family noted qualms
Kin aired worries before her death
SHORT, SAD LIFE
APRIL 1997: Nicole and Kayla Allen move to Jacksonville.
OCT. 13, 1997: Jeff Allen and Carolyn Langford (later Carolyn Allen and
Carolyn Futrell) obtain temporary custody of Kayla.
JULY 1998: Report to DSS accuses Nicole Allen of neglecting Kayla; DSS
eventually finds claim unsubstantiated.
APRIL 30, 1999: Report to DSS claims Kayla is sexually abused; allegations
later cannot be substantiated.
JAN. 24, 2000: Neglect report made to DSS against Nicole Allen; later
APRIL 1: Jeff and Carolyn Allen separate; later, Jeff gives full custody
of Kayla to Carolyn.
FEB. 25, 2002: Report to DSS accuses Nicole Allen of washing Kayla's hair
in kerosene. Report substantiated.
JUNE 8: Diana Goike, Kayla's grandmother, visits, sees bruises on Kayla,
takes her back to Michigan.
JUNE 12, JULY 11, AUG. 14: Reports to DSS accuse Carolyn Futrell of abuse
based on Goike's complaint. In October, DSS rules case unsubstantiated.
AUG. 24, 2003: Kayla dies.
JAN. 23, 2004: Autopsy and toxicology report find cause of death is insecticide
MAY 13: Second toxicology report finds trace of antidepressant in Kayla's
MAY 20: Carolyn Futrell is charged with Kayla's murder.
By ANNE SAKER, Staff Writer
When an Onslow County woman was charged in May with the murder of a 7-year-old
girl in her custody, the child's blood relatives complained that the Department
of Social Services had long ignored their worries about the girl's safety.
But the struggle over the short life of Kayla Allen was not that simple.
Court records and reports that the state was permitted to release after
her death reveal that Kayla's world was in almost constant turmoil. Her
birth mother gave her up before she turned 2. The couple who took custody
later divorced. The adults repeatedly called the DSS to accuse each other
of abusing and neglecting her. One day, her grandmother snatched her and
took her out of state.
Then, on a Sunday morning nearly a year ago, Kayla somehow ingested a
poison and died. The family's battle escalated and eventually led to the
arrest of Carolyn Futrell, who had cared for Kayla for most of the little
Futrell, 34, worked as a paralegal for a Jacksonville law firm. In the
time that she had custody of Kayla, she went by three different names.
She is the mother of two older sons and now is married to her fourth husband.
Kayla's life in North Carolina began when her birth mother, Nicole Allen,
now 26, took her to Jacksonville from their native Michigan in early 1997,
when Kayla was barely 18 months old. In an interview last month, Nicole
Allen said she had trouble landing steady work and a place to live, so
she gave Kayla to her brother, Jeff, and his girlfriend, whose name then
was Carolyn Langford. Jeff and Carolyn later married.
Her legal training led Carolyn to hire a lawyer to obtain a court order
for temporary custody, which a judge granted in October 1997. The judge
gave Nicole Allen liberal visitation rights, and he told her she could
regain custody by stabilizing her living situation, cooperating with her
brother and his wife, and helping with Kayla's expenses.
But in March 1998, the judge ruled that Nicole Allen had not met those
conditions, and he extended the temporary custody decree. At another hearing
six months later, the judge found that Nicole Allen still had not obeyed
his order, and he granted permanent custody to Carolyn and Jeff Allen
in May 1999.
Throughout the custody case and afterward, the two women called the DSS
to complain about each other more than a dozen times. The first complaint,
in July 1998, said Nicole Allen had mistreated Kayla in an unspecified
way. The DSS could not substantiate the claim, in part because Kayla's
statements were inconsistent.
In 1999, the DSS investigated an accusation that a friend of Nicole Allen
had sexually abused Kayla. Again, partly because Kayla's statements "changed
throughout the investigation," the accusations were not substantiated.
The DSS report concluded, "There was concern, however, that there
was not enough evidence to support a substantiation."
A 2000 report of unspecified neglect against Nicole Allen was substantiated,
as was a 2002 accusation that Nicole Allen washed Kayla's hair in kerosene
as a lice treatment.
Carolyn gets custody
In 2001, Jeff and Carolyn Allen divorced, and Jeff Allen gave full custody
to Carolyn. Nicole Allen said last month that she did not object to that
Carolyn Allen later married Greg Futrell and moved with her sons and Kayla
to Onslow County near the town of Richlands. Nicole Allen acknowledged
that although she still lived nearby in Jacksonville, she did not see
Kayla after September 2002.
Carolyn Futrell's treatment of Kayla was the subject of DSS investigations
beginning in June 2002, when Nicole Allen's mother, Diane Goike, came
from Michigan to visit Kayla.
Goike found old bruises on Kayla, and instead of contacting Onslow County
authorities or talking with Futrell, she fled with Kayla to Michigan.
Police there took pictures of the bruises and noted in a report that Kayla
seemed thin for her age. Kayla eventually returned to Futrell. Goike was
charged with kidnapping, but the case was dropped.
The DSS received three separate reports about the bruises and combined
them in one investigation of Futrell. After a medical evaluation and interviews
with people who had contact with Kayla, the DSS found the accusations
of abuse and neglect unsubstantiated.
In February 2003, the DSS again investigated Futrell on suspicion of neglecting
Kayla but did not substantiate the report. A month later, Kayla's birth
family complained to the DSS that they found a mark on Kayla's neck. After
another round of interviews with Kayla's teacher, therapist and neighbor,
the DSS ruled the abuse accusation unsubstantiated.
Finally, in April 2003, a judge terminated Nicole Allen's parental rights.
A quick death
On Aug. 24, Kayla died.
Futrell told authorities that day that Kayla had been suffering from a
cold, and Futrell had given her an over-the-counter remedy. Kayla then
asked for a drink of water, and Futrell told her to get one of the empty
water bottles that Futrell kept under the kitchen sink.
An hour later, Futrell found Kayla facedown in bed, not breathing.
Under Kayla's pillow, sheriff's Detective Tom Robinson found a Dasani
water bottle with a milky-white liquid. When Robinson asked about the
bottle, Futrell said that she had been having an ant problem at her house
and that at an earlier time, she had gone to her in-laws' house nearby
to collect a small amount of the insecticide Atroban in an empty Dasani
water bottle. She had put the bottle under her kitchen sink.
In the months after Kayla's death, Nicole Allen and her relatives campaigned
on an Internet message board and later on a Wilmington radio talk show
that the DSS had not heeded their warnings that Futrell was abusing Kayla.
In January, an autopsy and toxicology report found that Kayla died from
insecticide poisoning. The Allens accused Futrell of deliberately poisoning
Kayla and demanded to know why it was taking so long to charge Futrell
Robinson obtained a second toxicology study in May, which said Kayla's
heart blood carried a trace of the antidepressant amitriptyline. A week
later, Futrell was charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse.
Futrell remains in the Onslow County jail without bail. Robinson, the
sheriff's detective, said he is still investigating.
Staff writer Anne Saker can
be reached at 829-8955 or email@example.com.
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