The Sacramento foster mom who has been the focus of multiple criminal, civil and child-welfare investigations has veered into another legal arena: bankruptcy court.
Tracy Dossman, 43, whose rental home near South Natomas was firebombed in January 2008 – leading to the death of a 4 1/2-year-old foster child – now says she's broke.
Dossman's petition in federal bankruptcy court in Sacramento is the latest twist in a mysterious case that has wound through at least 16 local, state and federal agencies.
And still, more than three years after the arson fire, the death of Amariana Crenshaw remains unsolved.
The little girl would have turned 8 today.
"I don't know how to tell you how much I miss her," said her biological father, Curtis Crenshaw, 49, whose parental rights were terminated a year before the child's death. "I'm just holding on."
A Bee investigation published last year revealed that Dossman – described by her foster family agency as a "model foster parent" – had, in fact, been operating a crowded and unruly home that repeatedly violated state licensing regulations.
Amariana, who was placed in the five-bedroom home in 2005 with her older sister and brother, suffered numerous suspicious injuries in Dossman's care and failed to thrive, The Bee found.
Dossman, who has declined all previous interview requests, did not return a call last week placed through her bankruptcy attorney.
Amariana's death in January 2008 has confounded Sacramento police and federal arson investigators, who determined that she died when one or more Molotov cocktails were tossed through a window of Dossman's rental property on Sweet Pea Way. The little girl's charred body was removed before dawn from the smoldering living room, where she reportedly had been sleeping when the homemade firebombs erupted.
Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said The Bee's stories reinvigorated the investigation of Amariana's death, but that no new leads have developed.
Dossman's bankruptcy petition marks another legal turn in the case, which has spawned thousands of pages of court records, investigative reports, legal filings and child-welfare documents.
The petition also halted a civil lawsuit filed by the insurance company seeking to collect more than $46,000 paid to Dossman after the fire to repair the rental property. According to the lawsuit by Residence Mutual Insurance Co., Dossman failed to adequately document the repairs, some of which were shoddy.
The suit contends the lender, Downey Savings and Loan Association, did the bulk of the work.
The house went into foreclosure and later was sold.
Dossman moved into a larger home in North Natomas that she says is valued at $360,000, according to the bankruptcy petition. (The two-story, 3,300-square-foot home sold for $450,000 in 2006.)
Joan C. Handzell, the attorney for Residence Mutual, said the insurance company had been set to go into mediation with Dossman when the bankruptcy petition was filed earlier this month. The company decided last week to drop the matter, she said.
The state of California was less willing to drop its dispute with Dossman.
For more than two years after the arson fire, Dossman continued to be a foster provider in Sacramento, taking in some of the county's most vulnerable children. However, the state Department of Social Services revoked her foster care certification in March 2010, two months after The Bee documented the chronic irregularities in her home – including a locked refrigerator and lack of heat in the winter.
In banning her from providing foster care, the state determined that her home "constitutes a threat to the health and safety" of children – including Amariana who, before her death, was beaten by other foster children and at least once by Dossman, according to state records.
Dossman also had been providing home health care as a certified nurse assistant. The state suspended her CNA license until Sept. 30 of this year, when she can apply for reinstatement, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Ironically, Dossman's largest source of income since losing her licenses appears to be from her adoption after the fire of Amariana's older sister, now 11. In 2010, Dossman received $11,712 in adoption assistance and $3,882 in unemployment benefits, according to the bankruptcy petition.
She claims to have unsecured debt of more than $60,000.
As a foster provider willing to take in children with special needs, Dossman stood to earn between $562 and $711 a month per child, depending on age. At the time of the fire, the Dossman household included her two biological children, 9 and 19, an 18-year-old nephew and six foster children between 4 and 17.
Curtis Crenshaw, Amariana's father, expressed hope that this newest development in the saga would renew interest in his daughter's unsolved homicide.
"I'm looking for anything that can help us," he said. "Somebody's going to eventually open their mouth, sooner or later."