Noah McIntosh murder case: County had 10 reports on Corona boy's abuse before his death
Before an 8-year-old Corona boy went missing and his father was charged with his murder, Riverside County social workers received at least 10 reports that the boy's father was abusing and neglecting him and his sister, and that their mother was failing to protect them, newly released records show.
All but two of the reports of abuse and neglect of Noah McIntosh were closed by social workers who labeled them “unfounded,” "inconclusive," or were left open with no final determination provided.
Two referrals were found to be at least partially substantiated, one from August 2017 and another dating from about a week after the boy's presumed death this year.
The documents, made public Wednesday in response to a public records request from The Desert Sun, show that social workers had more than a year to act on the extensive evidence that Noah needed help.
The records raise more questions about repeated failures of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services’ Children's Services Division to investigate severe child abuse and protect children.
The department's director resigned in September 2018 and the county opened a review of the Child and Adult Services divisions. The results of the review have not been made public.
In a statement released with Noah McIntosh's records, DPSS said that the department has already implemented initial recommendations from the review, including an expansion of an independent internal review panel.
“We know we must constantly work to protect our children and dependent adults,” said Gene Kennedy, a DPSS spokesperson. “Protecting our most vulnerable from harm is one of the most important roles of the county — if not the most important.”
2017 reports: A freezing bath and a blindfold
Bryce Daniel McIntosh, 33, was arrested on March 13, 2019, and within weeks was charged with first-degree murder in Noah's death. He has pleaded not guilty. Noah's mother, Jillian Godfrey, 37, was arrested the same day and is charged with child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty.
Godfrey last saw her son on March 2 and reported Noah missing on March 12. His remains have not been found. Detectives say Bryce McIntosh purchased long-cuffed gloves, bolt cutters, four gallons of muriatic acid, a 32-gallon trash can, and several bottles of drain opener on March 4.
Eighteen months before Noah's presumed death, a report was made to the Children's Services Division on Aug. 18, 2017, that Noah McIntosh was being neglected. The case history shows that a social worker and law enforcement attempted to speak in person with Bryce McIntosh about the incident, but he “refused and advised he was unavailable.”
Over the next week, the reporting party — whose name has been redacted from the records — called the Children's Services Division hotline again and was transferred to the social worker’s voicemail.
On Aug. 24, 2017, a Corona police officer was dispatched to the scene of the reported child abuse. According to a police report included in the records release, the officer reported that Noah McIntosh, referred to as "VM01" in the report, has a medical condition in which he was born with his bladder on the outside of his body. The condition has since been corrected, the officer noted, but the child struggles to control his bladder.
According to the report, Noah told the officer that Bryce McIntosh had zip-tied his hands and feet, put him in the bathtub and dunked him underwater. Noah McIntosh told one of the authorities present at the interview that his father dunked him in "freezing water" while he was blindfolded as "punishment for urinating his pants," the report says.
The report also notes that his father force-fed him "chocolates" and made him clean up his own excrement. Bryce McIntosh later admitted to officers that he had given Noah laxatives when he was attempting to teach him how to use the bathroom properly.
Jillian Godfrey, Noah's mother, is quoted in the report denying having any knowledge of the alleged abuse. But Godfrey's father, who cared for Noah and his sister from time to time may have been one of the individuals who reported the abuse to the county,
according to the records.
According to the social worker's report of the incident, Bryce McIntosh denied that Noah was his biological son, and admitted he punished Noah severely for his bathroom issues. The social worker also wrote that the father gave Noah a black eye three years earlier when he threw a wallet at the boy, though it was unclear where that information came from.
On Aug. 25, 2017, the officer returned to Bryce McIntosh's home to conduct a safety inspection, but left after McIntosh did not open the door. The officer noted in the report that he believed he heard footsteps inside, but that McIntosh "did not want to open the door."
According to a safety assessment completed by a social worker on Aug. 28, the "caregiver caused serious physical harm to the child," but the child was safe.
On Sept. 5, 2017, the officer left a voicemail for the social worker saying the criminal investigation had been closed, but the reason was not provided in the records. The next day, the record shows, the social worker also “closed” the report.
