The death of a five-year-old girl placed in foster care is prompting an internal investigation at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Thursday that his office, which handles child protective services in Pinellas, failed to get a medical screening for five-year-old Elizabeth Holder within 72 hours of investigators removing her from her home, as is required by law. Holder died a little more than a week later.
"We were required to do it. We should have done it," he said. "It's inexcusable and it's not going to happen again."
Holder collapsed and died Jan. 19 while watching TV in the care a babysitter, the sheriff said.
"She grabbed her head and as she grabbed her head, she began to scream ‘It hurts! It hurts! It hurts! Somebody stop! Somebody Stop!" Gualtieri said at a news conference Thursday. "The next thing that happed is Elizabeth went limp and she went into cardiac arrest."
Investigators are still waiting for a medical examiner's report, but Gualtieri said it appears she died of a medical incident. There were no signs of trauma and neither the foster family nor the babysitter are at fault, Gualtieri said.
Gualtieri said in addition to an internal investigation, the sheriff's office is reviewing policies and procedures. He also said the office will contract with a pediatrician's office to ensure family support workers can get timely appointments for children who need them.
An employee did make an appointment for Holder, but it was scheduled for Jan. 22. Holder died Jan. 19.
Holder and her younger sister were removed from their home in the Gulf to Bay mobile home park in Clearwater on Jan. 11 after deputies responded to a report of the five-year-old wandering around by herself.
The sheriff's office said the children's mother, Stephanie Judah, was under the influence of prescription drugs and the home was "unkept and unsuitable for the well being of the child." Judah was arrested and charged with child neglect.
No one answered the door at the family's Clearwater home on Thursday.
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