DCF worker cleared in death of Winooski toddler

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BURLINGTON - The DCF social worker who visited Peighton Geraw but failed to notice that he might have been dead followed state policy and won't be charged criminally, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan said Thursday.

Department for Children and Families social worker John Salter visited the 14-month-old's home the day he died, two days after a Fletcher Allen Health Care doctor noticed bruises on the boy's neck. Salter saw Peighton lying in his crib but did not touch him. Five minutes after Salter left, Peighton's mother, Nytosha Laforce, called 911 to report that the boy wasn't breathing. Doctors pronounced him dead hours later.

Laforce is charged with Peighton's murder and has pleaded not guilty.

"John Salter performed his duties. He did everything that he was trained to do, he did everything that he was supposed to do, he followed those protocols that DCF has," Donovan said Thursday at a news conference at his office in the Burlington courthouse.

Police could not determine whether Peighton was alive when Salter saw him in his crib, Donovan said. DCF policy does not require a social worker to physically touch a child to determine wellness, he said.

"We can disagree whether or not this is the right protocol or the wrong protocol, but the fact of the matter is that's the protocol," Donovan said.

The 27-page state police report, written by Detective Lt. James Cruise, outlines interviews with two DCF workers, two family members and one worker from the Department of Corrections. Portions of the report are redacted.

DCF and state officials took "all reasonable actions" throughout the course of the case from May 2013 through April 4, 2014, the day Peighton died, Cruise wrote.

The facts DCF had on file could not have led state officials to predict the events leading to Peighton's death, the report says.

Police also cleared Fletcher Allen of any wrongdoing.


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