Attorneys for the mother of 6-year-old Jadianna Larsen filed a wrongful-death suit against a list of agencies including Sacramento County, Child Protective Services and the Department of Health and Human Services alleging they and others repeatedly failed to safeguard her child despite numerous reports of child abuse.
Attorneys for Tanecia Clark filed the suit Jan. 4 in Sacramento Superior Court, citing “defendants’ repeated failure … to protect Jadianna Larsen from a brutal murder … over the course of her short life.”
Juan Rivera, Clark’s then-boyfriend, is accused of sexually assaulting the child, then killing her with a blunt object before dumping and burning her body. Jadianna’s charred body was found May 28, 2015, in rural Glenn County a day after Rivera reported her missing from her south Sacramento apartment in the Martin Luther King Jr. Village complex. Mercy Housing, which operates the complex, also was named in the suit.
Rivera’s mother, Lisa Burton, is accused of helping her son cover up the girl’s killing. Both Rivera and Burton were ordered to stand trial in Sacramento Superior Court in Jadianna’s death at the end of their two-day preliminary hearing Monday, but not before Burton leveled a demand of her son that opened new questions in the murder case.
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“I want to know what you know about Chloe,” said Burton, her voice rising, her eyes welling and fixed on Rivera, 25. “I want to know,” Burton, 46, said as the pair’s preliminary hearing came to a close before being admonished by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White.
The question inside Burton’s brief outburst took attorneys by surprise. Jadianna’s supporters in the gallery said they hadn’t heard the name until the Monday hearing. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Chris Ore, appeared at a loss. As, apparently, did Burton’s counsel, Assistant Public Defender John Buchholz. Outside the courtroom, Buchholz said he had “no idea” who Chloe is or what his client was talking about.
When the Sacramento mother and son will face trial is not certain.
Burton, jailed since Jadianna’ body was found, refused Monday to waive her right to a speedy trial.
Burton is nearing the maximum amount of time she can be held in custody prior to trial – 44 months with time credits – and would almost assuredly surpass that total by the time trial is set, attorney Buchholz said.
White set a Feb. 3 date to hear motions on whether Burton should be freed on her own recognizance or be allowed to post bail.
“We’re trying to mend a situation where she’s in longer than the max,” Buchholz said.
Counselors’ crowded caseloads mean Rivera’s next appearance will be a March 24 status conference.
White set the dates following video testimony Monday from forensic pathologist Thomas Resk that autopsy results showed Jadianna had been struck in the head at least twice but as many as four times and that she likely died within minutes of the blows.
“These were inflicted injuries,” Resk said.
According to Clark’s suit, Child Protective Services visited the apartment on April 30, 2015, on a report of abuse or neglect. The social worker found Rivera in the apartment, but Clark declined to identify him. The suit claims that had CPS investigated further, it would have uncovered Rivera’s criminal history.
“Such action would have prevented Jadianna’s murder merely weeks later,” the suit alleges.
Soon after that visit, Jadianna was left in Rivera’s care at the apartment complex, where Burton also lived, while Clark was undergoing mental health treatment.
Rivera had told investigators he suffered an hours-long attack of seizures May 27, 2015, and that when the seizures subsided that night, Jadianna was gone. Rivera said he and Burton searched the complex for about a half-hour before calling 911.
Jadianna’s body was found the next day.