Family demands to know how 6-week-old baby died in Sacramento foster care

Six-week-old Macey Wilson died in May 2016 in a Sacramento foster-care home. Relatives are seeking answers.
Six-week-old Macey Wilson died in May 2016 in a Sacramento foster-care home. Relatives are seeking answers. Submitted by Tracey Rhodd

The relatives of 6-week-old Macey Wilson want to know what led to her sudden death in a foster home after she had no apparent health problems.

On May 7, police responded to a south Sacramento foster home in the 5200 block of Crystal Hill Way and found Macey wasn’t breathing, said Officer Matthew McPhail, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department. A paramedic determined she was dead at the house, and because there were no obvious signs of foul play, the case was turned over to CPS and the coroner, he said.

Relatives will have to wait up to two months to find out how Macey died. That’s how long Coroner Kim Gin estimates it will take to finish tests for the child’s autopsy. Gin would not discuss what is known about the baby’s death because of the possibility of a criminal investigation following the autopsy’s results.

CPS spokeswoman Laura McCasland said the agency is conducting its own investigation of Macey’s death, as it does whenever someone dies in foster care.

Tracey Rhodd, Macey’s paternal grandmother, said a chaplain from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department came to her house to tell her about Macey’s death. She said she called the Coroner’s Office and was told that Macey was found unresponsive on a Saturday morning in a toddler car seat that was inside the foster home.

Rhodd, 56, said she has not been able to get satisfactory responses from the coroner or CPS about Macey’s death. She said Macey was born healthy and remained in apparent good health when she saw her during visits to an agency that employs the foster parents.

I don’t feel like Macey is anyone’s priority. No one notified my son about Macey’s death. No one returns my calls.

Tracey Rhodd, Macey’s paternal grandmother

“I don’t feel like Macey is anyone’s priority,” she said. “No one notified my son about Macey’s death. No one returns my calls.”

Macey’s father and Rhodd’s son, Michael Wilson, has similar feelings.

“I would like to know what happened to my daughter,” he said. “Nobody has told me anything. They hang up on me when I call CPS … There is something very wrong that happened. I want to know what it is.”

The family may never get a complete answer to the question about why Macey ended up in foster care rather than with Rhodd.

McCasland said confidentiality laws prohibit the agency from discussing its reasons for removing the child from Rhodd’s Sacramento home. Under state law, CPS is required to release information about Macey’s child-welfare case only if the agency determines her death was the result of abuse or neglect.

CPS records provided by Rhodd show she was given custody of Macey four days after the girl’s March 21 birth. The records cite problems with Macey’s parents, including the mother’s mental health and homelessness, as reasons for the change in custody.

CPS completed a safety plan for Macey that said she would be released from the hospital into the custody of Rhodd “until parents are able to address the concerns of the department.”

After Macey had stayed with Rhodd for about a week, a CPS social worker said the child was being placed in foster care while CPS investigated Rhodd’s background, Rhodd said. While CPS would not comment on that decision because of confidentiality laws, Rhodd believes the agency was concerned about a 2001 Sonoma County case in which Rhodd pleaded no contest to a charge of violating a restraining order.

Rhodd said the restraining order was filed by a woman having an affair with Rhodd’s husband. She disputes the charge but said she didn’t fight it to avoid complicating her divorce proceedings.

Rhodd said CPS allowed her to have custody of another grandchild in 2012. Rhodd said she has helped raise her grandchildren as her children have had various problems that made parenting difficult.

She said CPS told her she would get Macey back after the agency completed its background investigation.

She wrote a letter to CPS urging the agency to keep Macey in her home. “I need to make sure she is loved in a good and safe environment,” Rhodd wrote. “Macey needs to be able to build relationships with her cousins … who spend a significant amount of time at my home. My home is a safe place for all of my grandchildren.”