Child neglect investigated in years before girl's death

Before 4-year-old Ty’Asia Phillips was removed from life support and died March 17 after what authorities say was a brutal beating by her father, there had been three calls to child protective services stating concerns over her well-being, documents obtained by The Augusta Chron­icle show.


The Department of Family and Children Services was first called when Ty’Asia was in the hospital in January 2009, according to agency files secured in an open-records request. The reason for the hospitalization and other facts about the case were deleted from the report.

When her mother came to visit, she brought another child, and both appeared dirty and unkempt, the complaint states. A DFCS caseworker interviewed the mother, who explained that she had to walk to the hospital with her other child.

The caseworker determined Ty’Asia would be living with her mother and maternal grandmother, who was supportive and who maintained a safe home, and closed the case.

A few months later, DFCS was called again. The mother had not been visiting Ty’Asia regularly in the hospital, and when she did show up she brought along different men or family members, the case file states. No one held the baby during the brief visits, leading a hospital worker to believe there was no bonding with the child. Though the mother had attended parenting meetings, there were worries about Ty’Asia’s safety because she would need special care after her release. The social worker decided there wasn’t any danger, especially in light of the grandmother’s decision to seek guardianship. The caseworker referred the family to support services, and the case was closed in May 2009.

Last Nov. 11, someone called DFCS after Ty’Asia arrived at her day care center with bruises on her face that looked like thumbprints. The social worker was told that Ty’Asia looked as though she had lost 3 to 4 pounds in one week.

When Ty’Asia’s family was questioned about the bruising, another child in the home confessed to pinching Ty’Asia’s face, according to the DFCS file. The case was closed for lack of any significant evidence of maltreatment.

Ty’Asia’s grandmother sent her to stay with her father, Willie C. Jones, on Feb. 26 – the first time the girl had lived with him – because she was going to have surgery, according to statements made in court during Jones’ bond hearing last month. Ty’Asia’s mother was not stable enough to be responsible for the child, and there wasn’t anyone else to keep her, the DFCS file states.

Jones’ family also wanted to establish a relationship with Ty’Asia, and her maternal grandmother believed other adult family members were living with Jones.

Someone from the maternal side of the family called and spoke to Ty’Asia regularly, the DFCS file states. Asked whether she was eating and having fun, the child said yes.

Her grandmother intended to retrieve Ty’Asia the week of March 11.

According to Jones, the girl played outside with her cousins all day March 11, breaking only for pizza and a drink. After coming inside around 6 p.m., Jones said, Ty’Asia collapsed on the floor, unable to breathe. When splashing cold water on her didn’t work, Jones called relatives in a panic, the DFCS file says.

Jones told a DFCS worker that someone else had abused Ty’Asia. He disciplined her only by twice making her stand in a corner, the file stated. Jones blamed the maternal side of Ty’Asia’s family and accused them of abandoning her.

Three children told investigators, however, that Ty’Asia’s father beat her that day with a belt until it broke, then used a curtain rod and a shoe. At some point, Ty’Asia was burned by a heater in the home. The doctor who examined her believed all of the injuries were caused at the same time.

Sheriff’s investigators said Jones later admitted to beating Ty’Asia. He has been charged with murder in her death.

At the time of Ty’Asia’s injuries, Jones was on probation for aggravated assault and terroristic threats. According to the prosecution file obtained by The Chronicle, Jones was off his psychiatric medication and crazed with anger when he attacked an ex-girlfriend and her friend, April Dunn and Willie Reid.

A district attorney file states that Jones and Dunn had a child together. She told sheriff’s investigators that she left Jones because he was physically abusive. She went to stay with Reid, an older friend who had lost a leg.

Three times on Sept. 10, 2008, Jones went to Reid’s Wrights­boro Road home and demanded Dunn return to him. At one point he yanked her out of a vehicle and hit her in the mouth with his hand before grabbing one of Reid’s crutches to hit her, it was reported.

“I come to kill you,” Reid quoted Jones as saying the third time he came to the house. Jones was clutching a large butcher knife, and when he pulled on the screen door, Reid fired a shotgun.

Investigators determined that Reid acted in self-defense. They charged Jones with kidnapping and aggravated assault.

On Feb. 26, 2009, Jones pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aggravated assault and terroristic threats. Judge Michael N. Annis sentenced him to five years’ probation under the First Offender Act.

The judge ordered Jones to obtain his GED, undergo drug and alcohol counseling, receive mental health treatment and attend a domestic violence prevention program. He also ordered Jones to perform 200 hours of community service and to stay away from Dunn and Reid.

If Annis determines that Jones has violated those conditions, as his probation officer contended in a warrant obtained March 13, he could resentence Jones to as long as 27 years in prison.

Father fatally beat daughter because she didn't know ABCs, assistant district attorney says