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CPS failed to protect boy from mother

Anyone who knew Jessica Murphy before she started having mental health problems will tell you that she was a great mom to her little boy Jacob. 
 

BUFFALO, N.Y. - It was an unspeakable tragedy that happened two years ago this month in North Buffalo. An eight-year-old boy was killed by his mentally ill mother, Jessica Murphy.

Two On Your Side has exclusively obtained the results of a state investigation into Jacob Noe's death that harshly criticizes Erie County's Child Protective Services division for failing to protect the boy. Anyone who knew Jessica Murphy before she started having mental health problems will tell you that she was a great mom to her little boy Jacob.

There were trips to Disney, days at the beach, and sledding in the park.

Jessica was a single mom, she and Jacob's dad had never married, but they had a cordial relationship.

Jessica and Jacob, who was eight years old, lived in a North Buffalo double with Jessica's mother.

Starting in late 2012, Jessica began having mental health issues.

The pretty, artistic woman became withdrawn and paranoid- she thought people were following her - and she said things that didn't make any sense.

Starting in late 2012, Murphy was hospitalized four different times at ECMC for psychiatric problems.

The last time took place in March of 2014.

It was then, on a cold winter's day, that Jessica took Jacob from their North Buffalo home without shoes or a jacket. Jessica was suffering from delusions at that time that Jacob was in grave danger.

She came to a pizzeria on Hertel when police were called. After assessing the situation, Murphy was taken to ECMC where she was admitted. CPS was called and opened a case.

It was then, that a series of catastrophic failures by the County's CPS system began, that would result just over two months later in Jacob's death.

By law, anytime a child dies when there's an open CPS case, the state must investigate and produce what's called a child fatality report.

Two On Your Side obtained the fatality report in Jacob's death after filing numerous Freedom of Information requests with the state.

The report details that after opening a case involving Jacob, CPS then did virtually nothing, no follow up, no interviews, nothing.

The only documentation state investigators could find in the county's files was an initial assessment of the case.

According to the state fatality report ..."The safety assessment documented that the child was in immediate or impending danger of serious harm due to the mother's mental illness and was not safe."

Following his mother's hospitalization at ECMC, Jacob went to live with his dad.

After spending a week at ECMC Jessica Murphy was released, according to the state report, she was suffering from "bipolar mood disorder with manic and psychotic features."

After about a month of living with his dad, Jacob was returned to live with his mother and grandmother.

All during this time, according to the state report, CPS did no follow-up.

According to the fatality report, more than two months after the case was first opened, a supervisor at CPS apparently reviewed the file for the first time and "...noted that the case record lacked documentation and that a contact with the family needed to be made."

That was May 13, 2014.

Early in the morning of May 14, Jessica Murphy went in to Jacob's room and, while he was sleeping, stabbed him to death.

According to the police report, Murphy said, "I'm saving him" and that she had to kill Jacob "to keep him from going to hell."

Two On Your Side contacted Rich Gelles, a national expert in child protection issues, to review Jacob's fatality report. Gelles is the Dean of the school of Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here's how he describes the county's handling of Jacob's case:

"It's negligent. It's negligent to the point where it shocks the conscience of anybody that would read this report. No evidence of looking into the background of mother, no appreciation of the mother's mental health issues. Even the report checks off the box that says they made no effort to ensure the safety and well being of the child," said Gelles.

Today, Jessica Murphy is in the Rochester Psychiatric Center, a secure facility, where she receives therapy and medication. Murphy is in the custody and care of the state Department of Mental Health.

A judge found her not responsible for Jacob's death due to her mental illness.

In a very unusual move, the Erie County District Attorney's office, after having its own psychiatrist examine Murphy, did not contest her plea.

No cameras are allowed in the facility where Murphy lives, but 2 On Your Side was able to arrange a phone interview with her.

It's the first time she's spoken publicly about what happened.

Scott Brown: "Can you describe what your mental state was in early 2014?"

Jessica Murphy: "In early 2014, my mind was rapidly going in and out of psychotic/manic episodes, and at a loss for any reality to grasp on to. It wasn't until the last couple of months of my illness when I slipped into psychosis that I was unable to be the mother that I had always been."

Murphy told Scott Brown she had been suffering from delusions for a while, and that in the months before Jacob's death, the delusions started to focus on Jacob.

Jessica Murphy: "At the time, I was imagining every possible torture that could be inflicted upon my son and he is the person that I loved more than anybody in the world. I just couldn't let that happen to him, and in my mind I felt the only way to save him from it was to take his life."

Scott Brown; "Do you believe the county bears some responsibility for Jacob's death?"

Jesssica Murphy: "Everything failed. Nobody decided to put me into long-term care, where I needed to be. CPS failed to do their job and the illness came on so quickly that my family was unprepared."

Scott Brown: "For people watching this, who maybe won't be able to accept that you were found not responsible for Jacob's death, what do you want to say to those people?"

Jessica Murphy: "I think they must be unaware of how tragic and damaging these diseases can be. And also, for what other reason than madness would a loving mother be moved to do what I had done?"

Following Jacob's death, the CPS worker who had his case was fired by the county. It's believed the supervisor in the case is still employed.

"Why they did nothing boggles the mind," said Gelles.

Murphy said she agreed to speak with 2 On Your Side in the hope of shedding light on mental illness and preventing similar tragedies in the future.

Murphy will remain in the custody of the state until such a time when she's found no longer to be a danger to herself or others.

Last summer, Jacob's father sued Erie County and ECMC for Jacob's death.

Citing the lawsuit, the county and ECMC declined Scott Brown's request to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding Jacob's death.