Therapist says state agency mishandled family's situation

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A therapist who was treating a woman suspected of killing her children and herself says the state social services department mishandled the family's situation.

But Division of Family Services officials say they are satsified that they properly investigated and handled the case of Judy Baldwin and her children.

Baldwin is suspected of killing her two children, Keith, 13, and Jacqueline, 11, before shooting herself in her Springfield home on Aug. 25. They were buried Thursday in Jefferson City.

Springfield police say evidence, including a letter Baldwin wrote about the time of the shootings, suggests the deaths were a murder-suicide. But it could be nine months before lab tests are completed and an official ruling is made.

"We're not going to proceed with blinders on," said police spokesman Kirk Manlove. "We're going to keep an open mind. We owe it to the family to do a thorough investigation."

Police reports from Cole, Miller and Greene counties show that officers were called to the Baldwin home several times to break up fights or control drinking binges. Some calls were from the mid-1990s when the family was still together, while others came when Baldwin was no longer living with her estranged husband but had the children.

A typical mom

To many people, Judy Baldwin was the typical involved mom. She volunteered at PTA and was a standout real estate agent, who took time off this summer to spend time with her children.

One of her former therapists said Judy Baldwin was far from the woman described in police reports.

"She was a fabulous mother," said Dr. Thomas DeVol, who saw Baldwin weekly for several months earlier this year.

As a crisis-intervention forensic psychologist, at times DeVol counseled the entire family including estranged husband Jack Baldwin Jr.

Claim of DFS prejudice

DeVol said he's believed for months that DFS mishandled the Baldwin case. He wrote a letter in March to District 115 Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, saying that he believed DFS was prejudiced against both Judy and Jack Baldwin and were wrongly keeping them from custody of their children.

DeVol said Baldwin was being punished for her drinking problem, for which he said she was seeking treatment. DeVol doesn't believe claims that she had a mental illness.

"She was not crazy at all," DeVol said. DFS employees "just kept thinking: She's no good, just no good. Take her to the salvage yard."

After hearing of the deaths, DFS officials analyzed the family's case and the actions of state employees. The review is routine anytime someone in the organization's custody dies.

"DFS is satisfied with the way the case was handled," said Deb Hendricks, spokes-person for the Department of Social Services.

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