The father of Dwight Stallings, last seen in April 2011, says he was a happy baby.

Father, uncle of missing 'Baby Dwight' speak out

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 - 8:45 am

The family of a missing 2-year-old boy insisted Tuesday they know nothing of the child's whereabouts and denounced as fantasy the mother's tale that she left him with two burqa-clad women in a Nevada motel parking lot last year.

The father and the uncle of Dwight Stallings – missing for more than a year now – also expressed anger over the failure of Sacramento County's Child Protective Services agency to do more to find "Baby Dwight."

The boy, who would have turned 2 in May, was last seen alive in April 2011.

"If I have a child, I can't just get rid of the child and not answer for it," said the boy's uncle and namesake, Dwight Stallings. "My wife can't go to the hospital and have a baby and six months later say, 'I don't know where it is.' This isn't a stuffed animal."

The case has ignited widespread concern over the roles of multiple agencies charged with protecting the child from harm. Until now, details of the case have been shrouded from public view by the secrecy of Juvenile Court proceedings.

The identity of the missing boy's father was revealed Monday in sealed Juvenile Court files released to The Bee. The records – unsealed by the judge who issued a key ruling in the case – detail how Dwight's mother, 35-year-old Tanisha Edwards, tried to explain her son's disappearance in a court hearing in June 2011.

At that proceeding before Juvenile Court Judge Jerilyn L. Borack, Edwards testified that she gave Dwight away to two women she did not know in a Motel 6 parking lot somewhere in Nevada.

Edwards claimed she believed the two women were relatives of Dwight's father, Hasuan Stallings, but that she did not know their names and had never seen them before.

Hasuan Stallings and his brother both told The Bee on Tuesday that the story was ridiculous and that they have no relatives in Nevada.

"That makes no sense whatsoever," said Dwight Stallings, a 45-year-old youth basketball coach in Oakland. "That sounds like a fabricated story or a hallucination."

Hasuan Stallings, 41, said he still has no idea where his son may be.

"I don't know what the hell she did," Stallings said as he stood in the corridor of the Sacramento apartment complex where he lives. "I think she was probably getting high and let somebody watch him. I don't know. Just give him back, give him back."

Stallings said his only connection to Nevada is that he lived in Las Vegas for a time, though he returned to Sacramento in 2006. He speculated that Baby Dwight's mother may have concocted the story of handing the boy over to two Muslim women from the fact that his own mother is Muslim and wears a head covering.

Stallings added that Edwards had never met his mother, who lives in the Midwest, but that she may have come up with the story after seeing pictures of her in Muslim garb.

Stallings said he has seven children, the oldest his 20-year-old daughter and the youngest Baby Dwight, whom he described as "a happy little baby." "I barely remember him crying at all," he said. "I miss the hell out of him."

About the time Edwards had left for Nevada, Hasuan Stallings was arrested on March 30, 2011, and charged with false imprisonment, battery against a spouse and vandalism. On Tuesday, Hasuan Stallings attributed the arrest to authorities' search for the baby. He said he occasionally spoke to Edwards on the phone while in jail and, when he asked after the baby, Edwards always had an excuse for his absence, saying he was at her mother's or at some other location.

The Stallings brothers say they are mystified at how the child could have disappeared in April 2011 without any public outcry until March of this year, when Edwards was arrested and Sacramento sheriff's officials announced that the child was missing.

"That's just very upsetting," said Dwight Stallings, who said the baby was named after him and his own father. "CPS has a job to do and they dropped the ball."

Records provided to The Bee show that Edwards was released from jail in June 2011 after four days. Judge Borack agreed to let her go despite her inability to tell authorities where the child was and CPS documents showing that her chronic drug abuse could endanger Dwight.

Borack released Edwards after a lawyer for CPS said she had no basis to object. The attorney appointed to represent Baby Dwight in court did not object to her release, either, though she expressed concern for the child's safety.

Sacramento County spokeswoman Laura McCasland said she would not specifically discuss the Dwight Stallings case. But in such instances, she said, "the department has an obligation to continue to make diligent efforts to locate the child."

McCasland said that county counsel would not comment on the case as its "stated position" is that it will not provide any "interpretation of records."

Borack, appointed to the Superior Court in 2002, cannot ethically discuss a case before the court. In releasing the records to The Bee, though, the judge said she believed it was in the public's interest.

Since the June 2011 hearing, Edwards has been rearrested on a probation violation and is being held in the Sacramento County jail while authorities search for the boy. She has not been charged with any crime related to her son's disappearance.

"Why hasn't she been charged with a crime?" asked Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children's Law Center of California, which is contracted to represent children in juvenile dependency hearings in both Sacramento and Los Angeles counties.

"The Juvenile Court can't produce the child," she said. "No one who works for the Juvenile Court is empowered to go out and hunt for the child."

Heimov's firm took over the Sacramento office in July 2011 and did not oversee Baby Dwight's case. But she expressed concern that Sacramento County counsel did not object to Edwards' release, and that the judge let the mother go without producing the child or a credible lead to his whereabouts.

"In my experience here (in Los Angeles), if the court wanted to keep someone incarcerated, they would," said Heimov. "… And I would expect our county counsel would have wanted her to stay incarcerated."

Both brothers said it is inconceivable that a member of their family might have Dwight.

"We have elders in the family who would never allow that. This is not some dysfunctional family run amok. We all communicate, have professional careers," Dwight Stallings said. "We're taxpayers, we're just like everybody else."

Hasuan Stallings said he has nearly given up hope of finding his son.

"How do you find a baby?" he asked. "He can't walk and talk and call nobody. As bad as I've looked for him, you can only go so many places."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Sam Stantonand Marjie Lundstrom



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