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A one-year-old boy died from severe burns. Were the warning signs of abuse ignored?

Little Henry Wheatley Brown’s injuries were horrific.

The 1-year-old had suffered burns that his mother, Samantha Garver, and her boyfriend, Sergio Mena, said were the result of him being left in a hot bath. Garver said the baby was fine just 40 minutes before paramedics arrived Oct. 1 at their home in Sugarloaf, near Big Bear.

But paramedics found Henry cold to the touch. He was transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A slew of investigative files released to The Times revealed a disturbing history of child abuse and neglect allegations dating back more than a decade against Garver, 33, including another case involving burns on the one of his other children in 2013. Garver had four children; Henri was the youngest.

The San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services had no comment regarding the documents.

Mena and Garver told authorities that Garver was not home when Henry suffered his fatal injuries – second-degree burns from his shins down to his feet as well as “isolated” second-degree burns on his organs. genitals, which corresponds to having been “soaked”. in hot water,” according to an investigation by the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services.

But even though the doomed baby’s mother wasn’t home, an investigation published in the Times by CFS found she did little to save her child.

“The mother allowed the child to suffer for several hours before he died,” according to the report submitted on October 25.

For more than a decade, police and child services investigators repeatedly responded to calls for service at Garver’s home, although it was unclear what exactly was done to ensure the safety of their children.

Records documenting the visits and investigations were released to The Times by the San Bernardino Department of Children and Family Services following a request for information about Henry’s death. Although all names in the report published by the Times have been redacted, the facts in the allegations are consistent with public information released in the case of Garver and Mena. The victim, referred to only as H, is Henry.

“The investigation by San Bernardino County Children and Family Services into the above-mentioned decedent has been completed. It was determined that abuse or neglect led to the child’s death,” San Bernardino CFS Director Jeany Zepeda said in an emailed statement naming Henry.

Garver has been on the radar of San Bernardino County Child and Family Services — with some gaps — since 2009, when she was first reported for general neglect, records show.

She was reported again in 2010, when she told a doctor that she had “felt like putting a pillow over” one of her children’s faces because the child “kept cry “. Another report was filed against Garver in 2013, according to investigative documents.

After Henry’s birth, Garver was reported again and an investigator found on Aug. 19, 2022, that her children were at “high risk” for abuse and neglect, records show. Despite this, another investigator concluded that the children were “safe.”

“No security threat is present,” the investigator wrote in the same report..

Henry’s grandmother, Sierra Rivers, told the Times that she was the one who reported Garver to authorities.

“I called after Henry was born. I wasn’t convinced” he was safe, Rivers said.

Rivers had been worried about Garver’s children since she saw Garver harshly slap one of her other children in the face, she said.

But when she confronted Garver about the slap, Rivers said, Garver had no remorse.

“I was abused as a child and I was hit as a baby, and I came out of it okay,” Rivers recalled Garver telling her.

In 2013, someone reported Garver to Child and Family Services after he posted disturbing comments in a Facebook discussion group intended for people to ask and debate questions, according to investigative documents .

The person who ran the Facebook page said Garver posted on Jan. 10, 2013, asking if “duct-taping a child’s mouth was abusive,” the report states. At the time, Garver had an 8-month-old baby as well as two older toddlers, according to investigative documents.

A few weeks later, Garver posted again on the Facebook page that one of her friends was watching one of her babies while she went to the store and that when Garver returned home, the baby was suffering from “blistering burns.” on the thighs.

Garver said she was afraid of CFS and did not want to take her daughter to the hospital for fear the burns would be reported to the agency, according to the party who reported her.

On January 31, 2013, authorities conducted a health check based on a report of burns on the girl, according to documents that do not identify the source of the report.

Garver told investigators the baby suffered burns after being “pinned between the wall and a radiator,” according to the documents.

The child was hospitalized, but children’s services investigators discovered another sickening scene at the home.

There was “fecal matter all over the room the children sleep in and it appears it has been there for some time.” There are also cockroaches everywhere. The mother will not be arrested but will be charged with child neglect,” a CFS investigator wrote in a report.

Garver was charged that day with felony willful cruelty to a child with possibility of injury or death. The charges were dismissed and she later pleaded guilty to lesser charges of misdemeanor willful cruelty to a child, according to court documents. It was unclear whether she admitted to burning the child.

She was sentenced to 100 days in jail, but she failed to turn herself in in July and was placed on the fugitive list by a judge, according to court documents.

Garver and her boyfriend Mena, 32, were both charged with murder and child abuse in connection with Henry’s death.

Both told child welfare investigators that Garver was not home when Henry suffered his fatal burns. Garver told investigators that Mena was using methamphetamine at the time of the burns, but he did not admit to CFS investigators that he intentionally harmed the baby.

Investigators also found Henry had other injuries that were not treated or reported: a dislocated arm and marks and bruises on his face, according to investigative documents.

“The mother did not seek medical attention due to prior injuries that indicate possible physical abuse,” the investigator wrote.

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