By Jonathan Mummolo and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 16, 2009
About six weeks before a 13-year-old girl was found dead in a Woodbridge area creek bed, the developmentally disabled child showed up outside a neighbor's home with a gash on her head, wearing only her underwear and wrapped in a tarp, the neighbor said.
With temperatures hovering near freezing, a shivering Alexis "Lexie" Glover told Wes Byers and his wife Dec. 2 that her mother had hit her with a stick, causing the quarter-size wound on the back of her head. Inside their home, she ate anything they could muster -- Ramen noodles, toast, peanut butter sandwiches -- and pleaded with them not to send her back home, Byers said.
"She said she had been beaten numerous times," said Byers, 51. "She had to earn her clothes; she had to earn her food. She mentioned her mother hitting her with a stick . . . because she put on a shirt and she hadn't earned it."
Lexie was found dead in the creek bed Jan. 9, two days after her mother, Alfreedia Gregg-Glover, told police she had run away again. Gregg-Glover, 44, was charged Tuesday with felony neglect and lying to police. Police announced at a news conference that Lexie's mother had put her in the creek, and, according to court documents, she "confessed" that her story to police was false. Police have not said whether Lexie was dead when she was placed in the creek but are investigating her death as a homicide.
Byers said he wondered whether Lexie's death could have been prevented. He had spoken to someone with Prince William County Social Services on Dec. 2, and a county police officer came to his home, he said. But Byers said he was told that Lexie would be allowed to return home with her mother after receiving treatment for her head wound.
First Sgt. Kim Chinn, a Prince William police spokeswoman, declined to comment yesterday about Byers's account, citing an ongoing investigation and pending court proceedings. Deborah Carter, a spokeswoman for the county's social services, said she also could not comment because of confidentiality rules. A call to Gregg-Glover's court-appointed attorney, Barry A. Zweig, was not returned.
Because of her habit of running away, Lexie was fitted with a radio tracking bracelet, and Prince William sheriff's deputies said they began receiving requests to help find her in December. Once, she managed to take off the bracelet and was found hiding in a nearby doghouse. Another time, she was found in a neighbor's home.
In late November, Lexie was withdrawn from PACE West School in Haymarket, where she was enrolled in the seventh grade, said Ken Blackstone, a Prince William schools spokesman. PACE West is a regional special education program for students with serious emotional and behavioral issues. Blackstone said PACE teachers and administrators declined to comment, as did officials at Lexie's day-care program for special-needs children.
It could not be determined yesterday whether Lexie was enrolled in a home-based education program in December or was not in school at the time.
Byers said his wife saw Lexie, wrapped in the kind of tarp used to cover a barbecue, while warming up her truck to go to work about 5 a.m. that day last month. Realizing her condition, she invited Lexie inside and gave her some clothes.
Lexie told the couple that her mother had used a stick she kept in the garage to reprimand her for wearing a piece of clothing.
"She didn't want to tell me her name or where she lived, because she said they kept sending her back and her mother had hit her numerous times," Byers said.
Byers said he was reluctant to call police because he feared they would send her home again. After a couple of hours, Lexie mentioned the name of a counselor she had met with at a psychiatric hospital, whom Byers then tried to contact. He was referred to a child protection hotline, which he called, and then received a call from someone at social services.
"The woman said, 'We're going to protect your privacy, and we'll show up with police when they get to your door,' " Byers said. "Not quite an hour after that, the police showed up with no social services."
The police officer told Byers that Lexie had a history of running away. He called for an ambulance when Byers showed him the gash on her head. Before leaving for a nearby hospital, the phone rang, he said. It was Gregg-Glover, who somehow had gotten Byers's number, and asked to speak to the officer, he said.
"I hand [the phone] to the officer, and he had this real perplexed look on his face and he mouthed to me, 'It's her mother,' " Byers said. "Even the officer was flustered about that. He said, 'That's wrong. [Social services] shouldn't have" shared Byers's phone number.
Paramedics treated Lexie's wound at the house, and the officer drove her to Prince William Hospital, said Byers, who also went to the hospital. Later, a frantic Gregg-Glover rushed into the waiting room and over to Lexie, Byers said.
"Sure enough, she comes blowing in, right to her daughter, and starts pulling the socks off of her and putting on other socks," Byers said.
After meeting with police and a social worker, Byers was told that Lexie would be allowed to leave with her mother. Gregg-Glover said that her daughter had injured herself and that she had a video of her doing so in the past, Byers said.
"I was floored," Byers said. "I said, 'She's very upset, very distressed about going back to that house. Whether she's manufacturing that or not, these emotions are real. You need to do something there.' "
In the days after Lexie was reported missing this month, Gregg-Glover gave several interviews to the media, imploring the public for help finding her daughter who she said was autistic, acted well below her age and suffered from sickle cell anemia.
Byers said yesterday that he found Lexie to be articulate and more than capable of describing the circumstances under which she was living.
He said that Lexie told him that " 'people call me stupid.' I said, 'You're not stupid. Whatever's happening with your life, I'm sorry. I wish there was something I could do.' "