The family of a 9-year-old Big Island girl who starved to death is suing the state of Hawaii as well as her parents and grandmother for wrongful death.
Their attorney says the state, including the Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services, Child Welfare Services and the Department of Education dropped the ball by returning the girl to her parents and grandmother.
On June 28, 2016, emergency responders found Shaelynn Lehano-Stone unconscious in her home.
The girl, who was diagnosed autistic, was taken to the hospital. She died hours later.
The death certificate noted:
“She was denied food by her caregivers.”
Parents Kevin Lehano, Tiffany Stone, and grandmother Henrietta Stone were charged with murder, and the two other siblings were put in foster care.
“It’s a gut wrencher, no question about it,” said Randall Rosenberg.
The Oahu-based attorney is assisting Big Island attorney Robert Marx in the case.
Despite multiple reports of abuse and neglect, Rosenberg says state workers returned the child to the grandmother.
“She was noted to be undernourished by state workers on several different occasions, yet they continued to return her to the home. I’ve seen this pattern in other cases I’ve been involved in. I don’t understand it, frankly.”
Now, just two weeks shy of the wrongful death statute running out, Rosenberg says they’re suing the state for unspecified damages for the estate of Shaelynn as well as her 13-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister. The children are in foster care on the Big Island.
“It took some doing to get this done because of course the foster children are young and don’t know anything about the legal system. The state is not going to step in and advise these children they have a right to sue because the state is one of the primary perpetrators in my mind, in this case,” explained Rosenberg.
Rosenberg says he and Marx got involved after the maternal sister of Tiffany Stone, based in Florida, reached out with concerns to protect the future of the two siblings.
“I understand they’re having a lot of difficulties, primarily emotional. I don’t know whether it’s based on the death of their sister or the way they’ve been treated. One of my goals is to have them be fully evaluated by healthcare professionals to figure out what can be done to fix these problems,” said Rosenberg.
When asked for comment, a spokeswoman with the Department of Human Services says, “We have not yet reviewed the complaint. Generally in situations like these, we’re unable to provide information about pending litigation.”