Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Early Abuse and 28 Homes For A Broken Child

He was blond, with a shy, sweet smile, the kind of little boy they just wanted to love.

Michael Tate was 6 years old when a Morrison couple chose him to be their son.

But it didn't last long.

Tammy and Dave Wachtl had several successful visits with Michael at a foster home. But within a week of coming to live with the Wachtls, the couple relinquished the youngster. He would shriek like a wounded wild animal and bash his head against the wall.

The string of doctors who treated Tate described him as the most severely disturbed child they had ever seen.

His problems worsened as he became a teen. He tried to strangle himself, drank poison, and jumped out a window during repeated suicide attempts. At one point, he threatened to rape and kill a foster family.

Then, on Nov. 8, 2004, he wound up in the Fitzgerald family's garage. What started out as a burglary turned deadly, after Tate and his friend, Michael Fitzgerald, were confronted by Fitzgerald's father.

Steven Fitzgerald fought for his life, wildly swinging a scooter at the two teens. The 41-year-old man died after being beaten with a shovel and stabbed.

Both boys were charged with his murder. Tate faces a life sentence after a jury last month convicted him of felony murder. Michael Fitzgerald pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 72 years.

At the time of the killing, Fitzgerald, then 17, and Tate, 16, were runaways from a Jefferson County social services facility.

In fact, Tate had spent nearly all of his life in the custody of Jefferson County.

"He is the product of Jefferson County. They raised him and they prosecuted him for murder," said his attorney, Shawna Geiger.

Social services in spotlight

Geiger, during Tate's trial, tried unsuccessfully to persuade jurors Tate was not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

The evidence extended far beyond the circumstances of Fitzgerald's death, with Geiger, at times, putting Jefferson County social services in the defendant's seat. One psychiatrist after another took the stand, revealing the dark and unpredictable world of a deeply troubled teen.

Geiger contends that social services failed Tate after he was taken, at 3, from his abusive mother.

In a letter written when Tate was 5, the boy's first therapist, Dena Grossier, told his caseworker:

"I cannot stress strongly enough the need for ... Michael to be in a stable, consistent, loving home on a permanent basis AS SOON AS POSSIBLE."

By the time Tate was 16, however, he had been moved 40 times into 28 different foster homes, social services facilities and psychiatric hospitals.

"Social services is no place to raise a child," Geiger said.

Rocky Mountain News


Anonymous said...

I, too have had some outrageous experiences with Jeffco "social services". My son was sexually assaulted from the age of 5 1/2 to 6 by a boy in his father's neighborhood. After I had consulting everyone I could think of, including Jeffco SS, and my concerns validated,I found myself charged with contempt of court and sentenced to 10 days in jail, suspended. Each opportunity Jeffco SS had to vindicate themselves and do the RIGHT thing by my child, they dropped the ball, removing him from beneficial treatment centers, returning him to his fathers custody after charging and convicting him of child abuse. My son has learned to continually abuse me in a myriad of ways (pointed out by a substitute public defender in DougCO, the worst case of parental alienation she ever seen)and is now serving time in Lookout Mountain until one month before his 18th birthday. Congratulations Jeffco SS, you've found a way to keep the overabundance of prisons built in CO filled, create the criminals with your own negligence.

One Disgusted Mother

Anonymous said...

Social Services of Pueblo is no better, when I was a Youth I was a runaway that was my crime, seeking a safe, sane place to be. At 15 they sent me to a Group Home run by Monks in Steamboat Springs it was the best place I'd ever been. The Monks were kind, really interested in helping Kids figure out our gifts, they taught us things about ourselves that we did not know exsisted. I was happily learning to play the Piano, building a Dulcimer, reading Kibran. I was one of the last Girls to go so I got a Cabin all to myself, it snowed alot in those days & there were Mornings that I would have to climb up & shovel my roof, one of my best memories was an early Morning when the Snow began to fall as I was shoveling & the Sun just started to rise & made the Snow appear to be Diamonds falling from the Sky. Well good ol' Shirley from Pueblo SS came for a visit & decided in her sick mind that I was not safe there, due to the Snow. She had me "quickly" moved to a Group Home run by a Husband & Wife in Rocky Ford, all Girls. I did not like this place. The Husband Larry was our "theropist" & when my turn came Larry tried some crazy tactics out on me, "I was reading your life file & see how hard you've had it & I just want to take you back to the time of being an infint, come & sit on my lap" I refused. I was punished by not being allowed to go to the Dentist! I started noticing how some of the Girls would act around Larry & could tell they had sat on his lap by the vast rewards they would recieve. Larry himself reinforced my observations by telling me "all you have to do is comply" well I ran away! Met a Woman who took me to the Police the next day so I could file a report, I wrote 2-3 pages & when I was done the cops took me back to the home. All of them were in the living room & they sat me in the center & yelled at me for hrs. Once they were asleep I left again, this time I started walking toward Pueblo. I walked all night & hitched a ride in the Morning. When I was found they put me in Pueblo Juvinielle Detention, I was there for a mth when 2 Girls from the Rocky Ford place showed up, they bowed thier heads when they saw me & apologized for not saying something when I did about Larry & told me he raped them. No One Ever came to talk to any of us, no one ever appeared to give a damn! We knew we were considered the "throw-aways" of this Society!!

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