In re C.B.C.B., 379 N.C. 392 (2021)

There is a dissent
Ervin, J., joined by Earls, J.
  • Facts: In 2013, one of mother’s two children died and the other child was adjudicated abused as a result of actions resulting in mother’s conviction of intentional and negligent child abuse and her boyfriend’s (caretaker’s) second degree murder conviction. The children were severely scalded, beaten with objects, and left alone while restrained, for long periods of time. Mother made efforts to hide the children’s injuries. In 2019, after mother gave birth to another child, DSS became involved and filed a neglect petition. Shortly thereafter, the GAL filed to TPR under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(8). The trial court consolidated the two actions, adjudicated the juvenile neglected, relieved DSS of reunification efforts at the initial dispositional hearing, and granted the TPR. Mother appeals both orders. The supreme Court on its own motion consolidated appeal of neglect proceeding before court of appeals with direct appeal of TPR in supreme court.
  • 7B-1111(a)(8) authorizes a TPR when a parent has aided or abetted in the murder of their child. The supreme court reviewed the elements of aiding and abetting: “(1) ‘the crime was committed by some other person;’ (2) ‘the defendant knowingly advised, instigated, encouraged, procured, or aided the other person to commit that crime[,]’ [which may be inferred from actions and the relationship to the actual perpetrator as express words are not required;] and (3) ‘the defendant’s actions or statements cause or contributed to the commission of the crime by that other person.’ ” ¶ 11 (citation omitted). Although generally, a failure to intervene is not aiding and abetting, “parents… ‘have an affirmative duty to protect and provide for their minor children’ ”, and “must ‘take every step reasonably possible under the circumstances of a given situation to prevent harm to their children.’ ” ¶ 12. A parent knowingly aids the perpetrator when the parent has actual knowledge of the harm and reasonably fails to protect their child from harm. The court must determine the reasonableness of the parent’s response on a case-by-case basis.
  • All three elements of the crime were satisfied: (1) mother’s child was murdered by her boyfriend, who was convicted of second degree murder; (2) although mother was not present when her child died, she knew of the harm posed by her boyfriend to her children based on the severe abuse of her children by her boyfriend that she witnessed and intentionally tried to hide, thus failing to protect her children; and (3) her conduct in frequently leaving the children in her boyfriend’s exclusive care, intentionally concealing her children’s injuries, and participating in  some of the abuse of her children created the opportunity for her boyfriend to murder her child and was tantamount to her consent of that act. Mother did not reasonably protect her children, one of whom was murdered.
  • Trial court did not err in ceasing reunification efforts at initial disposition.
Termination of Parental Rights
Murder, Manslaughter, Assault
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