$17M lawsuit filed after death of 4-month-old in Rockbridge County


ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. – A $17 million wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a Rockbridge County 4-month-old girl, blaming a local social services department for her death.

The death of Charlee Ford launched an investigation into the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, revealing its former director shredded case files and forged dates on case records.

Thomas Chaffin, the attorney for the estate of 4-month-old Charlee Ford, filed a 19-page lawsuit Monday, naming the baby's parents, who are charged in relation to her murder, along with the local, regional and state social services department, the former director who shredded documents, other employees and the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors.

The infant's parents, 42-year-old Charles Ford and 29-year-old Diana Hazelwood, are charged with felony murder in her death.

Hazelwood has already agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder and testify against her husband.

The suit lays out the reasons for filing against each party.

It says the infant was classified as a substance abuse newborn, having tested positive for drugs.

Although that was reported to the Child Protective Services Unit, the baby was allowed to live with her parents in a home that the department classified as "high-risk."

Workers noted at the time that the home was dirty and drug abuse was present.

An internal review by the regional office of social services noted that the Child Protective Services supervisor, who is also named in the suit refused to assign an investigator to the case.

The infant died on April 16 in her Rockbridge County home.

Her father's trial for felony murder begins May 10. He has pleaded not guilty.

Her mother's sentencing is set for May 21, after her father's trial is over.

This is just one of several child abuse cases including the death of an infant that led to the initial investigation into that social services department.

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