The family of 5-year-old Zoey Felix was reportedly visited by the Kansas Department of Children and Families for more than a year before her death
The death of 5-year-old Zoey Felix has many outraged and wondering why more wasn’t done to protect the Kansas child after multiple concerns were raised regarding her living conditions.
ABC News, The Associated Press and KCTV 5 report that welfare officials with the Kansas Department of Children and Families investigated Zoey and her family multiple times within the 13 months leading up to her rape and death, citing a report from the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
Her family declined help from the agency on several occasions, ABC News reports.
According to KCTV 5, the agency received nine reports involving Zoey, with six of those assigned for further investigation.
The documents date back to September 2022 for reports of offenses such as “poor conditions in the home and possible drug use in the presence of a child.”
In other instances, the agency was called to investigate claims of lack of supervision and Zoey’s mother was arrested for driving under the influence while Zoey was in the front seat, The AP reports. According to the outlet, her mother pleaded guilty to felony aggravated battery and driving under the influence.
Following the alleged drunk driving incident, Zoey was placed in police protective custody, but reunited with her father that same evening, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
On Oct. 2, Zoey was killed. Mickel W. Cherry, 25, an unhoused resident of Topeka, was booked into the Shawnee County Jail in connection with her death less than 24 hours later.
At the time, the Topeka Police Department said Cherry was known to the victim. KWCH 12 reported that he lived in the same homeless camp as her family.
Cherry has since been charged with first-degree murder, rape and capital murder.
"Our office has been appointed to represent Mr. Cherry in his capital murder case. A team of attorneys [have] been assigned to handle the criminal matter," Mark Manna of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit told PEOPLE in a statement, but declined to comment further on the case.
Zoey’s exact cause of death has not yet been revealed.
“Our society’s collective failure to support and protect Zoey is heartbreaking and unconscionable,” Shakti Belway, executive director at the National Center for Youth Law, said in a statement obtained by The AP.
“How was that child not removed? It doesn’t make any sense,” Mike Fonkert, deputy director of Kansas Appleseed, added, per the outlet.
In a statement shared by Kansas’ DCF secretary Laura Howard, she claimed her agency was “fully committed” to conducting a “thorough review” of Zoey’s case.
"We will take every step necessary to determine if there are policies and procedures that can be revised or added to effectively support families and help prevent another case like this from happening again,” Howard said.
"Zoey Felix's death was an unacceptable tragedy," Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement. "My administration proposed legislation in 2021 to allow the Department for Children and Families to expedite the release of information in cases like Zoey's. We will urge the Legislature to get that bill to my desk early in the next legislative session."
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