November 2017: To school in a diaper
On Nov. 9, 2017, an anonymous individual reported that Noah had arrived at school without pants on, wearing only a diaper, shirt, and shoes. According to the social worker's report of the incident, Bryce McIntosh said that Noah had been peeing his pants and that "if he wants to be a baby, I'm sending him to school in a diaper."
When Bryce McIntosh was told by school staff that Noah could not be sent to school without pants on, he replied that Noah had clothes in his backpack, the records say.
Noah then put on "red/pink girl's shorts and a zip up hoodie with butterflies on it." A teacher told the social worker that the clothes caused Noah to be "teased all day so the principal went to Target and got [Noah] a change of clothes."
The social worker noted in the report that Noah's father had been disciplining Noah in a manner that is "punitive and humiliating" and it is "opening the child up to ridicule." The father, the report noted, believed that Noah no longer had a medical condition and was "just being lazy."
On Nov. 21, 22, and 28, more reports about Noah were made to county authorities and social workers and law enforcement again attempted to contact Bryce McIntosh and Jillian Godfrey. They were largely unsuccessful, according to the records, and the investigation was closed on Dec. 14, 2017, due to the “parent’s refusal to cooperate.”
In February 2018, the social worker interviewed Noah McIntosh again at his school and “spoke briefly with the father.” The social worker repeatedly attempted to contact Jillian Godfrey — who may have been living in her car — to offer her housing, but was unsuccessful.
The social worker ultimately reported on Feb. 15, 2018, that Noah was safe and that the household contained "no children likely to be in immediate danger of serious harm."
A year later, Noah is reported missing
For a year, there were no further reports on Noah McIntosh.
On March 12, 2019, Godfrey, Noah's mother, called DPSS to request a welfare check because she had not seen Noah since she dropped him off with his father on March 2. Bryce McIntosh told Godfrey on March 8 that Noah had been missing for two days, but that he would "handle it."
On March 13, 2019, a SWAT team was sent to McIntosh's home on Temescal Canyon Road in Corona because McIntosh "was possibly in possession of weapons" and it was "unknown what his current mind set is," according to the documents released by the county. McIntosh and Godfrey were arrested.
A DPSS report was created on March 14 noted Noah had been missing for more than a week and the parents had both been arrested for "child abuse related charges." The household was reported to be "unsafe."
On March 20, 2019, another report noted that the caregiver "employs excessive/inappropriate discipline" and that the abuse risk level in the household is "high." It is unclear who made the report and why it was created weeks after Noah was reported missing.
On March 28, 2019, DPSS received notification that it needed to complete a child fatality report for Noah McIntosh because Bryce McIntosh had been charged with murder with a special circumstance of torture.
County's failures result in settlements
DPSS has been under scrutiny for more than a year amid a series of civil and criminal cases.
In one, a 13-year-old girl was impregnated by and gave birth to the child of her mother’s live-in boyfriend. That case resulted in a staggering $10 million settlement with the county when it was found the girl had reported to DPSS years earlier that she was being raped. Deon Austin Welch, the convicted rapist, will be sentenced Friday.
In another case, DPSS received reports that a young child was routinely neglected by her mother, who struggled with drug addiction and mental illness. The department investigated the child's well-being for the next two years as the mother moved from house to house and eventually refused to communicate with concerned relatives.
Days after the department’s final visit in April 2016, a neighbor flagged down a passing police car and reported a foul smell from the apartment. Law enforcement entered the home and found an infant hugging the corpse of her dead sibling. DPSS social workers claimed they were unaware of the dismal conditions inside the home.
On Sept. 10, 2018, Susan Von Zabern abruptly resigned as director of DPSS. Ten days later, county officials announced DPSS' Adult and Children's Services divisions would be under review to ensure the departments can adequately protect "at-risk children and adults," Ray Smith, a county spokesperson, said at the time.
Kennedy, the DPSS spokesman, said this week the review is now almost complete. While the review has not yet been released publicly, Kennedy wrote that the department is already acting on its recommendations.
The review identified several items in need of immediate change, Kennedy said, including “shifting practices” so that social workers have the authority to make child protection decisions, expanding an independent internal review panel, fully integrating training with county counsel and DPSS, and making sure caseloads stay within state guidelines.