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State Allowed Heinous Abuse, Guardian Says

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A 7-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather and grandfather because Oregon failed to remove her from their home, though it knew the men had a history of abusing children, the girl's guardian claims in Multnomah County Court.

The guardian claims that in 2003 the state investigated allegations that the girl's mother had abused or neglected the girl's 1-year-old brother. The investigation revealed that Steven Fullington, who later became the children's stepfather, had broken the little boy's skull, according to the complaint.

The state also found that New York's Child Protective Services had removed the girl from her mother's custody because of neglect, according to the complaint.

After that, the guardian claims, New York took the girl from the home of her maternal grandmother because the grandmother's husband, Clarence Cheatom, had been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor.

The guardian says New York then placed the girl in the custody of her aunt.

Two years later, having removed the girl and her brother from their mother's custody, workers at Oregon's Child Protective Services Department found that the mother had given birth to another child. The state launched an investigation to find out whether that child was safe in her custody, the lawsuit states.

The guardian says Oregon discovered that the girl and her brother were living with their grandmother and Cheatom. Oregon workers then asked New York Child Protective Services for more information on the two adults.

The guardian says New York informed Oregon that it had removed the girl from her grandmother's custody because Cheatom had been convicted in 1994 of breaking into a girl's house and sexually abusing her. New York had also issued an order of protection to keep Cheatom from having unsupervised contact with his step-granddaughter, according to the complaint.

Oregon then asked Cheatom to move out of the grandmother's house, the guardian says. He adds that the state allowed the girl's brother to stay with his mother, but ordered Cheatom to stay out of their home.

But one year later, in July 2006, someone called Oregon's Department of Human Services hotline to report that the mother was neglecting her son's medical needs, according to the complaint.

The guardian says Child Protective Services workers went to the mother's apartment and discovered six people living there: the mother, the girl, her brother, her grandmother, Cheatom and the young son of Cheatom and the grandmother.

Instead of reporting the situation as a safety threat, the workers "recommended that the complaint ... be disposed of as 'unable to determine,'" the guardian claims.

A Child Protective Services review worker approved that recommendation.

The state allegedly let the girl and her brother stay in the apartment for 5 more months, until another hotline report accused the mother of neglect.

This time, the state found out that the mother had married Fullington, the guardian says. The girl told state workers in an interview that Fullington had "abused her with a belt," according to the complaint.

The guardian says Cheatom raped and sodomized the girl on more than six occasions between February and December 2006. He claims Fullington raped the girl at least twice.

The guardian sued Oregon and its CPS workers, alleging sexual battery and civil rights violations. He and the girl are represented by Erin Olson.

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