CPS fires two, investigator resigns in Grand Prairie child slaying case

Leiliana Wright was born in 2012, when her mother was serving prison time.
Leiliana Wright was born in 2012, when her mother was serving prison time. Courtesy

A Child Protective Services caseworker and a supervisor who worked on the case of a 4-year-old Grand Prairie girl who was fatally beaten last month have been fired, a CPS official said Monday.

In addition, a CPS special investigator who also worked on the case resigned, said CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales in a Monday email.

Gonzales provided no other details on the dismissals or the resignation.

Jeri Quezada, 30, and her boyfriend, Charles Phifer, 34, are accused in the death of Quezada’s daughter, Leiliana Wright.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled that Leiliana died from blunt force trauma to her head and abdomen. The child had extensive bruising from head to toe and whip marks on her back, an arrest warrant affidavit stated.

Quezada told investigators that she took her daughter and 18-month-old son to visit Phifer about 11:30 a.m. March 12. She said the couple shot up heroin in the bathroom, the affidavits states.

The mother told police she and her boyfriend later started hitting Leiliana with a belt and bamboo because the girl had drunk her little brother’s juice. She said she left her daughter with her boyfriend while she ran errands “because she knew that she couldn’t take the child out in public due to the bruising on the child’s face.”

Leiliana’s paternal grandmother, Alise Clakley, told KXAS-TV last week, “I took pictures and sent them to CPS. If we had done something sooner, I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Her grandfather, Craig Clakley, whose son is Leiliana’s father, told the Star-Telegram last week that Leiliana was born in a Galveston hospital in January 2012, while Quezada was serving a six-year prison sentence for burglary.

Clakley said he and his wife took the baby home.

“We were told that if somebody in the family didn’t take the baby, then the baby would go into the [state] system,” Clakley said. “We felt like the baby needed to be raised by a family.”

When Quezada was released in 2013, Quezada gained custody of the girl and went to live with a boyfriend in Rendon, Clakley said.

CPS investigators recently interviewed the Clakleys and Leiliana’s father about her death, Clakley told The Dallas Morning News on Monday. The investigator who interviewed Leiliana’s father was the one who resigned, she said.

The firings of the caseworker and supervisor and the resignation of the special investigator come as an unusually large number of child-abuse investigators in Dallas County are quitting.

From the latest period for which figures are available, Dallas County CPS investigators left at a rate of 57 percent a year, The News has reported.

The staffing reduction has forced CPS to bring in scores of workers from other parts of the state.

State CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins has said the agency is scrambling to conduct hiring fairs and install “sound management” practices.

The “current upheaval is the result of our failure to properly manage a challenging combination of factors,” such as a high volume of child-mistreatment allegations in Dallas County and the loss of senior regional administrators, he said.

Lawmakers and agency officials have struggled for years for an answer to high turnover among child-abuse investigators.

Phifer was in the Grand Prairie Jail on Monday with bail set at $1 million. Quezada remains jailed in Grand Prairie with bail set at $500,000.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives and The Associated Press.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr