concerns Devin voiced that day. There also was his mother’s long history of abuse and neglect allegations to consider — 17 reports in all by that time. Nonetheless, DCS did exactly what the scared little boy said he feared. He was sent home. Four days later, the school called DCS again. The report said Parsons and Jones went out and, while the children were unsupervised, Devin’s brother cut their sister with a steak knife. Still, DCS took no action to ensure the children were safe.
On June 3, DCS supervisor Scott Ogden approved the case reports that cleared Parsons in the allegations involving the scratches on Devin’s neck and the incident in which his sister was cut. Handwritten notes on the covers of the two reports indicate that Ogden — who later was arrested for allegedly seeking sexual favors from a DCS client to whom he had given drugs — approved the two “unsubstantiated” findings at 10:01 a.m. and 10:13 a.m. Ogden, however, was unaware of what had happened just a few hours earlier — an incident that would generate yet another report later that same day. It was a report DCS couldn’t ignore.
Sometime on the evening of June 2 — not long after Devin came home with big dreams for his summer vacation — Parsons and Jones discovered a problem. Jones had recently obtained 90 Klonopin pills, a commonly abused anti-anxiety medication. Half of them were missing. Parsons later told investigators they suspected Devin had hidden the pills. The couple were determined to get them back. Court records paint a horrific picture of what police say happened over the next several hours. Jones and Parsons repeatedly punched and kicked Devin. They rammed his head into a TV stand. They beat him with a belt. They hit him with a metal tray. They dunked him in a bathtub and held his head under running water.
It is not clear precisely when the beating began, but an acquaintance of the couple riding a bike past the home between 9:30 and 10 p.m. told police later that he heard Jones yelling. The man stopped to find out what was the matter. “The little bastard,” Jones told his friend, had taken his drugs. The man said Jones was “going off” on Devin. “I’ll kill that little f—–,” Jones huffed, “if I don’t get my s—.” The man didn’t intervene. He didn’t call 911. He hopped back on his bicycle and pedaled off into the night. And the assault on Devin resumed.
The beatings continued for hours, according to a police report, with the violence spilling over into the next day. It is not clear whether Devin denied taking the drugs or, if he had, was refusing to say where they were. Devin’s grandfather Kevin Welsh, the father of Tasha Parsons, doubts that Devin took the pills. “Devin hated Waldo,” Welsh said. “What I heard was that a couple days before that happened, Devin told Waldo he wanted him out of the house. I think Waldo used the drugs as an excuse. He knew Devin was trying to put a wedge between him and Tasha.” Welsh, who lives three blocks east of the home Parsons rented, said no one saw signs of trouble when his daughter stopped by his home briefly about 9 a.m. June 3. It was about then, a probable cause affidavit in the murder case says, that the beatings finally rendered Devin unconscious.
Parsons returned home, according to the affidavit, but Jones rode a bicycle to the home of a friend. When he got there, Jones told several people that Devin had taken his drugs and proclaimed that he “beat the breaks off him.” Jones also said he had been “breathing for the boy” — a possible reference to CPR — “but got tired, stopped, and left.” Still, hours passed before anyone sought help for Devin. It wasn’t until 3:25 p.m. that a dispatcher at the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department received the 911 call. A child at 604 E. Washington St. was not breathing. Police and emergency medical personnel arrived minutes later. They found Devin’s body in a bedroom. Blood spattered the walls of several rooms. A framed photo of Devin was on the floor, the glass broken.
Jones was gone, but Parsons had remained — the clothes she was wearing spattered with her son’s blood. Devin’s younger brother and sister were there, too, and likely witnessed at least some of the violence that killed their big brother. An autopsy summed up the brutality: Devin died from “multiple blunt force traumatic injuries from head to toe.” The killing of Devin generated one final report to DCS — at least the 19th over the span of Devin’s short life. This time, agency workers intervened. His younger brother and sister were placed in a foster home. At that point, though, DCS had no other choice. The agency couldn’t send the kids back to Parsons. She was in jail — charged with killing her son.
In this small town best known for a tree that grows out of the roof of its courthouse, Devin’s killing hit hard. Even those who knew the Parsons children had a troubled home life flinched as details of Devin’s killing were revealed in police reports, court documents and media accounts. The turmoil that dogged Devin’s short life continued even after his death, further fanning community outrage. A dispute over who had the rights to his battered body left Devin’s small corpse and funeral plans in limbo for days. Finally, Parsons agreed from jail to award custody of the body to Devin’s great-uncle, “Big Randy” Parsons.
Volunteers put out donation jars at businesses and convenience stores around the city, collecting a few thousand dollars to help cover the funeral cost. There was enough left over to buy an impressive black tombstone and engrave it with a picture of Devin and his beloved dog, Buddy. The tragedy hit close to home for Carole Burr, who lives down the street from the house where Devin was killed. “Those last few hours of his life must have been absolute hell,” she said, “being beaten by the person who is supposed to protect you. It sickens me to think about it.” In the wake of the Devin’s death, Burr said she and others in the community have been left to wonder: “What if . . .?” “I’m sure a lot of people wish they had done things differently,” she said. “All I can do is hope that we, as a community, learn from this.”
