The father of a 4-year-old girl who died after she was trapped in her mother’s hot vehicle in Scottsdale has filed a wrongful death claim against state Child Protective Services.
John Gray of Scottsdale, who filed the notice with the offices of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Gov. Janet Napolitano and CPS on March 9 is demanding $6.5 million in damages and the reform of CPS investigative procedures in his claim. A claim is a legal precursor to a lawsuit.
Haley Gray died Sept. 14, four days after police discovered her naked and choking on her own vomit in Celene Gray’s 2004 Mitsubishi Montero.
John Gray had repeatedly tried to get custody of his three children, but was denied, despite being a fit father, according to the claim. He received custody of the three children when Haley was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 10.
“I think Haley’s death is inexcusable,” John Gray said. “This case isn’t about money, it’s about CPS screwing up.”
The state has until May 9 to respond to the claim, settle it or fight it in Maricopa County Superior Court.
A spokesman in Goddard’s office said Thursday that the office plans to fight Gray’s claim.
“This is clearly a very tragic case, and our office will defend this as best as we can in an effort to avoid liability,” said Steve Wilson, a Goddard spokesman.
Jorge Franco, Gray’s attorney, said CPS ignored his client’s pleas for help.
“CPS was negligent,” Franco said. “CPS had every opportunity to remove the kids from the care of Celene Gray, who was an unfit mother, and they didn’t.”
Celene Gray, 35, was indicted in January by a grand jury on felony child abuse and endangerment charges in Haley’s death and an unrelated DUI arrest in Glendale in September 2004, when her three children were in the car.
She was arrested by Scottsdale police on those charges last month.
Scottsdale police received a tip that she could leave town with the two children, ages 5 and 7.
CPS spokeswoman Liz Barker said Thursday the office wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.