The Investigators: family failures, neglect are major contributo - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: family failures, neglect major contributor to toddler's death

The Investigators: family failures, neglect are major contributors to toddler's death

Police say Jermyle Campbell died after he was placed underneath a mattress for 20 to 30 minutes. (Photo Source: Family) Police say Jermyle Campbell died after he was placed underneath a mattress for 20 to 30 minutes. (Photo Source: Family)
Jermyle lived with his mother and grandmother. A cousin said both women used to abuse him. (Source: SCSO) Jermyle lived with his mother and grandmother. A cousin said both women used to abuse him. (Source: SCSO)

Three years of failed state interventions, two years of police calls and two fumbled custody petitions proved to be major stumbling blocks in the protection of a North Memphis toddler whose mother is charged with his murder.

Records from Shelby County Juvenile Court revealed the grandmother and the cousin of 2-year-old Jermyle Campbell failed to follow through with separate custody petitions for the child between April and October 2014. Police charged his mother, 19-year-old Raven Campbell, with first-degree murder after the child was found dead under a mattress June 13 in the home Campbell shared with the child's grandmother Jacqueline Campbell, 3457 Fairoaks Ave.

"This child was failed," said Memphis Police Deputy Chief Mike Ryall. "People around him failed him."

Memphis police records revealed in the last two years, officers were called to the Campbell residence 36 times. A third of the incidents were domestic violence calls, including fights between Raven and Jacqueline. Police would arrive and calm things down. The Campbells would convince officers that everything would be fine, then someone would call the cops right back with yet another incident.

"It creates a huge frustration in our job and in our investigation," Ryall said.

A scheduling order filed in juvenile court April 11, 2014 revealed Jacqueline Campbell sought custody of the toddler. In her custody petition, she claimed Raven "neglected" her son. In the petition, the grandmother alleged Raven Campbell "...leaves the home and won't return to the home days at a time and refuses to communicate with (Jacqueline Campbell) about said child."

On June 16, 2014, a juvenile court judge awarded Jacqueline Campbell temporary custody of Jermyle and set a hearing for August 4, 2014. But on that date, the judge dismissed the custody petition " the request of the petitioner (Jacqueline Campbell)." 

Campbell declined our request for an explanation.

But attorney Jobi Teague, the court-appointed guardian ad litem for Jermyle Campbell during his grandmother's custody petition, said, "During that period, there was no cause for alarm at the Campbell residence, so it was determined that it was in the boy's best interest to stay in the residence (under the mother's custody)."

Seventeen days later -- on August 21, 2014 -- Angela Campbell, a cousin of the family, filed her own petition for Jermyle's custody. Angela Campbell is the formerly anonymous family member who told WMC Action News 5's Rose Eiklor that both Raven and Jacqueline abused the child. She also told Eiklor that Jacqueline Campbell allowed Raven and the child to stay in her home in order to collect welfare benefits.

"I just knew it wasn't safe for him (to stay in the home)," Campbell said in an on-camera interview at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center's flag-raising ceremony in honor of Jermyle June 22.

Angela Campbell's custody petition claimed " is in the best interest of (Jermyle) that custody be awarded to her." But the court record indicated she failed to appear for her custody hearing October 6, 2014. Her no-show left the judge no choice but to dismiss her petition.

When we asked her why she didn't show up, Angela Campbell answered, "Well, I had never got no papers to come to court. That's all I can say. I didn't get any papers. And when I did file, the grandmother went behind my back, and she filed for custody. So I just left her alone."

There is no record that grandmother Jacqueline filed another custody petition after Angela Campbell failed to show for her hearing.

In response to the question, "If it was so important to you, wouldn't you have followed up on that and not waited for papers to arrive at the house?" Angela answered, "Yes." When we asked her if she regretted not doing that now, she answered, "Yes."

"Ultimately, the full circle happened, and the child got placed right back in the home with the mother," said Ryall.

Eight months after Angela Campbell's failure to show for her custody hearing, Jermyle Campbell was found dead under a mattress in the home.

Under state privacy laws, officials with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services cannot discuss details of the Campbell case, although a department spokesperson confirmed to WMC Action News 5 the department has a 3-year history with Raven Campbell.

Memphis Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Virginia Stallworth indicated she is familiar with the details of the case history, but she said she cannot ethically discuss them.

"There is any number of people who could have done something," Stallworth said. "There are people who tried to do things. I don't think there is a singular answer to this situation."

Raven Campbell's next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, June 29, 9 a.m., in Shelby County General Sessions Court Division 12.

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