PHOENIX — A woman charged with murder in the deaths of her three young kids in Phoenix was the subject of several home visits by police and child-welfare authorities when she previously lived in Oklahoma, according to police reports.
The reports released Friday by police in Prague, Oklahoma, say a relative was given custody of Rachel Henry’s children for seven days in August 2018 while child-welfare authorities decided whether to take them away permanently or return them to their mother.
The children were temporarily taken away because Henry was caught at her apartment with her boyfriend, Pedro Genaro Rios, who had been accused earlier of threatening Henry and one of her children, according to the reports.
Child-welfare authorities, who were trying to get Henry into another home, had warned her that her children would be taken away if she returned to the apartment or was seen with Rios.
Henry, 22, is charged with first-degree murder in Monday’s killings of 3-year-old Zane Henry, 7-month-old Catalaya Rios and Miraya Henry, who would have turned 2 years old next week.
Prosecutors said Henry acknowledged having a history of methamphetamine addiction and that her children had previously been removed from their home by child-welfare authorities in Oklahoma due to issues related to her drug problem. Henry’s family moved to Phoenix in June.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety said it didn’t have any earlier contacts or abuse reports involving the family.
No motive for the killings has emerged. Authorities say Henry wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the killings.
Attorney Alan Tavassoli, who represents Henry on the murder charges, didn’t return a call seeking comment on the criminal charges against his client and her earlier dealings with child-welfare authorities.
Efforts to get comment from Rios, who doesn’t have a listed phone number, were unsuccessful.
Court records say other people were at the home, but police declined to say whether any of them were there when the children were suffocated. No one else has been charged.
Police in Oklahoma said Henry was still living with Rios in August 2018 when an officer showed up at the home to check up on the children. Henry told police that the children were staying with a friend, but the friend said she didn’t have them on that given day, according to the reports.
Four days later, an officer and child-welfare employee went to check on the children again. Initially, Henry denied the children were in the apartment, but she finally acknowledged they were there after a baby was heard crying in a bedroom.
When Henry was asked whether she had left the children alone while she was at the store, Rios came out of the bathroom. Henry and child-welfare authorities agreed to have the children stay with a relative while it was decided whether the mother would get them back, according to the reports.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which provides child protective services, has declined to provide specifics on Henry’s case, but issued a statement Friday saying the Henry case was heartbreaking.
“While Oklahoma’s confidentiality statutes prevent us from speaking to this case specifically, we can say that, in a typical case, all child welfare systems have various intervention methods to ensure child safety,” the agency said. “Many of these intervention methods do not include removal from a parent, but can include services and resources to preserve or strengthen the protective capacities of the parent or caretaker.”
The agency has declined to say whether it had a method for informing other states about parents who had run into trouble with child-welfare authorities.
Jacques Billeaud, The Associated Press