When neighbors saw the police at an Illinois home, they had a sinking feeling that something had happened to the little girl who lived there. After all, there had been warning signs. Sadly, they were ignored, and now, a 6-year-old child is dead. Could her death have been prevented?
Kerrigan “Kerri” Rutherford, a 6-year-old Montgomery, Illinois girl, was found dead in her Kendall County home, but the tragic news didn’t come as a surprise to some, who knew the child and her family. “When I saw them at the house my first response was, ‘It’s Kerri,'” neighbor Monica Alexander recalled. “I just assumed that she was hurt or she was gone. And, then, when they didn’t take her away, I knew.”
Indeed, 6-year-old Kerri had been found by authorities, “possibly not breathing, bleeding from the nose, turning different colors,” according to police dispatch accounts. It also appeared she had been dead for some time. Although her cause of death was initially unknown, toxicology tests would reveal the cause weeks later.
Kerri had ingested a lethal dose of the drug olanzapine, which is commonly prescribed for adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Kerri’s stepfather, 29-year-old James Davidson, and her mother, 32-year-old Courtny Davidson, were subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter. Sadly, Monica Alexander wasn’t surprised.
According to Alexander, there were many red flags, and she had called the police several times in the past to report her concerns. She said she called to report abuse and neglect “at least four times. I’d say more because I know I called anonymously a few times.” According to the concerned neighbor, authorities “absolutely” didn’t do enough to protect Kerri. “They never went inside the house,” she said.
Digging into the alleged red flags, CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey discovered that more than a dozen calls had been made to the police as well as the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) before Kerri’s tragic death. Through the Freedom of Information act, CBS 2 Investigators were also able to obtain police records, and it didn’t paint a pretty picture.
Those records described horrific conditions inside the Davidson home, where Kerri Rutherford resided with her mother and stepfather. “The living conditions were horrible,” one officer wrote, adding that there was “a very foul stench in the house, as well as what appeared to be feces on the floor.” However, this was just the tip of the iceberg.
There were also many warnings from neighbors as multiple people called the police, asking for well-being checks. “Records show the Kendall County Sheriff’s Department was called to this house 15 times since the family moved in,” CBS 2 discovered. One of those neighbors was, of course, Monica Alexander, but she wasn’t alone. Another neighbor from across the street, only identified as “Debbie,” also said she was concerned.
“My family has called the police to check on those kids at times. I was scared for those kids,” Debbie explained. The neighbors said the children in the home were often unsupervised. They also said they heard screaming coming from the home, and at times, they said they even witnessed physical abuse. The police reports also indicated that even one of Kerri’s teachers notified DCFS of concerns.
As the saying goes, “If you see something, say something,” and that’s exactly what Kerri’s concerned neighbors and even her teachers did. They are now heartbroken that their warnings seemingly fell on deaf ears, and an innocent child lost her life because of it. The alarms had been sounded, repeatedly, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.
This is inexcusable. DCFS had one job to do, and they failed miserably. After multiple people called with concerns, including both neighbors and teachers, and police discovered horrendous living conditions, there was no reason to keep those children in that filthy hell, but the authorities didn’t remove Kerri Rutherford while they could. Instead, she left her “home” in a body bag after both her parents and the authorities failed her.