The Jacksonville family of a 5-year-old girl allegedly abused to death is hiring their own representative to investigate the tragedy.
Zykerria Robinson died after police say she suffered from violent abuse.
The suspects in her death, her mother Michelle Cannimore and mother’s boyfriend Jonte Harris remain in jail. A report by the Department of Children and Families describes brutal, long-term abuse suffered by the child.
The family of the minor’s biological father claims DCF could have intervened sooner.
Kathy Swafford spoke on behalf of Zykerria’s paternal family Friday confirming the family has hired an attorney to investigate how Zykerria died.
Swafford, a child advocate and owner of Safe Haven of Northeast Florida, said the scrutiny will be on what happened in the three months before Zykerria was found unresponsive in a Westside apartment.
“We have hired someone to investigate [Zykerria’s] death, in other words [the attorney] is going to go behind DCF and see what went wrong,” Swafford said. “DCF was out there one month prior, how did they not know?”
Sixteen children who died of possible abuse in 2018 in Florida had their homes visited by child services before their death.
In September, a mother in Largo was arrested after initially claiming her 2-year-old son Jordan Belliveau was kidnapped. After a statewide Amber Alert search, the child was found dead and Charisse Stinson charged with first-degree murder. The Tampa Bay Times reported Stinson was visited by a child services case manager with Eckerd Directions for Living one day before Jordan’s death.
DCF does not investigate child deaths in Pinellas County.
The interim secretary for DCF Rebecca Kapusta said previously in a statement about Zykerria’s death: I am absolutely horrified and disgusted at the abuse this child endured in her short life. That anyone would hurt an innocent child is shameful and DCF will work closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to hold anyone responsible for her abuse fully accountable under the law.
A team of DCF experts investigate child deaths with prior child services involvement in the preceding 12 months. The comprehensive quality assurance review report in Zykerria’s case is still pending.
Note: An earlier version of this story referenced the pending report as a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team report. A DCF spokesperson said anytime there is a verified report in the last 12 months involving the deceased child or a sibling there is a CIRRT investigation. In Zykerria's case, the previous report in May was closed with no problems found. When there is a visit to the child's home in the past 5 years, regardless of findings, a comprehensive quality assurance review (also known as a mini-CIRRT) is conducted by child welfare experts from DCF.