April 18, 2014

Elyria
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Children Services refuses to release case details about Lorain mom

ELYRIA — Lorain County Children Services will not say how many times it has been contacted regarding the children of Erica Perez, who was arrested July 5 after seven of her children were found living in filth in a Lorain home.

Ben Davey, an assistant county prosecutor who represents Children Services, said the number of calls made to the agency about Perez, the dates on when those calls were made and any reports detailing the agency’s involvement with her may be withheld because they are part of the investigative file.

Such records “are not subject to disclosure,” Davey wrote in a letter delivered to The Chronicle-Telegram on Thursday in response to requests filed by The Chronicle seeking such documents.

But Tim Smith, an attorney and professor emeritus of Kent State University who specializes in media law, disagrees.

He said calls made to Children Services are public information and “could hardly reveal anything sensitive that would need to be kept secret.”

“Section 2151.421 (h) (1) makes the contents of a report of child abuse confidential. Nothing in the statute makes the fact that such a report was received confidential,” he said. “That information would not reveal any details about the substance of the case. It would, however, suggest that an agency receiving numerous reports might not have acted with as much dispatch as the situation would require.”

Smith said law enforcement records may be kept confidential if the suspect is not named, but he said Perez clearly was referred to in released police reports so that exemption wouldn’t apply.

Perez, 28, who is four months pregnant, was charged with seven counts of child endangering, one count each of disorderly conduct persisting, disorderly conduct by intoxication, obstructing official business, and resisting arrest after police were called to her home on Long Avenue.

Officers described the home as smelling of urine and garbage and said that it was infested with flies. They also said they found only a single, crib-sized mattress for the children to sleep on.

A 1-year-old in the home who had suffered a seizure earlier in the day was taken to the hospital for treatment, and hospital officials say he was covered with feces, peanut butter and dirt.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.