AUSTIN --The life of Orion Hamilton was cut short the day before her first birthday. The toddler's death left a lot of unanswered questions, and on Friday, the Inspector General of Texas said he is looking for answers.
"Today, the actual inspector general, Doug Wilson, reviewed that case file, the work of his own staff, and concluded that they weren't thorough enough," said Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokesperson Stephanie Goodman.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) launched an investigation into Child Protective Services in October, finding the agency followed protocol in removing Hamilton from her parents.
"They really only looked at a portion of the investigation that Child Protective Services did, and not how they handled the entire case," said Hamilton.
One of the things the original investigation didn't look into was the circumstances around Hamilton's death.
Hamilton was born with drugs in her system, so the state took her from her mother and put her into foster care with her father's sister.
On Oct. 19, 2013, Cedar Park police responded to a 911 call at the home where the child lived. The caller said she was choking.
The next day, the child died. Police said 32-year old Jacob Salas' story didn't match up to the child's injuries. Officers said he admitted to putting Hamilton on the floor and pushing his knee into her head. He was arrested and charged with injury to a child. Salas remains in the Williamson County Jail.
"I don't have the reasons to why he would do that. It's still part of the investigation," said Captain Darlene Lewis of the Cedar Park Police Department.
Salas has a history of arrests and was not allowed to be around the child or his other three children, who also lived in the home. Hamilton's father called CPS to report Salas living there, but the caseworker did not remove his daughter. In April, a case worker saw Salas in the home, but still left her there.
During the upcoming investigation, the OIG will look at those factors and CPS' role.
"It's once we decided to remove that child from that home and place that child in another home did we do everything we can to assess the risk in that home," said Goodman.
The new investigation is expected to take several weeks.
The Department of Family and Protective Services is also investigating CPS. Officials released this statement:
We're still looking at the conservatorship (foster care) aspect of the case, including placement of the child into the home by CPS and the monitoring of the home, to determine if that part of the case was handled appropriately.
Separately, because the home had been approved as a foster home several weeks before her death, RCCL is investigating the child-placing agency responsible for the home, Lutheran Social Services.
More generally, we hope to learn what we can from any mistakes that were made in this case as part of our larger effort to make foster care safer for our children.
After Hamilton's death, Lutheran Social Services suspended its operation of placing children in homes. Officials said they are still in the evaluation process.