OKLAHOMA CITY, May 14 (UPI) -- The father of a 3-year-old girl found beheaded in 2001 says the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is responsible for his daughter's death.
Erica Green was born May 15, 1997, to Michelle Johnson, who at the time, had been in prison for five weeks. Convicted for larceny, Johnson had a history of run-ins with the law for drug abuse and child abuse.
In 2001, the headless body of a 3-year-old was discovered in the woods near Kansas City. The body went unidentified for four years, referred to in the media as "Precious Doe," The Oklahoman reported.
In 2005, the body was identified to be Erica Green.
Harrell Johnson, Michelle Johnson's boyfriend at the time, was sentenced in 2008 to 25 years in a Missouri prison for second-degree murder. Police said Harrell admitted to beating Erica while under the influence of alcohol and PCP. She died as he kicked her and threw her to the ground, after which Harrell said he used hedge clippers to sever her head and then dumped the body in the woods.
Erica's father, Larry Green filed a two-page handwritten lawsuit in federal court in Tulsa in April 2010. The lawsuit says his daughter's death could have been prevented if the Oklahoma Department of Corrections had contacted the Oklahoma Department of Human Services when Erica was born.
When Erica was born, Michelle was allowed to place her in the care of a friend, Betty Brown. Erica was eventually returned to Michelle's care.
Green's lawsuit says prison officials "performed no background check whatsoever on Ms. Brown and failed to provide Ms. Brown with any guidance or standards as to the care, custody and possible future reunification of Erica Green with her" parents. The lawsuit also alleges officials were aware of Michelle's drug use while pregnant, citing the 1995 birth of Michelle's fourth child who tested positive for cocaine as evidence she should not be permitted to care for Erica.
Green also wants both agencies to adopt better policies for dealing with babies born to inmates.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell allowed the case to proceed in April.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, Sheree Powell, told The Oklahoman: "It's not really a DHS issue. It's a DOC issue … If a female enters prison and she's pregnant, then DOC … their social services department will work with the mother to identify a family member or someone to take custody of the baby."