May 10, 2012

LePage backs DHHS silence on Arundel case

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage backs the Department of Health and Human Service's refusal to release information on how it handled a report of suspected child abuse at the Arundel home of Ethan Henderson, a 10-week-old baby who died, allegedly at his father's hands.

LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor's counsel and the state Attorney General's Office both agree that the information could affect the criminal investigation of the father, Gordon Collins-Faunce, who faces charges of depraved indifference murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and assault.

Collins-Faunce told police he lifted the boy by the head and threw him forcefully into a chair Saturday. Ethan suffered brain injuries and died Tuesday.

A DHHS official told police that the department had received a report from a daycare center that Ethan and his twin brother, Lucas, were both sick and not being treated and the twins' 3-year-old half-sister, Neveah, had arrived at the daycare center "covered in bruises."

DHHS won't confirm that it received the report, say when it was received or release any details on the department's response.

Bennett said LePage agrees that the information should remain confidential for now and that the governor won't comment beyond that about the Arundel case.

LePage told a television station Wednesday that he supports the death penalty "for those that kill babies" and feels DHHS has "gone from one extreme to another" when it decides whether to remove a child from a home in which abuse is suspected.

The department has been criticized in the past for being too quick to remove a child, LePage said, but now, "sometimes we're putting them back too quickly and sometimes we're not taking them out fast enough."

LePage, a victim of abuse as a child, supports a "system that protects our children," Bennett said.

John Martins, the spokesman for DHHS, said the department reviews how it handles all cases in which a child is harmed, but refused to confirm that it is currently reviewing the case involving Ethan. He said the results of those reviews are not made public.


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