Children survive Denver 'house of torture;' Multiple complaints made to DHS before mother's arrest

Denver adding 50 DHS jobs after Denver7 reports

DENVER, Colo. - Police and Denver Human Services professionals call it child torture, and say it went on for years. Two kids say they were burned, beaten and even stabbed by their mother, Kenyaita Davis, who has been arrested for felony child abuse.

Denver7 Investigator John Ferrugia has obtained both the police report in the case and the report to Juvenile Court prepared by Denver Human Services. The DHS report has been released to interested parties in the case and there is no prohibition on them in sharing the information. 

The reports make clear that a woman known to the mother of the children called both Denver Human Services and the Denver Police Department with concerns about the children’s safety in late August of this year.

When DHS did not respond immediately, the woman called DPD the next day. Detectives waited for the kids after school, interviewed them, and removed them from the home.

The caller, who did not want to be identified, told Ferrugia that Davis gave the appearance of style and civility.

"She dresses nice. They dress nice. She is driving cars. Her nails are manicured … nice home," said the woman, who has known the family for years.

"So when they see that, they say, 'See how she is dressed. She is coming in here with heels, nice makeup and hair done,'" the informant said.

"So she was good at putting it over on people?" asked Ferrugia.

"Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. She did a very good job at it," the woman replied.

She says masked behind this facade was a mother who brutalized her children.

A Denver police report notes the 11-year-old boy was burned with an iron; the 12-year-old daughter’s hand was scarred from the mother gouging her with a power drill.

And that was just the beginning.

"She said mother took a butcher knife to her leg. Stabbed her in the leg," said the woman informant. "They have been maced. They have been hit with shovels, brooms, rakes, hammers ..."

The woman told Ferrugia the young girl had been thrown through a fish aquarium.

"And she has scars on her forehead," the woman said.

"Like cuts?" asked Ferrugia.

"Cuts."

That is verified by a DHS report to Denver Juvenile Court. It notes deep scarring to the girl occurred when "her mother threw her against an aquarium."

The report notes that Davis also threw her daughter over a banister on the second floor. After the girl regained consciousness, the report says the mother told the child that had she not awakened "she would have buried her in the back yard."

The woman who called police told Ferrugia, "That’s torture. It’s not abuse, it’s torture."

The report also notes that there have been red flags at school as far back as 2009.

"Children come in. Smell of marijuana," said one report.

  • In 2010: "(Boy) had a sizable bruise of left eye."
  • In 2011: "(Boy) reported his mother punched him with a fist."
  • And in 2012: "Child came to school with cuts/abrasions on left temple. Gave different stories. Nurse said it looked like blunt force trauma."

"How many times did you call Human Services both in Arapahoe County and Denver?" Ferrugia asked the informant.

"About 3 or 4," she answered.

The informant made one final call to DHS in August when Davis went out of town and left the children in her care in an Aurora home. It was here they felt safe enough to tell her what was happening to them.

"I think they are very strong and courageous because this is their mother at the end of the day... this is their mother," she said.

Sources familiar with the investigation and this report to the court confirm that between 2005 and 2013, Denver Human Services and Arapahoe County Human Services "screened out" or did not investigate 13 separate complaints of domestic violence, neglect, and abuse involving the family.

Six other complaints were classified as "unfounded," meaning they could not be verified.

Others were inconclusive.

One case prior to the current one was "founded" in 2013 and the mother and kids received voluntary services.
Reports indicate the mother coached the kids not to talk and Juvenile Court was not involved.

Even so, the children were left in the home until Aug. 29, when police stepped in.

"You called police because Human Services was leaving those kids in the house?" Ferrugia asked.

"Exactly."

It was that call that gave the children the confidence and courage to talk, brought the arrest of their mother, and the end to their torment.

Don Mares is the executive director of Denver Human Services. Privacy laws prevent him from talking about any specific case. He took over the troubled department this summer and has begun making systemic changes and hiring new caseworkers and supervisors. 

"We are adding 50 more people to this system," said Mares.

In fact, Denver City Council voted Monday night to approve $3.4 million for DHS to hire new caseworkers and supervisors.

If you want to apply to work with these families and children, call 720-944-2850 or check here for updates. The jobs will be posted intermittently over the next few months.

"We have asked Denver Health to bring in medical experts into our screen out process so that they are looking at these files and they are helping us assess whether the things that are gray might indicate to a medical expert that we better look into the situation -- it's huge change to our process," he added.

Mares also says there is now an additional layer of review when deciding whether to open an assessment and check on a child.

"The decisions of the people screening in or out are all looked at with an extra set of eyes to be sure that the decision was the best you can decide from the facts you have in front of you. The right decision," he said.

"I think kids are safer in Denver because of the changes we are making," he added.

Obviously these changes were not in place during the decision-making around the case of Davis and the alleged abuse of her children.

But it is cases like this one that has undermined confidence in Denver Human Services -- confidence Mares is trying to restore.

But the woman who called police and was finally able to have the children removed from the house of torture is still skeptical of DHS.

"If Denver police hadn't have helped me I don't know where we would be right now… probably a funeral, a double funeral," she said. 

The Denver7 Investigators contacted Kinyaita Davis, who declined an interview. She is charged with felony child abuse.

This is the fourth case in just over a year in which DHS had received multiple complaints or referrals and did not act or did not respond properly. In the three other cases children died.

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