MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- In December of last year, two little boys were placed with a foster family after they, and their 11-month-old brother, were left in the care of a man later accused of murder. Now, advocates are appealing to the First Lady of Texas for help, after a judge said the surviving children will soon be reunited with their mother, who abandoned them to the suspect 10 months before the baby died.
The ordeal began on December 5, 2022, when deputies with the Midland County Sheriff’s Office were called to Midland Memorial Hospital in reference to an unresponsive child. By the time deputies arrived at MMH, they were told the child had died.
Deputies arrested Dylan McKay Oneal and charged him with Murder and said the children had been in his custody when the infant died. Oneal has since been indicted in the case
Court records obtained by ABC Big 2 News show the infant was “severely malnourished” and weighed only 11 pounds when he died. The other boys, ages two and three, were also taken to MMH for treatment of “malnourishment, injuries, and burns on their bodies,” court records state.
The surviving boys were later taken to a Lubbock hospital where they were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit; they reportedly had to learn to walk, talk, and even eat, because they were not able to do so when they first arrived at the hospital.
Child Protective Services workers removed those children from Oneal’s home, which was said to be in “deplorable” condition and contacted their mother. Court records show that the mother had been investigated by CPS nine times prior to the death of her child, and Oneal had been investigated 10 times. “(The mother) and Mr. Oneal have had all nine of their children removed. This is not including (the baby) who (died) on December 5, 2022,” a report states.
In the last year, CPS has been working with the mother to determine if she was capable of raising the two boys in this case. The children were described as “not developmentally on target” with “severe language impairment”. CPS workers created a permanency plan with the primary goal of “unrelated adoption” and a concurrent goal of “relative adoption”. The case workers also devised a treatment plan for the boys consisting of various therapies, including speech, occupational, and physical therapies, some of which are expected to last “a lifetime”. Advocates close to the investigation said the mother, who had an 11th child earlier this year (that child does not live with her), is not capable of “providing the life and care these boys deserve”.
CPS reports do, however, show that she’s held a steady job at a restaurant since May and her home environment was described as having “appropriate beds” for the children. She’s also completed numerous visits with her children while they remained in foster care; however, reports show that youngest child “was not happy to see” his mother at a visit in April. And the mother herself described her children as not knowing her, transcripts show.
The mother has also completed individual counseling sessions (at least 6 by April 4) and completed domestic violence classes in February. Despite completing required courses as part of the reunification process, a CPS investigator said the mother hasn’t been able to apply what she’s learned from those classes and has not been honest about her communication with the man accused of killing her child, even after she was ordered by a judge to cease all contact.
A report states, “The court and all parties should be aware…(the mother) informs the Department and her therapist that she has had no contact with Mr. Oneal…she reported she had thrown away the one letter she reported receiving…and reported she ‘blocked’ the jail’s phone number stating she cannot receive calls from Mr. Oneal…(she) is still very involved in the life of Mr. Oneal.” The report then states that they often end phone calls with “I love you” and are “flirtatious”.
Between December of 2022 and April of this year, when the report we read was completed, the mother reportedly sent Oneal more than $1,400 to use in his commissary account. Between January 2023 and April, she also reportedly had 33 video visits with Oneal, who has remained in the Midland County Detention Center since his arrest. During that same time frame, she also allegedly spoke with Oneal by phone 96 times.
Here is a summary of some of those conversations with Oneal, which were recorded by Midland County:
The mother allegedly told Oneal that she knows that he was never “aggressive” toward the boys. In that same conversation, Oneal also reportedly apologized numerous times for “what happened” and said it was all a “blur”. He told the mother he doesn’t want her to “hate him”, to which she replied, “fortunately, I know and that’s why I’m not really mad,” transcripts show.
The woman also allegedly told Oneal that the CPS judge was the same as from a prior case and that “the judge likes me now” and guaranteed that Oneal “won’t be charged”. She said, “when you do get out, you will be able to do your service plan to see the boys”. She also told Oneal that she believed that prosecutors would drop the charges against him or lower them to manslaughter or criminal neglect.
The mother also told Oneal that the (CPS) judge told her, “There’s no way they’re gonna be able to convict you”. She told Oneal that the judge asked her if she felt comfortable with her kids being around Oneal and said that she told the judge she never would have left her children with him if she didn’t think he was “ok”.
In another phone call, the mother told Oneal that they were going to visit family together “when” he’s released from jail.
During a call on January 11, the mother told Oneal that she had to take domestic violence counseling in order to get her children back and said, “I’ve done all this before for y’all”. She also talked about her baby’s autopsy report and said there was something lodged in the infant’s mouth. She then said she would contact Oneal’s lawyer and have him request that report.
In a later conversation, the mother told Oneal that the judge told her not to have any contact with him. She also said that she told the CPS worker that “nothing would stop her” from getting the boys back. She also told Oneal that the court was “mad” that she’d cremated the baby because there was no body to “exhume” and then told Oneal not to stress too much, and to pray.
In another conversation, the mother told Oneal that she has completed all the “tasks” that CPS has asked her to do, to which Oneal replied that makes him “happy” because it means he “can see (his) boys soon”. And in a later conversation, the mother confirmed that she and “the boys” will visit Oneal in jail as soon as she regains custody.
You can see the full breakdown of those conversations here:
(Black lines show where the mother’s name, the children’s names, or certain protected health information has been redacted)
Advocates spoke to ABC Big 2 News and said a Midland judge has decided that the two boys will be reunited with their mother in November, a decision they called “wrong” because of their fear that the children, who have reportedly made good progress since they were removed from the home, will not be cared for well by their mother. They created the video above and sent it to the Midland County District Attorney’s Office as well as to First Lady Cecilia Abbott, appealing for help. They said they also wanted to shine a light on the CPS and foster care court system, a system they fear may be putting two children back in danger as well as question the DA as to why this mother is not facing abandonment charges in this case.
These advocates are also appealing to the community to show up in court and join in advocating for these children. A hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on November 13 in Judge Ellen Griffith’s court room at the Midland Municipal Courthouse. Advocates said they want the community to “make some noise” in hopes of getting the judge to take a different path and rule against giving these children back to their mother.
We’ve reached out to the lawyers involved in this case for a comment and have not yet received a response.