It’s been a year since Amanda Runyon was released from the hospital
She doesn’t care for doctors, hospital wristbands and strangers — especially men.
“She wasn’t like this before,” said her father, Eddie Runyon. “This has changed her.”
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was investigating allegations of abuse nearly a week before Amanda sustained the life-threatening injuries, but the extent of that investigation has never been revealed. And the department had investigated her treatment when she was only 10 months old.
But even after the passage of laws designed to allow confidential case files to become public in cases where children are severely injured or die, the Department of Children and Family Services has yet to release one report.
DCFS has received only a handful of requests in the three and a half years since the bill became law, said DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe, because of a provision in the law that allows a state’s attorney to block the release if he or she believes it would interfere with the prosecution.
“In each case, the local state’s attorney has asked that the report not be released, saying it would interfere with their criminal investigation,” Marlowe said.
Most of those requests have been made by the News-Democrat, but there has been at least one other requester, Marlowe said. In 2006, the newspaper published a series “Lethal Lapses” which documented mistakes by agency personnel that contributed to the deaths of 53 children.
“We thought we had a good piece of legislation,” said state Rep. Thomas Holbrook, D-Belleville, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Yes, it does surprise me that none of the documents have been released in all this time.”
In addition to Amanda’s case, the newspaper requested the case file of 3-year-old Joseph Schoolfield, who died of severe head injuries in 2009. Scott Endicott, the toddler’s mother’s boyfriend, was convicted of Joseph’s murder last year in Clinton County. Valerie Schoolfield, Joseph’s mother, pleaded guilty to child endangerment and obstructing justice.
A renewed request for the DCFS file in light of the recent convictions in the Schoolfield case is under consideration, Marlowe said.
In November 2008, the newspaper requested the DCFS files for 3-year-old Bianca Starr, who died of suffocation when prosecutors said her mother put her hand over her nose and mouth in Herrin. Karrae Starr, the toddler’s mother, was found guilty but mentally ill and sentenced to 32 years in prison.
Amanda’s DCFS case is still closed, too. Monroe is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 12. He is free on bond. Former St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida opposed the release of the agency’s case file before trial.
DCFS’ history with Amanda Runyon began when she was just 10 months old in 2008 and her mother, Dawn Obptande, dropped her off with Eddie Runyon and didn’t come back for a month, according to police reports. When Obptande returned, she demanded her daughter back.
When Eddie Runyon refused to relinquish Amanda, Obptande called Randolph County Sheriff’s Department. Eddie Runyon told police about filthy living conditions and a sex offender living in Obptande’s home. The deputy called DCFS.
But whatever the DCFS investigator found at the Coulterville trailer, if anything, will never be known because the agency purges its files of all cases where child neglect is not officially determined.
“We were forced to give her back,” said Pam Runyon, Amanda’s grandmother and a former schoolteacher.
Amanda remained with Obptande while Eddie Runyon moved from
Marissa to work in a Kentucky coal mine. He traveled back every month to visit Amanda, but he said he was prevented from seeing Amanda when Obptande became involved with Monroe. He last visited Amanda on Jan. 25, 2010 — about five weeks before she was beaten.”I went to a lawyer just a couple of days before Amanda went into the hospital to help me get court-ordered visitation,” Runyon said.
DCFS received a hotline call from Amanda’s daycare on Feb. 23, 2010, to report the girl had a broken leg, according to police, and gave the agency Obptande’s name and address. The caseworker learned that the girl was treated for the injured leg at Memorial Hospital in Belleville, but failed to find Amanda or her mother.
Police were not notified by the hospital, said Belleville Police Chief William Clay.
On March 1, 2010, deputies were called to a rented trailer at 110 Princeton Drive near Belleville where Obptande lived with Monroe. The tiny, blonde 2-year-old suffered tears to her liver in addition to injuries to her bowel. A sheriff’s captain said the trailer was filthy and it was later condemned for unsafe conditions.
In addition to the internal injuries, Amanda had a broken leg and arm, bruises and bald patches where her blonde hair was pulled out, Eddie Runyon said.
“If DCFS would have more fully investigated this, Amanda would have never ended up with the serious injuries,” said Pam Runyon. “I also don’t think they should purge the unfounded reports. If they would have know the patterns, someone may have been looking harder.”
Runyon received custody of his daughter when she was hospitalized, though he now allows Obptande to have visitation with certain conditions.
“I don’t care if she sees her mom, but I want to know that she is going to be safe,” Runyon said.
Eddie Runyon and Amanda recently moved back to Marissa. Eddie works at the nearby Prairie State Energy Campus. A family friend and Pam Runyon help out with babysitting. Amanda has playdates with her favorite playmates, cousins Paige Watson, 7, and Will Watson, 4.
The family gets a lot of support from friends and church, Pam Runyon said, and a special Bible verse — Romans 8:28 — “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Amanda is healthy, though she experiences pain before a bowel movement and must take vitamin supplements to allow her body to absorb certain nutrients. She still has occasional nightmares.
A few minutes after a reporter appears in her living room, Amanda begins to smile, chat, share her toys and even applies lip gloss alternately to her grandmother and the reporter. Eddie Runyon declines the lipstick application. Amanda stops to sip from a cup of Dr Pepper or cuddle on her father’s lap.
Amanda uses her pink-painted fingertips to wrap a rubber band around a hunk of a Barbie doll’s synthetic hair, making a ponytail.
“She’s pretty, isn’t she?” Amanda said, holding up the doll.
Eddie and Pam Runyon said they still struggle with how to explain to Amanda what happened to her. It’s unclear how much Amanda remembers, but as she plays, she pops out with an unsolicited comment: “I don’t like the bad man.”
We have some very exciting news! Linda Ford, Amanda’s mawmaw contacted me yesterday and the court has set Kraig’s trial for September 12, 2011. FINALLY, justice will begin for Amanda!
It is now even more important that we continue to reach out to the press and all of our contacts. We need Amanda’s case to be heard and the court’s need to know that we, as citizens are united and demand justice for this little girl! Please go to the letter campaign page and help fight to get Amanda justice. She needs you and it only takes a couple minutes of your time. If you have any questions please contact me.