Abused girl's relative wins civil lawsuit

But Jobes' grandmother unlikely to see any of $15 million award

November 22, 2006|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

The grandmother of a Baltimore teenager who died at the hands of an abusive legal guardian has been awarded $15 million for a civil lawsuit, but it is unlikely that she'll ever receive any of that money.

Iva T. Cruse filed her suit in August 2004, naming plaintiffs ranging from city social services and public schools to Satrina Roberts, the woman later convicted of killing 15-year-old Ciara Jobes.

Roberts did not participate in the proceedings, so Baltimore Circuit Judge Paul E. Alpert entered a summary judgment against her. Alpert awarded Cruse $15 million after listening to evidence and arguments during a half-day bench trial, said Mark Herman, Cruse's attorney.

Other parties, including the city Board of Education, the Department of Social Services and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, settled with Cruse in the two months before last week's trial, Herman said. Those settlements are confidential.

"Hopefully this will bring some closure to the matter," Herman said. "But she'd much rather have her grandchild back. This is a poor substitute for undoing what happened to her."

Herman said the Roberts award was, "from a practical standpoint, meaningless," but he said Cruse pursued the suit "in the interest of justice."

The civil case came to an end about two years after the criminal case.

In November 2004, Roberts pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. She was later sentenced to 40 years in prison. At those hearings, Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake recounted the horrifying story of how Ciara died - and how she came to be with Roberts in the first place.

The teen's 73-pound body, emaciated and covered with as many as 700 wounds and scars, was found Dec. 11, 2002, on Roberts' kitchen floor in East Baltimore. Ciara hadn't attended Patterson High School at all that fall, though she was enrolled.

Instead, Roberts kept her locked in an unfurnished, unheated room with a hole in the wall to use for a toilet, police reports said.

Roberts, a woman receiving Social Security disability benefits for her mental illness, avoided the scrutiny involved with becoming a foster parent by applying to be Ciara's legal guardian instead. She convinced a judge that she would be a responsible caretaker, the only legal requirement for becoming a guardian.

Ciara had lived with Roberts since 1998, at the request of the girl's mother, who later died of AIDS. Toward the end of her life, Ciara had little contact with any of her relatives, including her grandmother.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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