Little Alex Hill would have been turning four-years-old this Friday. But rather than celebrating their child’s birthday, the toddler’s parents have only the bitter consolation of seeing a judge in Milam County hand Alex’s foster mother a life sentence for murder.
The life sentence is a small victory in the case of 2-year-old Alex, whose July 2013 death was caused by devastating injuries at the hands of her foster mother, 52-year old Sherill Small.
Alex was placed in Small’s care in early 2013, after her father admitted to child welfare investigators that he had smoked marijuana while the child was tucked away in bed at night.
By all accounts, towheaded Alexandria “Alex” Hill, was a healthy and happy toddler, living with her parents, Joshua Hill and Mary Sweeny, in Cameron, Texas in late 2012. But in Texas, using cannabis goes against child welfare policy, and Hill, who told investigators he’d been smoking pot at night, was in violation of those laws.
The CPS caseworker ultimately determined that Alex’s mother’s frequent seizures (a medical condition), coupled with that pesky marijuana use, warranted removal from the home, and Alex was placed with a foster family.
But Alex’s parents immediately began to notice red flags about the conditions in the first home during visitations with their daughter, according to Hill. Alex had noticeable bruises, and the couple also found mold & mildew in the little girl’s bag.
Fearing for her safety, Hill refused to give Alex back, despite the threat of jail time, unless the state placed her in a different home. The placement agency ultimately gave in, and Alex was placed in her second foster home, this time with Sherill Small, who had one other child in her care.
Small had been approved as a foster parent by Texas Mentor, a third party private agency who provides foster homes to the Texas Child Protective Services system. No mention was made of Texas Mentor’s shady track record — they had racked up over 15 violations by this point, according to the Dallas Morning News.
114 more violations would ultimately follow, but none of this information was shared with Hill. The first time he heard it, he was sitting in the courtroom listening to testimony on Alex’s beating death.
On July 29, 2013 — just four months before Joshua Hill was set to regain custody of his daughter — he received an urgent call requesting that he rush to the Scott and White Children’s Emergency Hospital in Temple.
When Hill arrived, he found his daughter attached to machines, with Alex’s tiny body kept alive on life support. Her father had no choice but to say goodbye.
Ultimately, Small admitted to Rockdale police that Alex’s injuries came from her slamming the toddler onto the floor of the home where she lived with her husband, Clemons Small III.
Source: Houston News