A local child protection agency is speaking out after a 9-year-old girl is murdered under its care.
Eckerd Support Center says its preliminary investigation shows there were not any warning signs that Jenica Randazzo was in danger. Her former foster mom disagrees.
The little girl had been staying with her grandparents who were working to adopt her.
Her uncle, Jason Rios, is accused of attacking and killing her and her grandmother in Pasco County last week. Jenica’s younger sister, survived.
When we’re charged with ensuring the safety of children we should be held accountable,” says Eckerd Executive Director Brian Bostick.
Bostick says the agency is making the investigation into Randazzo’s death a top priority. Right now, they’re digging through more than 3,000 pages of records to uncover if social workers missed warning signs that could have saved her life.
Before Jenica’s death, her uncle and accused killer, Jason Rios, had been living under the same roof with his parents and four nieces and nephews. Despite relatives acknowledging Rios suffered from schizophrenia, his parents, Eddie and Angela Rios, had been in the process of legally adopting their grandchildren.
“We don’t see anything that states that these children are in danger of being placed in the home with her grandparents and raised by their family,” says Bostick.
After the murder of Jenica and her grandmother, the state removed the 3 other kids from the home. Adding to the heartbreak, early Wednesday morning, Jenica’s older brother, 13-year-old Dominic Putnam ran away from the shelter where he’d been staying. Deputies found him safe hours later.
“Dominic has gone through a very tragic experience, so he’s possibly running to something,” says Bostick. “I would say Dominic wants to be with family members, and at this time were not able to facilitate that.”
“You’re just going to put all that baggage onto elderly disabled grandparents?” questions Jenica’s former foster mom, Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
Rhodes-Courter says she knows case workers tried to keep the kids with relatives after their mom and dad lost custody, but insists she raised concerns that this wasn’t the best home for the kids to thrive.
“Our words fell on completely deaf ears and that was so frustrating. But this time, it ultimately lead to a fatality and that’s completely unacceptable,” says Rhodes-Courter.
Eckerd hopes to release Jenica’s records and its review Monday. There will also be a state investigation, similar to the one released this week into the death of 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck.
To read Jonchuck’s investigation, click this link.