SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The mother of an 11-year-old boy allegedly killed by this grandmother in a Scottsdale hotel has filed a $12 million claim against the state of Arizona as she and her attorneys argue the Department of Child Safety was negligent in protecting her children from years of extreme abuse.
Chaskah Davis was found unresponsive with “significant injuries” to his body on January 30 at the Extended Stay America hotel near Scottsdale and Osborn roads while he was in the care of his biological grandmother, 51-year-old Stephanie Marie Davis, and her husband, 33-year-old Thomas James Dersharnais.
The boy died at the hospital and his younger brother was treated for severe injuries. Davis and Desharnais were arrested and booked on first-degree murder and child abuse charges
The boys' mother and her attorneys argue DCS had five opportunities to remove and protect her children from their grandmother – but the state allegedly failed to investigate every report of child abuse and found previous allegations of abuse “unsubstantiated.”
“The lawsuit is for [DCS’s] failure to investigate and evaluate claims of child abuse and torture,” said Matthew Boatman, an attorney representing the child’s mother, Amandria Smith. “Unfortunately, Chaska was murdered by scissors to his head, and it wasn’t until he was murdered that the claims [of abuse] were substantial enough to investigate.”
12News reached out to DCS for comment on the claim Friday afternoon, and they said, "we do not comment on pending litigation."
Years of abuse
In 2017, DCS investigated three separate child abuse allegations, after two schools reported them to the state, Boatman said.
Documents indicate the first allegation was investigated in March of 2017, when Chaskah’s grandmother reportedly hit him and that he had a bruise on his head and scratches on his face.
Then in May of 2017, a second report claimed Chaskah has a “severe black eye” that was purple, red and bruised, and that he had missed school. The document said the child shook his head when a DCS investigator asked him about the injury.
In August of the same year, the Department investigated a report of physical abuse to Chaskah’s younger half-sibling where the nine-year-old had “discoloration to his forehead” after his grandmother allegedly picked and threw him down.
DCS found these allegations of abuse unsubstantiated and closed the investigations. Both children were left under the grandmother’s care, despite having an active warrant for her arrest in Minnesota in 2016.
Records obtained by 12 News show the third allegation was substantiated, but the DCS closed the case anyway.
“I never saw their eyes, they were always covered, they had baseball caps and she would never allow them to talk,” Courtney Lage told 12 News the day after Chaskah’s murder.
Lage worked at the hotel’s reception desk in 2020. She reported seeing the kids panhandling that summer, while wearing long-sleeves and sweatpants.
“I’m an educator by trade and none of them were in school,” she said. “That’s why I did notify DCS.”
In 2021, Lage said she contacted DCS investigators. But never heard back for the Department.
“There was ample evidence to remove these kids and save them,” Boatman said. “In 2017 they could have saved them. For five more years these kids were tortured.”
Suing the state
Boatman said the repeated calls to DCS and their lack of action led to the 11-year-old’s death.
“Five times, the Department of Child Safety had an opportunity to save Chaskah’s life and to save these boys from being tortured,” the attorney said.
“He had to live through years of medieval torture. The things that the police found made them vomit at the scene. They found shock collars. These people didn’t have dogs. These children lived in bathtubs and were starved, and drowned and had their hair pulled out, and their heads fractured so many times that their skulls were calcified. They had cuts all over their bodies, including their genitals,” Boatman added.
The dollar amount for the lawsuit was being determined Thursday night, but the notice of claim against the state will be filed Friday.
“The ultimate goal here is effectuate change in this community,” Boatman said. “So that when red flags are seen and when there’s an opportunity to save children, they are actually saved the next time.”