DFCS facing $1 million lawsuit after teen starves to death

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

Georgia's embattled child welfare agency now faces a $1 million lawsuit after a local teenager died from starvation.

Ebony Berry still sits in the Cobb County Jail charged with murder in the 2012 starvation death of her 16-year-old disabled daughter, Markea.

"I don't know why Ebony had so much hatred toward her daughter," said Cheryl Goree, Markea’s grandmother.

Channel 2 Action News spoke with Markea's grandmother in Michigan shortly after the teen's death.

"She punished her. She hated her daughter," Goree said.

At a later hearing, investigators said Markea weighed less than 50 pounds.

"I could see most of the bones in her body. There was hardly and muscle mass left. Just a skeleton with skin is the way I could best describe it," said Cobb County police Detective Christopher Twiggs.

The state's 150-page case file on Markea show signs of long term abuse. In 2010, police found Markea hiding at a Walmart in Austell, afraid to go home.

The Division of Family and Children's Services investigated, but quickly closed the case when Ebony Berry didn't cooperate.

Now DFCS faces a $1 million wrongful death suit, filed by the administrator of Markea's estate. The seven page complaint outlines all the ways DFCS did wrong.

In an affidavit, a veteran social worker hired by the plaintiff listed several red flags and missteps by DFCS which in her opinion "constitutes negligence," and "a proper DFCS investigation is likely to have prevented Markea Berry's death by starvation."