(Dyersburg, TN) There are new details about a case involving two West Tennessee families and the Department of Children’s Services.
A 15-year-old girl told investigators her father was raping and beating her.
Yet, court and DCS records reveal a case worker failed to take proper steps to protect the child and her caregivers.
The tragedy that unfolded led Susan Randolph to champion for change.
She agreed to speak with WREG only because she believes there are so many other victims who can’t speak for themselves.
It’s often said, for victims of a tragedy, there’s life before and after.
I asked Susan Randolph, “August 2nd, 2009, your life changed forever?”
She replied, “It did, but I’m happy to say that four years later, that is not what defines me and my children.”
The moment Susan is referring to came after she and her husband Todd stepped in to help a family in need, but were failed by the very agency they agreed to assist.
It ended in a double murder-suicide in the small town of Dyersburg.
The man who did it, Chris Milburn, was a neighbor and friend.
“It was probably close to seven o’clock, about that time, I sat in the rocking chair and was reading a magazine and Todd was just leaning over on the truck, and we were just chatting,” Susan recalls.
“And that’s when he walked up?” I asked.
Susan said, “The gun came out and he shot my husband. I knew he was coming to shoot me and so I put my head down in my lap and he shot me and went in the house and shot his daughter.”
Milburn then walked away and killed himself. Susan was airlifted to the Med, she is the sole survivor.
“It was being said it was just a tragedy and that there really wasn’t anything that could have been avoided, in my mind, I did not necessarily agree with that.”
The Randolphs had agreed to watch Milburn’s 15-year-old daughter over the weekend.
The teen had runaway and told police and DCS her dad was abusing her, both physically and sexually.
In her file obtained by the On Your Side Investigators through court order, the teen described during the forensic interview how her father raped her over and over, information so graphic and brutal, we chose not to say it on television.
She said Milburn would say things like, “Be quiet, it will be over soon.”
Records also show DCS had screened out a previous call five months earlier.
One DCS report mentioned in court records, even noted Milburn, “acts like a pedophile and dominates his child.”
These were details DCS failed to share with Susan and Todd. “I was told, my husband and I were told, it was inappropriate touching.”
DCS also allowed Milburn to visit his daughter throughout the weekend, as long as the Randolphs were present.
They lived just two houses apart.
This, despite the fact the file shows the case manager advised Milburn, “it would be better” they “not be together at this point as more allegations might be made.”
Records also show police and Child Protective Services recommended the teen stay with a friend after she was initially found, but Milburn said no.
Susan told the On Your Side Investigators, “It was extremely tense as the days progressed.”
The Randolphs tried calling the case worker, but didn’t get a response.
I asked “Were you ever able to then, make phone contact with the case worker?”
“No,” Susan replied.
“She never called you back?”
“The whole weekend?”
Similar failures are laid out in a judgement from the Tennessee Claims Commission.
Susan sued DCS for wrongful death and won.
Besides the case worker not providing instructions and contact information, the Randolphs never signed what’s called an Immediate Protection Agreement.
The case worker also checked “no” on a Safety Assessment, when asked if the caretaker caused serious harm to the child.
The Commission found DCS was negligent and contributed to the cause of Todd and the teen’s death, and Susan’s injuries.
Susan is breaking her silence, telling her story for the first time in front of cameras, for victims, she says, who don’t have a voice.
“If those of us who know and don’t tell, don’t speak up, then how do we think anything would ever change.”
From greater transparency and policy changes, to developing better partnerships with caregivers, Susan even taped a video message for DCS Commissioner Jim Henry.
She said, “What I’m interested in is not finger-pointing or a witch hunt, but change for our children.”
As for Randolph and her own children, Caley and Luke, she says they simply take it day by day.
“Some days we’ll do it better than others, but we’ll get back up the next day and do it again,” says Susan.
Forever reminded to be thankful and make the most of each day, “That’s the legacy my husband leaves to my children, that’s the way he wanted to live his life and that’s the way he would want them to live their lives.”
Court records show Susan received a judgement for $275,000 for her injuries.
There was another $300,000 awarded for Todd’s death, which is the cap on wrongful death damages involving the state or local governments.
Their case worker, Martha Murray, is still employed by DCS. We’re told she plans to retire next month.
DCS closed this case just a few weeks after the fatalities and classified it as “Unable to Complete.”
A physical exam revealed the teen’s allegations of sexual abuse were true.
After hearing Susan’s plea, DCS contacted her to set up a meeting with Commissioner Henry. It was scheduled for early October.