State to pay $6 million to settle foster children’s lawsuit

SPOKANE — The state will pay more than $6 million to former foster children of Carole DeLeon, including the estate of a 7-year-old who died of starvation in her care.

Two adults and five children will each be paid between about $400,000 and $1.6 million, and the estate of Tyler DeLeon, who died on Jan. 13, 2005, will get $180,000, according to a settlement between the plaintiffs and the state Department of Social and Health Services.

The settlement was filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

“The decision boiled down to, ‘What is it going to take to take care of these kids for the foreseeable future given what happened to them in this home?’ ” said Allen Ressler, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Ressler and his law partner, Tim Tesh, are entitled to a third of the settlement.

Carole DeLeon, 52, was sentenced to six years in prison in July after entering an Alford plea to criminally mistreating Tyler and another boy in her care. In an Alford plea, the defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges he or she could be found guilty based on the evidence presented in court.

The lawsuit, filed in December, accused DSHS of failing to properly investigate DeLeon’s background and that of another caregiver in her home in Stevens County, or to respond to numerous complaints of abuse.

It hasn’t been determined who will get Tyler’s money on behalf of his estate.

Superior Court Judge Teri Eitzen will review the settlement Dec. 1. It requires a judge’s approval to take effect.

The settlement ends the lawsuit against the department and three employees but does not address claims against Dr. David Fregeau, Tyler’s primary care doctor; Fregeau’s employer, the Rockwood Clinic; and Sandra Bremner-Dexter, the boy’s psychiatrist, who are scheduled for trial in April, Ressler said.

The lawsuit alleges that Fregeau and Bremner-Dexter, both of whom are required by law to report valid suspicions of abuse or neglect, were aware of injuries suffered by Tyler in the home.

A CPS investigation of Fregeau’s role in the case concluded that he had seen many injuries suffered by Tyler and a foster brother but that Carole DeLeon persuaded him and others that there was no abuse.

The lawsuit cites an extensive history of abuse complaints and health concerns regarding foster children at DeLeon’s home, including bruising, broken bones, knocked-out teeth, withholding of food and water, sexual abuse by a registered sex offender, bite marks and multiple scars.

Child psychologist Gilbert Kilman of San Francisco said the children suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt and predicted each will have difficulty in school and work that will require counseling.

“Searing images of Tyler being kicked down the stairs and drinking from the toilet fester in her psyche,” Kilman wrote of Tyler’s half-sister, who witnessed his death. The settlement gives the girl $1.2 million.

A girl who spent the first five months of her life with DeLeon will receive more than $560,000. A boy whom DeLeon adopted and stayed with her for more than two months after Tyler’s death will receive $930,000.

Another boy who lived with her for 10 months will receive nearly $400,000. The largest amount — $1.5 million — goes to a boy who lived with DeLeon for about 4 ½ years and left three months before Tyler’s death. Two adults — former foster children of DeLeon — will receive about $564,000 and $1.3 million.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Police: Everett Safeway ex-worker accused of trying to ram customers

The man, 40, was showing symptoms of psychosis, police wrote. Officers found him circling another parking lot off Mukilteo Boulevard.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Jarred by anti-Semitic rants, Lynnwood council approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A suspected gas explosion on Wednesday destroyed a house in the 19700 block of 25TH DR SE in Bothell, Washington. (Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
After a newly bought Bothell house exploded, experts urge caution

The owners had closed on their purchase of the house just two days earlier. No one was hurt in the explosion.

3 men charged in armed home invasion near Everett

Prosecutors allege the trio targeted other Asian American homes across Snohomish, Whatcom and King counties.

Team members prep for the upcoming ski season at Stevens Pass Resort in Skykomish, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Any day now: All eyes on snow forecast at Stevens Pass

The ski area was a flurry of activity this week, as staff made sure a new lift and app were running smoothly.

Carjacking suspects tracked via GPS from Everett to Renton, then arrested

A King County resident reported two people stole their Mercedes at gunpoint. Hours later, its GPS tracker pinged in north Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.