OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — A mother says in a wrongful-death lawsuit that her 18-month-old son died from a vicious assault by a dentist with whom she had a romantic relationship, and that a Christian church covered up prior abuse by the dentist.
Roxanne Randall sued Victory Christian Center and Bert Glen Franklin, in Oklahoma County Court on behalf of her late son, Lincoln Lewis.
According to the March 3 complaint, Randall became a patient of Franklin, a licensed dentist, in July 2015, and they became romantically involved. Franklin “currently resides in the Oklahoma County Jail,” according to the lawsuit.
Franklin was on the board of directors at Victory Christian Center, a financial donor to the church, and the father of children enrolled as students there, Randall says in the complaint.
A spokesman for a public relations firm that works for the church denied that Franklin was a director at Victory Christian Center. “He is not and has never been a member of the church’s board of directors, nor has he ever held a leadership or staff position at the church,” the spokesman said.
Randall says in the lawsuit that on July 16, 2016, Franklin kicked her son in the head and thrust him to the ground in a pile driverlike motion, causing his death.
Before Lincoln died, in early 2016, Franklin’s minor daughter told teachers at Victory Christian that her father had “physically abused and assaulted her,” but Victory Christian tried to hide these accusations from the public and from authorities, Randall says.
“Victory failed to report the abuse to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services or the Tulsa Police Department. Rather than contacting the appropriate authorities, defendant chose to conduct its own ‘investigation’ with the ultimate purpose of doing damage control as opposed to protecting the child victim,” the complaint states.
As a school, Victory Christian Center was a mandatory reporter of child-abuse allegations.
“Defendant made the reckless and/or in the alternative, intentional and deliberately indifferent choice not to report the conduct and thereby allowed the perpetrator, Bert G. Franklin, to not only continue his abusive actions against the child victim but to increase the violent nature of the abuse and broaden the range of his victims to include Lincoln V. Lewis,” the complaint states.
Nor did Victory Christian follow its own written policy that requires abuse allegations to be reported to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, according to the complaint.
Franklin is jailed awaiting trial for first-degree murder, according to The Oklahoman. It says the fatal injuries to Lincoln Lewis occurred inside the Oklahoma City home of Randall, who is called Franklin’s mistress. Franklin is married to someone else and lived in Tulsa, according to The Oklahoman.
The Oklahoman cited home surveillance video that shows Franklin making a kicking motion and forcefully throwing something to the floor. What Franklin is interacting with cannot be seen because it was outside the view of the camera. Prosecutors said Franklin kicked Lincoln in the head before slamming him to the ground head-first. The video later shows Franklin holding what appears to be the limp body of Lincoln as the dentist grabs pizza from the kitchen, according to The Oklahoman.
Victory Christian’s PR firm said in the email: “Several of the accusations made by the plaintiff’s attorney are false. Several months before the unfortunate events of the child’s death, a VCS teacher received an allegation against Mr. Franklin and immediately reported the matter to DHS, in accordance with VCS policy. At that time, the report was assigned a case number by DHS. Any claims that the school attempted to cover up information is simply not true.”
However, on Tuesday this week, KFOR NewsChannel 4, a CBS station in Oklahoma City, reported that “Victory has been sued for negligence before.”
The station reported that Victory settled a case in 2013 after officials were accused of covering up the sexual assault of a child by an employee, and the incident was never reported to DHS.
Randall seeks at least $75,000 in damages for assault, battery, wrongful death and gross negligence, and punitive damages.
She is represented by Ray Maples II with Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst in Edmond, Oklahoma.