Judge explains why he let slain kids return home

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- In a rare move, a district judge who has come under scrutiny since the mass shooting of six children and two adults explains why he dismissed the case against a mother and the father who's now accused of capital murder.

District Court Judge Glenn Devlin released a four-page statement explaining his order.

Despite numerous complaints of child abuse and neglect and David Conley's violent criminal history, Judge Devlin said he was never told the children in the home on Falling Oaks in northwest Harris County were in danger so he sent them back. They were removed in 2013 because one child kept sneaking out. Conley is now charged with three counts of capital murder.

"At no time did CPS (Child Protective Services) state that there was a current or immediate threat of violence from anyone," the statement read.

On Tuesday, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) sent a letter to lawmakers saying CPS' hands were tied.

"The judge denied the Department request to continue legal intervention due to cooperation from the parents," wrote Jamie McCormick, External Relations Manager, DFPS.

On Wednesday, Judge Devlin fired back putting the burden back on CPS, saying, "The facts of this particular case showed four instances where CPS ruled out or was unable to determine an immediate danger...The Court can only remove children from their parents if there is an immediate risk of harm."

"I cannot remember an instance in 30 years of practice in Harris County where a judge actually tried to explain himself and I think he did in this case because it was such a colossal mistake and such an awful result," said Randy Burton, the founder of Justice for Children, a national child advocacy organization with headquarters in Houston.

In 2014, Devlin dismissed the case against Valerie Jackson, her husband Dwayne Jackson and Conley after they met several parental requirements. A year and a half later, Conley is accused of murdering the Jacksons and the children.

"While the tragic events that occurred some 18 months after the CPS case is (sic) horrific, neither CPS nor any attorney or the court could have prevented it based upon the case presented in court," concluded Devlin.

Another detail the judge's statement revealed is after the children were removed from their parents care, they were also removed from a foster home due to allegations of physical abuse.

Below is entire letter from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS):

    As you may have heard, a tragic shooting occurred in Houston on Sunday. Mr. David Conley has admitted to breaking into the home of his former partner, Ms. Valerie Jackson, and killing her, her husband, and six children in the home. The victims are Valerie Jackson, her husband Dwayne Jackson, 50, Dwayne Jackson, Jr., 10, Nathaniel Jackson, 13, Honesty Jackson, 11, Caleb Jackson, 9, Trinity Jackson, 7, and Jonah Jackson, 6. Nathaniel Jackson is the son of Ms. Jackson and Conley. Conley was arrested yesterday after a standoff with police.

    DFPS has a history with Mr. Conley, starting with various intakes since 2011 alleging domestic violence and physical abuse. Family Based Safety Services was provided to the family (started January 6, 2013). The family was provided in-home counseling for the entire family and parenting sessions for Ms. Jackson and Mr. Conley. During the case, Mr. Conley was arrested for assaulting Ms. Jackson. Domestic violence services were provided to Ms. Jackson. Ms. Jackson struggled with her eldest son Nathanial also being violent with her and threatening to shoot her. Psychological evaluations were completed for Nathanial and Dwayne. Ms. Jackson dropped charges against Mr. Conley and allowed him to return to the home.

    On July 28, 2013, a new investigation was opened as Caleb was able to leave the home and wander down the street and into a major intersection near the home. A police officer found him and returned him home. The allegation of neglectful supervision was ruled out "due to a lack of evidence and the family receiving FBSS services."

    CPS sought Temporary Managing Conservatorship of the children on September 19, 2013 due to concerns of ongoing domestic violence in the home. On October 10, 2013. Judge Glen Devlin court ordered the children back home with their mother Valerie Jackson. Court ordered service included participating in individual counseling, family counseling, domestic violence counseling, and random drug tests. The children participated in psychiatric evaluations on ongoing care. The case was dismissed for court ordered services at the hearing on March 19, 2014. The judge denied the Department request to continue legal intervention due to cooperation from the parents. Both Ms. Jackson and Mr. Conley completed parenting, counseling, and domestic violence classes (victim and perpetrator classes). Ms. Jackson planned to continue counseling through Medicaid at case closure in May 2014.

    The DFPS Office of Child Safety will be doing a review of this case. Please let me know if you have any questions.
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