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Retired family court judges to review caseload after accidental child drug overdose death

Two story white house with boarded-up windows between two other houses
Scott Willis
CPS received numerous complaints about Ashton DeGonzaque's safety and living conditions at this E. Division St. house prior to the 11-year-old's death.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon has appointed two retired family court judges to review the cases of a Child Protection Services (CPS) official after an 11-year-old died of an accidental overdose. Judges Martha Walsh Hood and Martha Mulroy will look for other cases where the same caseworker may have missed important information that put other children in danger.

McMahon said he doesn’t believe the case is part of a systemic issue within CPS, but more information is needed to make a decision.

“The first step is to learn from individuals who are trusted voices who spent their careers helping kids…to give us an honest independent assessment of what this individual is doing,” said McMahon. “Was this just one case in the portfolio of the individual or [are] there multiple cases?”

The caseworker and case manager are currently on unpaid leave and the county is seeking to have them fired following Ashton DeGonzaque's death earlier this month from an accidental drug overdose. Prior to the boy's death, CPS had received numerous complaints about his safety and living conditions.

McMahon said the system overall didn’t serve Ashton well, and he wants to know how to better coordinate a similar situation in the future.

“How can we coordinate this better? A fresh and honest assessment on that needs to happen, and it’s starting to happen,” said McMahon.

McMahon says he doesn’t the actions of one or two people in CPS to define the work of more than 130 others in the department or others that were involved in his Ashton’s case. He says the district attorney’s office will determine whether the CPS worker, case manager, or Ashton’s father will face criminal charges.