BURLINGTON -- A prosecutor said Thursday he found no criminal conduct on the part of a Vermont Department for Children and Families supervisor who made a home visit of a 15-month-old Winooski boy shortly before the toddler died.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said supervisor John Salter was following department protocol when he followed up on earlier reports that Peighton Geraw had unexplained bruises on his neck. Salter observed the boy lying in a crib. Shortly after Salter’s visit, Peighton’s mother called 911 and the child was pronounced dead.
"John Salter performed his duties. He did everything that he was trained to do. He did everything that he was supposed to do," Donovan said and stressed that no criminal charges would be filed against the supervisor.
The prosecutor said that after Salter learned of the child’s death, he speculated that Peighton might have been dead when Salter saw him. But Donovan said Salter did not realize that then.
"At that time, when he was in that house in Winooski, he thought he was looking at a sleeping baby that had been sick," Donovan said.
Reached at his office, Salter declined comment Thursday.
Peighton’s mother, 28-year-old Nytosha Laforce, has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the April 4 death of her son. Her boyfriend Tyler Chicoine has admitted lying to a police officer and agreed to a plea deal.
Two days before he died, Peighton was seen for stomach problems in the emergency room at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, where a doctor noticed the bruises and reported the case to the department, as required by law.
The investigation found the doctor felt that aside from the bruises Peighton "looks pretty good." The doctor also felt Laforce and Chicoine "were very appropriate" with Peighton.
As required, Salter followed up on the case within 48 hours. It was shortly after Salter left that Laforce called 911 and said her son wasn’t breathing.
"The people, the state government workers, who touched this case, each and every aspect, along the way, they did their duty. And nobody could have predicted this outcome," Donovan said. "This is a tragedy. Every person who is involved in this case is questioning themselves."
Peighton’s death followed the February death of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney. In that case, Dezirae’s stepfather has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge. Dezirae had been in state custody prior to her death and an investigation into the state’s handling of that case found miscommunication between agencies. The head of the Rutland DCF office has been reassigned.