By Ed Runyan
Thomas Cross, the biological father of a child who died while in foster care April 2, 2009, has sued the Trumbull County Children Services Board and others.
The suit says officials failed to protect the child despite warning signs.
It says the autopsy conducted after the child’s death showed evidence of abuse pre-dating the abuse that killed her, though the Trumbull County coroner refutes that allegation.
Cross, of Garrettsville, filed the suit in federal court last week, seeking $1.2 million in damages.
Tiffany Banks Cross was 20 months old when her foster mother, Bonnie Pattinson, 30, carried her to a neighbor’s house April 2, 2009, because the girl was not breathing. The girl later was pronounced dead.
Pattinson and her family were living in a duplex on Center Street West in Champion Township at the time of the death. Pattinson later was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death and sentenced to nine years in prison.
In the lawsuit filed by Boardman lawyer David Engler, Cross said he warned children services that the girl might be in danger, telling children services he saw bruising on her and dog hair in her baby formula.
Children services “never responded to the father’s concern,” the suit said.
Cross’ parental rights regarding the girl were terminated, at children services’ request, Nov. 4, 2008, “despite his not being represented at final hearing of that matter, nor was there a record of his knowing and voluntary waiving of such right to representation,” the suit said.
The suit said children services also was “informed of other harmful acts perpetrated against children in the care of Bonnie Pattinson.”
Nick Kerosky, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services, said he has no comment on the lawsuit.
Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, said Monday he saw nothing on the girl’s body indicating bruising or any other type of abuse other than the abuse that caused her death.
The coroner ruled that the girl died of asphyxiation, and a county prosecutor said there were marks on the child’s neck consistent with the rings Pattinson was wearing.
In the lawsuit, Cross said the coroner saw “multiple abrasions and contusions upon the infant that were consistent with a pattern of abuse dating before the actual horrific beating that resulted in the child’s death.”
The suit says children services showed “deliberate indifference to [Pattinson’s] abusive nature.”
The suit also names as defendants the Trumbull County commissioners, who appoint members of the children services board of trustees, and Pattinson.