Report shows DSS effort to track down Gaston Co. toddler who died of infection

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Friday, Gaston County Department of Social Services released the report on Addison Lanham, the two-year-old girl who died from an untreated sepsis infection in July.

The four-page report begins on November 1, 2010. That's when Gaston County DSS got the first report of neglect. Social workers investigated Addison's mother, Shanna Lanham, but didn't find anything incriminating.

The next report of neglect came on June 7, 2011. Someone reported Lanham was living with Jason Wells, a registered sex offender.  There were also accusations Wells and Lanham were using drugs in front of the two-year-old.

Two days after the report was made, a social worker paid Shanna Lanham a visit at her motel room. The social worker said Addison looked clean and healthy. There were no signs of drug use. Lanham said her boyfriend, Wells, did not live with her.

The social worker, however, noticed men's clothing in the motel room.  She asked Lanham about it, who said it belonged to her brother.

The social worker investigated further and was told Wells was living with his aunt and uncle.  When DSS showed up at that home, Wells' relatives confirmed he lived there but said he was at work.

Lanham entered into an agreement with DSS, signing a form saying she would take care of her child and keep her out of contact with Wells.

One week later, Lanham called DSS to say she and Addison were headed to the beach for a couple of weeks. A few days later, Jason Wells actually called DSS to tell them he was not living with the little girl.

Shortly after that, the conversations dropped off. Over the next month, DSS tried five times to follow up with Shanna Lanham, but she evaded them. On July 21, Addison died.

"It's something you never get over," said Gaston County DSS Director Keith Moon. asked Moon whether his social workers could have done more to protect Addison.

"Probably not in this case, given what we knew at the time," said Moon.

According to the report, during the time DSS was attempting to track down Lanham, they had no evidence to show Addison was danger. They believe Lanham was hiding out with her daughter during the last week of her life.

Cheryl Harris is in charge of family and children services for Gaston County DSS. She said her workers took the proper actions, but that they are devastated by the end result.

"I think the saddest part is that this parent, in an attempt to elude us, lost," said Harris.

Both Lanham and Wells pleaded guilty Thursday to second degree murder. Each will spend at least nine years in prison.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.