Lawsuit filed against social workers, Hennepin County for the murder of an infant

Hennepin County and two social workers were recently targeted in a lawsuit over the 2018 death of a little girl, Layla Mary Ann Jackson.

A recent lawsuit was filed against two social workers who allegedly failed to “protect 18-month-old Layla Mary Ann Jackson from a foster family who physically abused, mocked and ultimately murdered the little girl”. According to the lawsuit, Layla, a Native American and African American girl, died on August 28, 2018 from injuries sustained by her foster father, Jason Betlach. It turned out that he “shook her hard to make her stop crying,” which resulted in a blunt force trauma to the neck and head. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence in the Rush City Correctional Facility.

Gavel and two hardback books on wooden table; Image by Succo via

However, the lawsuit filed in Minnesota District Court last week claims that Betlach is not the only one responsible for the child’s death. Instead, the lawsuit argues that Layla is the “youngest victim of Hennepin County’s broken child welfare system.” It names “Hennepin and Scott counties for negligence and Hennepin specifically for deprivation of rights violations.” In addition, two social workers, Bree Meduna and Julie Malecha, are named as defendants, as is Betlach’s wife, Jessica Betlach, for not intervening and stopping the abuse.

Jeff Storms is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. He said:

“Layla Jackson’s death follows in the footsteps of the equally terrible death of Kendrea Johnson and Arianna HunzikerAll foster children Hennepin County owed protective duties … Unfortunately, we expect Hennepin County to once again decline to accountability by forcing families to endure lengthy litigation in the Johnson and Hunziker cases. “

Layla and her brother were housed with the Betlaches in April 2018. During her stay, Betlach regularly referred to Layla as a “Mongoloid” and used other racist and abusive terms to refer to her. He also “recorded a video calling her with” white power, “mocking her medical needs and foster status, and writing” losers “on her forehead,” the suit said.

Additionally, Betlach allegedly lied on the paperwork to become foster parents when he said he had no criminal history. In fact, he has a history of convictions for “possession of drugs and paraphernalia, theft, DWI and a quote for not using a car seat with a child under the age of 8”. Also, “no one in the care system was doing a background check on him.” For this reason, and due to the fact that Layla was a relative of Jessica Betlach, Layla was placed with the Betlaches “with the understanding that they would complete the license”. However, the family is “hostile to the education and licensing process and has not taken any steps known to the social workers,” the lawsuit said.

During her only home visit, Malecha noted that “there were no properly installed and functioning smoke alarms at all levels of the house and that guns and ammunition were stored together and not locked in areas inaccessible or visible to children.” but did not speak to Herr Betlach either. To make matters worse, Ms. Betlach was aware that her husband was abusing Layla. The psychological abuse “harmed the young girl and slowed her growth”. Although Ms. Betlach knew this, she did not stop her husband and the social workers never intervened, “even when Layla’s birth mother and Jessica Betlach told them Layla was not safe.”

As the end of August rolled around, the Betlachen began to cancel appointments with the social workers, and Meduna and Malecha found that they were unsuitable to be foster parents. Even so, they failed to act. Tragically, Layla was left alone with Mr. Betlach and his biological daughter on August 28, 2018 when the fatal incident occurred. Immediately after the incident, Layla was hospitalized with injuries so severe that she “suffered cardiac arrest and a brain injury.” She died two days later.

The suit says:

“Meduna and Malecha had reason to know [Layla] suffered from these constitutional violations. They had a realistic opportunity to intervene to stop these Constitutional violations, but either maliciously or with reckless disregard as to whether [Layla’s] Rights would be violated, not encroached upon. “


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