June 06, 2018 10:46 PM
Hennepin County agreed on Tuesday to pay out $1.5 million in a lawsuit settlement stemming from the 2014 death of a girl in foster care.
Six-year-old Kendrea Johnson was found dead in her foster home in December, 2014.
She was hanging from a bunk bed in her bedroom. Her family has always said it was a suicide.
"It's like a dream," said Kendrea's grandmother Mary Broadus.
"I have to keep forcing myself...'You have to wake up. It's not a dream.'"
Broadus often still speaks of her granddaughter in the present tense.
"She will cheer you up," she said as she described the spunky 6-year-old. "You feel down, she will make you laugh."
Kendrea's death has always been hard to explain. and even harder to understand.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was first to report on the federal lawsuit Broadus filed against Hennepin County back in May, 2016. It alleged state law negligence and federal civil rights violations against the county and some of its employees.
The 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation revealed Kendrea was legally and knowingly placed in the foster home of a woman who had previously been convicted of child abuse.
Kendrea's therapy and mental health needs were well-documented, including thoughts of suicide. But the recommended services were not always provided.
In the Petition for Distribution of Wrongful Death Proceeds filed Wednesday in federal court, Broadus' attorneys wrote the $1.5 million dollar settlement is, to their best knowledge and research, "one of the highest settlements against a government entity in Minnesota on claims involving the deliberate indifference to the welfare of a foster child."
"No medical personnel, no social worker, should ever hear a 6-year-old child say they want to kill themselves and shrug that off," said Jeff Storms, who represents Broadus in the case.
"That should never be dismissed on anyone. It should always be taken seriously and followed up on," said Jeffrey Montpetit, who also represents Broadus.
Hennepin County issued a statement Wednesday, saying, "Any loss of life is tragic, but the loss of someone so young is especially tragic. We are here to protect children - and we do that every day. We take that charge very seriously. However, in light of the significant costs and uncertainties, settling this lawsuit was in the best interest of all the parties involved."
Broadus, meanwhile, is exhausted and worn out from the two years of litigation that led to mediation, and ultimately to the settlement.
"It will never be over for me because I'll always have those feelings," she said.
"I just think of her smiling at me and I'm at peace."
Katherine Johnson and Ben Rodgers
Updated: June 06, 2018 10:46 PM
Created: June 06, 2018 05:40 PM
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