What happened to David Almond?

Report summarizes tragic chain of events

The state Office of the Child Advocate released a scathing 106-page report on Wednesday detailing enormous failures by the Department of Children and Families and others that ultimately led to the death of David Almond, an autistic 14-year-old boy who was returned to custody of his father, John Almond, despite numerous signs of the danger he faced there. John Almond and his girlfriend, Jaclyn Coleman, are now facing second-degree murder charges in David Almond’s death. Below is a summary included in the Child Advocate report of what happened following the return of David Almond from state custody to his father in March 2020.  

 

Between his return home on March 13, 2020 and his death on October 21, 2020, David experienced abuse, starvation, and was deprived of a safe and nurturing home environment. Mr. Almond and Ms. Coleman made ongoing and deliberate efforts to keep him from receiving any therapeutic or education services, and his presentation during monthly DCF virtual home visits was orchestrated.

David never received any community-based therapeutic services. David also did not attend Fall River Public Schools, in-person or virtually, and did not receive any special education services. Although Fall River Public School staff had contact with Ms. Coleman, school staff never saw or spoke with David from March 16, 2020, when he was scheduled to begin school, to the time of his death.

DCF was the only agency to physically see and speak with David during once-a-month virtual home visits. All DCF visits were done virtually due, in part, to Mr. Almond and Ms. Coleman’s claims of continuous exposure to, or fear of COVID-19, though these claims were dubious based on the family’s behavior including an alleged vacation they took outside of the home. During these virtual home visits, David was always observed in the presence of Ms. Coleman, was always seated, was always quiet and Ms. Coleman always directed him on what to say to the DCF case management team.

Persons who should have been in contact with David missed several opportunities to pursue contact with him more aggressively and missed opportunities to file a report of alleged child abuse or neglect. Many of these persons, as described in this report, acted as if DCF involvement relieved them of any obligation to take further steps to investigate the safety of the children. DCF, the agency explicitly charged with protecting these children, failed to put all the clues provided by the family’s history, service providers, school officials, the children’s own presentation, the screened-out allegations of abuse and neglect, and Mr. Almond and Ms. Coleman’s own actions, into a clear picture of the reality of the life that David, Michael, and Aiden were living.

The last DCF virtual home visit was on September 25, 2020. David died three and a half weeks later.