A Dickson County dad says he tried to reach DCS for three weeks before his infant daughter died on Thursday.
Edward Mays, 27, has been in jail since September.
The three children he shares with Jill Smith had been living with her before she became incarcerated as well.
When Smith, 32, was jailed three weeks ago, Mays said he immediately tried contacting DCS.
According to Smith, he sent letters and left messages asking someone to check on his children while both parents were in jail, but no one did.
The kids were supposed to be living with their grandmother and great-aunt.
"I didn't know what was going on with the kids and where they were at and I needed to make sure they were ok," Mays said.
Thursday, a chaplain at the jail told him his 18-month-old daughter, Somara Smith, had died.
"It took a lot out of me, a very lot," Mays said, adding, "Right now I can't do anything about anything. I can't go down there and pick out the flowers or her last little dress. I can't imagine it, I really can't."
According to investigators, her mother's boyfriend, Edward Benesch, brought the infant to a relative's house early that morning. She was not breathing and had trauma to her body.
Benesch said he'd fallen on her.
The child's great-aunt immediately called 911 to report the child was not breathing. When EMS arrived, the girl had already died.
Benesch has been charged with reckless homicide and child abuse.
He remains in the Hickman County Jail on $75,000 bond. He was transported to Hickman County from Dickson County following his arrest.
He is scheduled to make is next court appearance in Dickson County on March 15.
Mays said his daughter's death never should have happened.
"He [Benesch] knows what happened and DCS probably could have prevented that if they did their job," Mays told Nashville's News 2.
In a statement, DCS said it did not have an open case on the child at the time of her death.
The statement also said the letter Mays sent to the agency on January 24, 2013 was addressed to a child he fathered with a different mother. According to DCS the letter simply said, "[redacted] Daddy Loves You."
DCS also said Mays left a voicemail message at the Dickson County DCS office from jail on February 18, 2013.
He told the department Smith was in jail and that his children were with her boyfriend.
The statement said he noted he was concerned about his children's welfare.
The agency said Mays did not include Benesch's name or a way to contact Benesch in his voicemail message.
They also said that when they left a message for Mays at the Dickson County Jail to get more information, he did not respond to their request to call.
DCS has had multiple contacts with Smith. The most recent was March of 2011.
At the time, Smith had four children. Somara and a sibling had not been born yet.
Smith now has five surviving children and is currently pregnant.
DCS Interim Commissioner Jim Henry said the agency has made contact with the children.
"We were able to locate all of the siblings and are confident of their safety," Henry said. "Three of the children have been placed in DCS custody, one was in the father's custody and one is placed with a relative."
The release also said the department continues to work with law enforcement to investigate Somara's death.
She is the sixth child to die while in DCS custody in 2013, but the agency said she appears to be the first to die as a result of abuse or neglect.
One child was killed in a car wreck and the other five deaths were attributable to natural causes.
The interim commissioner said the increasing drug problem in Tennessee is causing more children to enter the DCS system.
"Drug abuse is a phenomenon that affects people of all ages, and it is one that is crippling our society. In federal fiscal year 2012, 1,399 children came into DCS custody due to parental drug abuse," Henry said. "As a community, we must work together to address drug abuse and to prevent it from hurting generations to come."
The statement also said that Tennessee law mandates that if anyone suspects child abuse or neglect, they must immediately report it to the Department of Children's Services.
The department operates a 24-hour hotline at 1-877-237-0004.
Thursday, August 28 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-28 19:28:07 GMT
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