COLUMBUS, Ohio — A fatal crash last October that claimed the life of a Groveport-Madison school employee also involved a 15-year-old teen in foster care who had been caught driving illegally two other times in the months that preceded the crash.
10 Investigates is not naming the teen at this time because no charges have been filed in connection with that fatal crash. Seven months later, the Columbus Division of Police says it is still under investigation.
But police body camera footage and 911 calls identify the teen as a foster child who – according to juvenile court records – had been accused of stealing another car, damaging property and driving illegally in the months before the Oct. 3, 2021 crash along Noe Bixby Road.
That crash killed Paula Kennedy, a secretary at Groveport-Madison schools.
The incident raises concerns for Kennedy’s daughter, Tonda Shaw, who says it illustrates gaps within the criminal justice and foster care systems.
“I miss her very, very much,” Tonda Shaw told 10 Investigates during an interview. “Now my children have absolutely no grandparents and that’s really hard … it’s incredibly stressful.”
10 Investigates this week is looking into problems and possible solutions within the foster care system.
This fatal crash marked the third time the 15-year-old had driven illegally within the past year.
The first instance happened in January 2021, when the then-14-year-old boy was charged by Worthington police with criminal damaging – accused of driving a GMC SUV through a soccer field of a school.
Juvenile court records reviewed by 10 Investigates declared him delinquent, but the case was dismissed by late June when he had no other violations.
Two months later, there was another case – grand theft of a motor vehicle. The teen was accused of stealing a Dodge minivan from a foster group home in the Dayton area.
Columbus police recovered the van at a gas station on 5th Avenue on Sept. 21, 2022.
The Columbus Division of Police tell 10 Investigates there was a discussion over who would investigate – authorities in the Dayton or Columbus – which delayed the Columbus Division of Police from receiving the case file until on or about Oct. 18.
The teen wasn’t charged with the minivan case until Oct. 22 – leaving a gap where no charges were filed, meaning he wasn’t placed in juvenile detention but in another foster home.
Twelve days after the minivan was reported stolen, the teen was accused again of taking a car illegally – this time a Mercedes which ended in that fatal crash. Prior to the collision, a Madison Township police officer attempted to pull over the teen. Dash camera video shows the teen did not stop.
The Madison Township Police Department denies that the officer was involved in pursuit of the driver.
10 Investigates also found a series of police reports dating back three years to the teen’s new foster home for complaints about missing persons reports, stolen cars and domestic violence. We’ve also reached out to the foster parent, who declined comment.
“They fell short. That child - it wasn’t that kid’s first time in (Franklin County Children Services’) care. He was 15. It was their job to make sure that he was safe and anyone that could have been around him were safe and they did not,” Tonda Shaw said.
10 Investigates wanted to know how often this happens -- where a child in foster care is involved in a deadly incident that claims another life. A spokeswoman for FCCS told us she couldn’t tell us because they don’t track it.
10 Investigates has also placed emails with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services seeking clarity on if the state has any data on this. A spokeswoman told us she was checking. As of this writing, we are still waiting to hear back.
The teen’s mother declined our request for an interview. We chose not to name him because he is a juvenile.
Franklin County Children Services has said it cannot discuss individual cases.
If you have something you’d like us to know, please feel free to email our team at email@example.com.
Caught in the Cycle series