Grandmother blames state for child's death - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Grandmother blames state for child's death

Kyle McKeown Kyle McKeown
Grace Lee Nakamoto Grace Lee Nakamoto
Zion McKeown Zion McKeown
Maryann Rooney Maryann Rooney
Pat McManaman; State Department of Human Services Director Pat McManaman; State Department of Human Services Director
WAIPIO (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A Maui couple accused of killing a four year old boy goes before a judge and now the child's grandma says the state failed to keep the boy safe.

Zion McKeown died Wednesday from severe blunt force trauma to his internal organs believed to be from abuse.  His grandma Maryann Rooney says the boy lived his whole life in pain.

Rooney says her daughter and the boy's father beat the child when he was only six months old. She says the abuse gave him permanent injuries. It was so bad at the time the boy was not able to breathe and drink from a bottle at the same time.

Rooney says she fostered Zion for a few months after the incident but the system eventually returned him to the parents.

"How many children do you get to abuse? You take a class and now you're a great mom? That doesn't make sense. I'm sorry," said Rooney. "They gave this child back to a parent who abused him severely to the point where it affected him for the rest of his life."

She says her daughter, who is Zion's mother, is bi-polar and violent.  She says the mother ultimately gave Zion to the father Kyle McKeown, 32, on Maui.

Now Kyle McKeown and his girlfriend Grace Lee Nakamoto are charged with second degree murder.

"I think the system totally failed him. I really do. I don't think they checked on him I think they just gave him back to the family and said he's special needs and we're done with him," said Rooney.

"This particular case family court terminated jurisdiction over this child December 2009 so after a case is closed and the child is returned to his or her family the state really ceases its involvement," said Pat McManaman, State Department of Human Services Director.

That's the part that frustrates Rooney saying there should be more monitoring.

"Like when I had him they were here constantly checking on me, to make sure my house was clean and I was doing everything right, but when they give them back the parents they kind of wash their hands and say there you go, you got your kid back," said Rooney.

Rooney claims she tried to contact the state to warn them that her daughter should not have custody of the child.  However since she and her daughter were not on speaking terms she didn't have an address or physical proof of further abuse.

"We're the state. Simply because somebody picks up the phone and says I perhaps may have abused one of my children it doesn't mean the state has the right to knock on my door and take my child away," said McManaman.

Rooney says her daughter has threatened to kill her for talking to media but she feels Zion's story needs to be made public.

"I really do believe that Zion needs to have some form of justice and I believe CPS did not protect this child," said Rooney.  "Now I hope he's at peace and he's not in pain anymore."

"I think it's always difficult. I think in hindsight when we have a situation that involves a death of any child I think it's much easier to suggest there was a failure," said McManaman.

DHS will reopen the case in order to investigate what went wrong.

Sadly there were 1,345 confirmed cases of child abuse in Hawaii last year.  There are also 2,355 children in the state living in foster care.

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