GRAVESEND — Law enforcement officials probing the nearly fatal beating of a 3-year-old boy are questioning why a city child welfare caseworker — and not a trained investigator or the NYPD — was called days before the tragedy to check out a tip that the toddler was being kept in a dog cage by a Brooklyn man, DNAinfo New York has learned.
The Administration for Children's Services received a tip last Saturday from the state’s child abuse hotline warning that Salvatore Lucchesse was terrorizing little Jaden Jordan with a pit bull and keeping the frightened toddler locked in the dog’s cage, sources said.
While the caller provided the incorrect address — it was right next to Jaden’s home on West Fifth Street in Gravesend — the tipster provided Lucchesse's name, sources say.
ACS officials say they followed protocols and dispatched a caseworker who “rang doorbells” at the “wrong” address, and then left when they found no leads to follow. They returned the following day without making any headway.
“Even if the address was next door, did they knock on other doors? Or ask anyone on the block if they knew [Lucchesse] or had seen anyone walking a pit bull lately?” a law enforcement official said.
“They had the suspect’s name,” he continued. “What did they do with it? Did they try to run it down?”
As it turned out, Lucchesse has a lengthy history of domestic violence complaints involving previous girlfriends before he recently dated Jaden’s mother, Raven Haynes, sources said.
Two days after the tip about Jaden was received, the NYPD responded to a 911 call that the toddler was not breathing.
Paramedics and police found him badly beaten and covered in feces, and doctors quickly determined that he had suffered internal injuries, skull fractures and was brain dead.
Lucchesse, 24, was subsequently arrested on various assault and child abuse charges. He will be charged with murder if Jaden dies.
ACS officials, who are now also probing the Jaden case, say their protocols call for a "child welfare specialist" to respond to a state hotline report such as Jaden's to confirm a case before their own investigative division, or the NYPD, is notified.
Vlad Basara, 30, who lives next door to Jaden, said he was not home last weekend, and was unaware if an ACS worker knocked on her door.
He described Haynes as a “good mother” who apparently just started to date Lucchesse because Basara had never seen him before.
Basara last saw Jaden the weekend before Thanksgiving, and he appeared in good spirits.
"He was fine,” he said. “His mother was taking him to the store. He was talking a lot — very friendly, happy.”
“I used to see him every morning,” he added. “It's very sad."
This tragedy is the latest in a string of child abuse cases that have ACS under fire.
Just two months ago, Zymere Perkins, 6, endured months of physical abuse at the hands of his mother, 26-year-old Geraldine Perkins, and her boyfriend, 42-year-old Rysheim Smith, before he died, police said.
A handful of caseworkers and managers who had been handling Zymere's case were later disciplined or demoted in the wake of his death.
Meanwhile, the DOI continues to investigate whether these incidents are isolated incidents or part of larger systemic problems at ACS.