Although she never had any contact with Parsons, Burr said she occasionally saw the children playing outside. And she felt pulled to Devin’s funeral. “It was a beautiful service,” she recalled. “They had an open casket, which surprised me. Devin had a baseball cap on, and he looked good. He didn’t look like he had been beaten.” Glowing tributes were offered by Devin’s teachers and several young friends. Dave Steidel, pastor of Clarksburg Covenant Church, had gotten to know Devin and his siblings over the past four years. They were among about 20 children Steidel picked up most Sunday mornings in an old blue church bus that he drove around Greensburg. “He was the last kid you would have thought something like this would happen to by the way he acted,” he said.
Devin always seemed happy, Steidel said, as he hopped into the bus and headed for a seat toward the back. “He was a quiet kid, but he always had a smile,” the pastor said. “He was a delightful little boy. I don’t think there was anyone he didn’t get along with.” Some in the community organized candlelight vigils and fundraisers. Money from a baseball tournament was used to buy clothing, toys and personal supplies for Devin’s brother and sister, now 8 and 9, who had to leave nearly everything behind when they were taken to a foster home. Two people touched by Devin’s death created Facebook tribute pages. The sites attracted hundreds of posts, including Holste-Hoegeman’s recollection of her encounter with Devin on his last day of school. Some comments hailed Devin as a hero for trying to get his mother off drugs. Others vilified Parsons as a heartless child-killer.
There were questions, too. Why hadn’t DCS done more to protect the boy? One of those asking questions was Bobbie Sue Gilland, Jones’ sister. “I called DCS more than once about those kids,” she said, “and they dropped the ball. I don’t know what more they needed.” Burr, a former social worker and counselor, said she understands the value of keeping children with their parents. “But sometimes that’s just not where a child should be,” she said. “And I don’t understand why they thought it was in this case.” Devin’s brother and sister are now being cared for by “Big Randy,” who moved back to Indiana with his family from New York to help the children.
Since their return, the family has worked with DCS, and Big Randy and his wife are hoping to someday adopt Devin’s brother and sister. But a more pressing issue is close at hand: sheltering the children from the gruesome details of Devin’s death that will surely come out during the murder trials of Jones and their mother. Jones is set to stand trial March 27, Parsons on April 16. The trial undoubtedly will expose all that was bad in Devin’s life. Yet there is hope that something lasting and good can emerge from his death. Several members of the Parsons family established the Devin Lee Parsons Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Foundation, with donations left over from the funeral and other fundraisers, including a motorcycle rally in September that raised more than $1,000.
The nonprofit foundation is a partnership with New Directions of Decatur County, a Greensburg-based domestic violence shelter. Diane Moore, the shelter’s executive director, said the goal is to create something positive out of the tragedy. Money from the new foundation will be used to start an education and outreach program for children, Moore said, “so we can establish a dialogue about this difficult subject.” Eight months after the killing, people still feel drawn to visit Devin’s grave at a Catholic cemetery on the southside of Greensburg. Many leave behind mementos: balloons, angel figurines, flowers, Lego toys, a tiny blue doll. “That’s Gutsy Smurf,” Big Randy Parsons said of the blue doll. “He’s the one that stands up for everybody. That was the appropriate one for Devin. He was the protector of his little brother and sister.”
The killing was particularly hard on Devin’s classmates and staff at Greensburg Elementary, including those who repeatedly reached out to DCS for help. A teacher’s comments in a 2010 DCS document reveal why Devin touched the hearts of so many. “He comes to school smiling, ready to give his best effort every day,” the teacher reported. “He works very hard and never complains about what we ask him to do, nor does he complain about anything at home.” School officials declined to talk about their efforts to get DCS to help Devin and his siblings. Last fall, the school erected a bench on the school’s playground as a memorial. “Devin was a really nice little boy, and the staff and students were really shaken up by his death,” said Tom Hunter, superintendent of the Greensburg Community School Corp. “The idea came from the kids and our staff and we felt like it was the right thing to do.”
Devin’s indomitable spirit in the face of a lifetime of abuse and neglect shines through in a poem he wrote for a school project shortly before he was killed. The topic: what peace means to me. The poem is inscribed on a plaque attached to the memorial bench. It also is engraved on his tombstone.
“Peace is friendship & being healthy.
“Peace is like the fresh yellow sun.
“Peace sounds like dogs howling.
“Peace tastes like candy.”
For Devin Lee Parsons, though, true and lasting peace came only in death.
Police say detectives are investigating after pop icon Whitney Houston died in her room at the Beverly Hilton
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