Court files in Carmen Ellis case released
Newly-released documents, obtained by 13 investigates, shed new light on the death of a three-year-old Indianapolis girl.
Critics have said Indiana's child welfare system could have done more to help Carmen Ellis, because it learned of ongoing abuse allegations a month before the child was murdered.
The Department of Child Services closed that case, less than a month before police say Carmen was brutally beaten by her mother's boyfriend, Jose Cruz.
Police found Carmen Ellis' lifeless body with bruises from head to toe in August. Cruz, faces life in prison if convicted in the girl's murder. Samantha Ellis, the girl's mother, faces felony neglect charges.
Chasity Parksey, whose sister lived with Ellis and Cruz at the time, told Eyewitness News this summer that DCS didn't do enough to help Carmen when abuse allegations first surfaced.
"Something should have been done and nothing was," Parksey said in August. "There were bruises on her face, bite marks on her stomach a hickey on her neck, in the back."
During the investigation, Eyewitness NEws learned the Department of Child Services was informed of ongoing abuse Carmen was receiving weeks before her death.
We now have the reports detailing what happened after the call went into the hotline.
The same day they got the call, the Department of Child Services sent a Family Case Manager to interview Jose Cruz, the man now accused in the brutal beating death of the little girl.
Cruz told DCS that he wasn't sure how Carmen got the bruises and that "she plays rough all the time."
DCS also spoke with Carmen's mother Samantha, who said "Carmen has severe temper tantrums and tends to be clumsy."
The case manager also asked Carmen herself what happened. The three-year-old would only say "the bruise happened because of Abby," another little girl that had lived with the family months prior, but had not had any contact with at the time.
That same night, a doctor with the Riley Child Abuse Team stated, "Carmen did not need to be seen. No medical treatment was needed." She was sent home with her grandmother.
A month later in August, that grandmother told DCS that she had "no safety concerns with Mr. Cruz."
Based on those statements DCS ruled "physical abuse is unsubstantiated against an unknown perpetrator and due to "lack of evidence."
Two weeks later, Carmen Ellis was dead. Police say Jose Cruz admitted he "lost it" after Carmen soiled her diaper. DCS, after closing the original case, did make Samantha Ellis agree to a safety plan, which included not exposing her daughter to domestic violence.
But after Carmen's death, her mom admitted she didn't protect her because she was in fear of Cruz.