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County officials deny previous alert about abuse of slain Amherst girl, 3

Erie County officials over the weekend “emphatically and categorically” denied that Child Protective Services workers had been alerted to allegations of physical abuse involving 3-year-old Mayouna Smith, who was beaten to death last weekend in her Allenhurst Road apartment in Amherst. The girl’s death has been ruled a homicide.

In a statement, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Department of Social Services officials rebutted “published reports” that CPS was aware of prior accusations of beatings, lacerations, welts and bruises involving Mayouna.

The county said that it had carefully reviewed all available records and “found no evidence of a report” from the state Central Registry or any other evidence or report of previous physical abuse. It noted that two separate investigations are ongoing, one by Amherst police in conjunction with the county District Attorney’s Office, and one by Child Protective Services.

“Erie County CPS officials and other members of the administration have been working around the clock since this matter was brought to our attention,” the statement said, citing cooperation with Amherst police. “The full weight of the justice system must be brought to bear against any individual who is capable of a crime of this nature.”

The Buffalo News reported Saturday that county caseworkers had investigated a complaint last summer of abuse involving the girl but that she was not removed from her 21-year-old mother’s care. The complaint against Ruhiyyih Shropshire from July had cited suspected child abuse or maltreatment.

The News stands by its report, which was based on several anonymous sources familiar with the case. The sources provided conflicting versions of what happened when CPS investigated, but all agreed that the agency was aware of the report. Autopsy results last week showed evidence of previous physical and sexual abuse against the girl.

Shropshire’s boyfriend, Lamare Daniels, is the father of the couple’s 1-month-old daughter, who was removed from the home and placed in foster care after Mayouna’s death. Daniels was previously the subject of a child-abuse complaint from when he lived in Buffalo, The News reported, but it did not involve Mayouna.

In the wake of Mayouna’s death, county officials confirmed that another child with connections to Shropshire and Daniels “has been visited to ensure their safety.”

In its statement, the county defended its efforts to “proactively address the issues of child abuse, neglect and poverty” through a “long-term course of action.” That has included more funding for additional CPS workers, a reorganization of Social Services and a new partnership with the Buffalo Public Schools to provide early warnings of potential problems.

Officials said they were confident that “the facts will emerge” when the state Office of Child and Family Services completes its own fatality report, and urged the state to make the results public.

Mayouna’s death follows last September’s killing of 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks, allegedly beaten to death and sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend. Abdifatah Mohamud, 10, was beaten to death by his stepfather in April 2012. In both cases, CPS had been notified of problems.