By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 9, 2009
Prince William County police, social services and school officials received numerous reports from people who saw firsthand that 13-year-old Alexis "Lexie" Agyepong-Glover was being abused and neglected by her adoptive mother in the two years before the woman allegedly killed her.
But Lexie was not removed from the home.
Lexie's school bus driver said she made several reports, the first when she saw marks on Lexie's wrists and forearms that looked as if she'd been tied up. She also told authorities that Lexie had a large welt on her head and tried to board the bus in her underwear. Another bus driver and her attendant told police that they saw Lexie's mother driving off with her in the trunk of her car.
In the weeks before Lexie was found dead Jan. 9 in an icy creek, neighbors said they reported finding Lexie hungry, wandering the streets wearing only a barbecue grill cover, physically injured and, above all, terrified of her mother, Alfreedia Gregg-Glover.
"We thought by making a police report, the police would get her out" of the home, said Marlene Williams, the school bus driver who, along with her attendant, Brenda Taylor, told police and Lexie's principal that they saw Lexie's mother drive off with her in the trunk.
"We don't know how much that little girl suffered," Taylor said. "Her cries fell on deaf ears."
Prince William police Maj. Ray Colgan said police would have taken action if they had found Lexie to be in danger. He said that when police were called about the trunk incident and the injuries seen by the neighbor, Social Services was notified and the incidents were investigated. He said the pending criminal case and privacy laws prevented him from giving too many details.
"As far as I know, I think we've done everything properly we could have done," Colgan said. "We will continue to review it, and if we need to make some changes, we will."
Jack Ledden, director of Prince William's Department of Social Services, and a school system spokesman declined to comment, citing confidentiality rules and the ongoing investigation. Gregg-Glover's court appointed attorney, John V. Notarianni, did not return calls for comment.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors announced Friday that it has requested that the Virginia Department of Social Services review the county's response. The review will include all child welfare programs, including child protective services, prevention and treatment, foster care and adoption. Such a review is required by state law, but the board requested that the state accelerate the process. It is expected to take three months.
Gregg-Glover, 44, was indicted last week on charges of murdering her daughter and lying to police. She told police Jan. 7 that Lexie had run away, which sparked a massive search. Police say they later learned that she had dumped Lexie in the shallow creek in the Woodbridge area, still alive. Lexie was found dead two days later from drowning and exposure to the cold. Gregg-Glover was also charged with child abuse, the county's chief prosecutor said.
Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said the medical examiner's report "showed there were recent injuries and old injuries" to Lexie's body. "The recent injuries, coupled with the cause of death, certainly indicated it was a horrible death," he said.
When Gregg-Glover appealed to the media for help in finding her daughter, she said Lexie was mentally disabled, suffered from autism and other ailments, and acted much younger than her age. But several of Lexie's former counselors have disputed that characterization, saying Lexie was a smart, affectionate girl who had reactive attachment disorder, a condition that makes it hard to form emotional bonds and is sometimes found among abused and adopted children.
Those who sought help for Lexie in the years and weeks before her death are angry that no one helped the girl, who tried to tell people what was happening to her when she was out of earshot of her mother.
One afternoon in September 2007, Williams and Taylor were dropping off students at the Robert Day Child Care Center in Manassas when they noticed a frightened girl being marched out of the building by a stern woman. They took their eyes off the pair for a few moments, then saw the woman drive off alone.
"I think she put her in the trunk," Taylor recalled telling Williams. But, uncertain, they said nothing.
Two weeks later, they pulled into the day-care center and saw the same white Toyota parked outside with the trunk cracked open. Minutes later, they saw Lexie emerge from the building with Gregg-Glover behind her, fists clenched. She and Lexie walked to the back of the car, where the mother looked around and then opened the trunk, Williams and Taylor said.
"Lexie walks right over, climbs in that trunk," Taylor said. "She did not hesitate, like she had been doing it every day."
Horrified, the pair watched the car drive off and called their dispatcher. They went to a Prince William police station later that evening and gave written statements of what they had seen. They drew a diagram of the position of the cars in the lot, gave the tag number of Gregg-Glover's car and later told Lexie's principal, they said.
Police told them that they went to Gregg-Glover's house to investigate and that she denied the incident. Lexie did not speak up for herself, they said.
"Are you going to get her out of the home?" Williams said she asked police.
They told her that they had to "get their ducks in a row," she said, and when she left a message days later to follow up, police didn't call her back.
It was not the first time authorities were alerted.
In March 2007, Lexie's regular school bus driver, Nancy Frederick, said Lexie was getting off the bus when Frederick noticed marks on her wrists and forearms that appeared as if she had been tied up. Lexie told Frederick's attendant, Lissette Romero, that her mother had taken her on a trip to North Carolina and had bound her hands during the ride and made her lie on the floor the whole way, Romero said.
The following spring, Frederick said, Lexie boarded her bus with a large welt on her head.
Lexie told her, "I hit myself." Frederick asked her why, and she replied, "If I don't, my mom is going to hit me," Frederick recalled.
Lexie told Romero that her mother would order her to hit herself and that she would videotape it, Romero said.
Frederick and Romero said they notified Lexie's school, PACE West, about the welt on her head, and Frederick told officials at Prince William's Department of Social Services about the welt and the marks on her wrists. Officials told her that they would look into it.
"It didn't do any good," Frederick said.
In October, Lexie came to the bus on two occasions in her underwear, Frederick said. The first time, Frederick and Romero gave her a coat and blanket and called their dispatcher. Police went to the house but returned her to her mother after Lexie remained quiet.
"I said, 'Can't you do anything?' " Frederick said. "They said, 'Ma'am, we can't charge her with anything.' "
The next school day, Lexie came to the bus in the same condition, this time with Gregg-Glover close behind, videotaping the incident and ranting that she could not tolerate the girl any longer before taking the girl back inside, Frederick said.
"She said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do. She's ruining my life, and I want her out,' " Frederick said.
Shortly after that, Lexie was pulled out of PACE West, and Frederick never saw her again.
Troubling reports persisted into the weeks before her death, when Lexie ran away at least three times in December, only to be returned to Gregg-Glover, according to neighbors and officials. On March 11, because of her habit of running off, she was fitted with a locator bracelet, used to track endangered people, by sheriff's deputies, officials said.
On Dec. 2, about five weeks before her death, Lexie showed up outside neighbor Wes Byers's house early in the morning, as temperatures hovered near freezing. She told Byers and his wife that she had run away after her mother opened a quarter-size gash on her head with a stick, and she was wearing a tarp used to cover a grill, Byers said. She pleaded with him not to be sent home.
After clothing and feeding Lexie, who was famished, Byers called authorities. Police came to his house and took Lexie to a hospital, and Byers followed. Gregg-Glover arrived there, as did a county social worker. Lexie's mother told police that her daughter had a habit of hitting herself and she had the video to prove it, Byers said he was told by police. Lexie left with Gregg-Glover that day, he said.
In late December, sheriff's deputies tracking Lexie with the bracelet found her inside the house of her next-door neighbor, Jonah Seaman. Seaman said deputies found Lexie in red pajamas, hiding behind a Christmas tree in his living room, devouring a bowl of cereal she had taken from his kitchen.
"She looked terrified," Seaman said. "She looked really scared."
After reporting her missing one last time, Gregg-Glover positioned the tracking bracelet near a Manassas library to make police think Lexie had run off the day she disappeared in January, police said.
Two days later, a man out for an afternoon walk discovered Lexie's body.
Staff writer Josh White and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.