A New York City man is suing the city and the Department of Homeless Services after his 15-month-old daughter was found in July alone with her mother’s corpse.
Authorities said that the child had been alone with the woman’s decomposing body for at least five days before anyone at the shelter took notice of a disturbing smell and checked the unit.
The child, who is currently in the custody of her father, has reportedly been slapping him during the evening hours to make sure he’s still alive.
What are the details?
According to a report from CNN, 31-year-old Quraan Laboy has filed a petition in Manhattan Supreme Court after the child was discovered alone with her the corpse of her mother, 26-year-old Shelbi Westlake, who died of an accidental overdose at a homeless shelter.
The child, Lyric Laboy, was found “covered in human feces” and “badly dehydrated.”
Laboy added that the child is suffering from extreme separation anxiety and has not recovered from the July incident.
“I don’t know how long she will suffer with this. She has a lot of separation anxiety,” Laboy said.
Attorney Seth Harris said that the child “routinely slaps her dad while he’s sleeping to make sure he’s alive.”
Attorney Allison Keenan, who is also representing Laboy, added, “Allowing an infant to remain with her dead mother for five days unnoticed not only highlights the indifference and lack of humanity shown to those most in need but exhibits complete malfeasance by the City of New York and Department of Homeless Services.”
CNN reported that court documents allege that New York City’s Department of Homeless Services failed to follow protocols “involving the entrustment of a child, placement of residents, operation maintenance, management, inspection, and control of the city-run shelter where Westlake was residing at the time of the incident.”
Laboy is suing the agency for $5 million.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services-DHS agency told CNN that the city will review the suit when it is received.
“This was a heart-breaking tragedy and we offer our condolences to the family during this difficult period,” the spokesperson said of the horrific incident.
The spokesperson told CNN that the agency reached out to the shelter following the incident and that “corrective measures” were immediately taken to address concerns and to prevent further instances from taking place again.
The shelter, according to the report, is now mandated to conduct same-night wellness checks for residents who have not signed a nightly roster.
The New York Post reported that the child still awakens at night, crying for her mother almost every night, her father said.
“She always wakes up in the middle of the night, she’s kicking, she’s fighting, saying, ‘Mommy,’” Laboy said according to the report. “I look at her and I just start tearing up sometimes.”
Laboy, who previously worked with the New York City Housing Authority, said that he’s had to take a leave of absence in order to care for his daughter.
“I had to drop everything. She’s my number one priority right now,” he said. “My daughter’s gotta deal with this mentally for the rest of her life.”