TAMPA (FOX 13) - Documents obtained by FOX 13 show the Department of Children and families chose not to investigate a complaint to the Florida Abuse Hotline concerning the well-being of Chance Walsh, the infant deputies say died at his parents' hands less than eight weeks later.
A day after Chance Walsh was born in a Charlotte County hospital, someone called the hotline reporting the baby's mother, 32-year-old Kristen Bury, "may be using opiates."
The identity of people who contact the abuse hotline is confidential according to state law.
Supporting documents explaining the report show that DCF "screened out" the call, meaning they did not investigate further. The report notes that the counselor who took the complaint knew DCF had previously investigated the family, but it's unclear if that counselor also knew the agency had removed seven children from the care of Chance's father.
The report also notes that Bury and Chance's father, Joseph Walsh, had a baby together who died in 2014. An autopsy report attributed the first baby's death to a kidney infection, but it's possible the medical examiner could review his findings.
A source with expert knowledge of the inner workings of child protective investigations tells FOX 13 DCF's previous contact with the family, coupled with the "threatened harm" implied by Bury's possible drug use, should have at least warranted an investigation.
In response to questions about why the agency did not investigate the abuse report, DCF has repeatedly released the following statement:
On Wednesday, Joseph Walsh was set to face a judge on child neglect and first-degree murder charges, but he waived his first appearance. A judge appointed a public defender and ordered Walsh be held without bond on the murder charge.
The judge also ordered Walsh have no contact with Bury, who is also charged with murder in Chance's death.