Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento County to pay $50,000 in death of 3-year-old girl

The drowning last year of a 3-year-old girl has led to Sacramento County paying $50,000 to her father to settle his wrongful death lawsuit.

After Airabella Mello drowned in a backyard pool on May 1, 2014, The Sacramento Bee reported that, in the year before, family and friends repeatedly warned Sacramento County Child Protective Services that she was being abused and neglected.

In the first of six reports to the agency during that period, a person told the agency Airabella was often unsupervised and could wander into the swimming pool at the house where she lived, The Bee reported on June 29, 2014. The newspaper reported that follow-up complaints alleged that Airabella lived in an unsafe environment where adults, including her mother, engaged in domestic abuse and heavy drinking. The girl was often filthy, The Bee reported, had rotting teeth and had suspicious burns and bruises on her body.

Yet CPS left the child in the home on Anderson Way in Arden Arcade, where she lived with her mother and grandmother, The Bee article said.

The article was based on Airabella’s 125-page CPS case file, obtained through a Public Records Act request.

Airabella’s father, Matthew Mello, with whom she periodically visited, sued the county in Sacramento federal court in November, claiming that, “despite ... the obvious failure to supervise” Airabella, “and the obvious dangerous conditions of the ... property, including the unguarded swimming pool, and repeated notice” to CPS, the agency “failed to take the proper action and remove (Airabella) from the ... property.”

The lawsuit alleged that CPS’ failure to act was a violation of civil rights accorded Airabella and Matthew Mello under state and federal law. The suit was settled and closed last month.

“No party is admitting any liability, fault, wrongdoing, illegal or unconstitutional acts ...” the settlement agreement says. “Any payment does not constitute and shall not be used, or construed as, an admission of liability or an admission of fact for any purpose whatsoever,” it states.

The agreement was obtained by The Bee from Sacramento County Counsel John Whisenhunt.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189