- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 19, 2000

June 1998 4-month-old Brianna Blackmond and seven siblings, the oldest age 11, were taken from their mother after child welfare workers found them neglected and their home filthy. Six months later their mother was found guilty of neglecting all eight children, who were subsequently taken to foster families.

November 1999 Brianna's caseworker concluded the toddler should not be returned to her mother, but failed to submit that report to D.C. Superior Court Judge Evelyn E.C. Queen, who had scheduled a Dec. 1 status hearing. Brianna's mother, who since had another baby, moved in with a friend, Angela T. O'Brien. On Nov. 30, the judge canceled the Dec. 1 hearing. That same day a social worker faxed the judge and warned against returning two of Brianna's siblings to their mother's care.

December 1999 Brianna's court representative learned the child's mother planned an emergency appeal for custody. The city's court representative and Brianna's caseworker go on vacation. On Dec. 22, without holding a hearing, Judge Queen orders Brianna returned to her mother and Brianna's court representative agrees. On Dec. 23, social workers remanded custody of Brianna and her 3-year-old sibling to their mother at the O'Brien home. No one checked the condition of the home or the temper of its occupants.

January 2000 On Jan. 5, an ambulance was called to the O'Brien home, and Brianna was rushed to Children's Hospital. She was barely breathing and suffered from severe head injuries. On Jan. 6, Brianna died. Authorities were told Brianna fell down several carpeted stairs. An autopsy concluded otherwise, and Brianna's death was ruled a homicide. Police focus on three suspects: Brianna's mother, who has a history of drug use; the mother's boyfriend; and Angela T. O'Brien, a suspected child abuser.

Miss O'Brien's own children were placed in foster care and her attorney said she was "resentful" they had been taken away again. "Why am I involved in this?," the attorney quotes Miss O'Brien as saying. "Brianna's not my child."

November 2000 On Nov. 14, Miss O'Brien was arrested and charged with felony murder.

According to court papers, Miss O'Brien frequently abused Brianna, from Dec. 24, the day after she arrived in the O'Brien home, until Jan. 5, the day she died.

Those are the naked and fateful events in the last 18 months in the life of Brianna Blackmond, a wide-eyed, fat-cheeked toddler who suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of the adults around her.

Many of them have already paid a price. Judge Queen, who mistakenly ordered Brianna returned to her mother, stepped down from the case after Brianna's killing. The court-appointed director of D.C. Child and Family Services resigned. Brianna's killer, meanwhile, has yet to face her judgment.

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