SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — New documents from Arizona's Department of Child Safety show disturbing new details in the case of a grandmother accused of killing her 11-year-old grandson at a hotel in Scottsdale in February.
In February 2022, Scottsdale police arrested grandmother Stephanie Marie Davis and her husband, Thomas Desharnais, after they found 11-year-old Chaskah Davis Smith not breathing in a room at Extended Stay America near Osborn and Scottsdale Roads in Scottsdale. Chaskah later died at the hospital.
Now, new records shed more light on what happened before Chaskah's death. DCS investigated his family three times in 2017 for physical abuse allegations. Records indicate Chaskah and his younger sibling were living with their grandmother at the time.
The first allegation from March of 2017 indicated that Chaskah’s grandmother reportedly hit him and that he had a bruise on his head and scratches on his face. In the second abuse allegation, just two months later in May 2017, records claim Chaskah had a “severe black eye” that was purple, red and bruised. The documents say Chaskah has missed school and reportedly just shook his head when a DCS investigator asked about the injury.
DCS found both of those abuse allegations unsubstantiated and the investigations closed.
"I fairly often see cases that are unsubstantiated and it doesn’t mean that nothing happened," said family law attorney Claudia Work, who is not involved in the case. "It just means that they can’t get enough information to bring before a judge."
Work said there are a few reasons DCS could find an allegation unsubstantiated, even if there's an injury. She said it often depends on the case worker handling the allegation. And sometimes children or other witnesses might not want to talk about it.
"Kids don’t want to turn on their parents," she said. "Kids don’t want to turn on their grandma."
The third abuse allegation seemingly involved Chaskah’s younger half-sibling, who was taken into DCS custody after Chaskah died.
DCS originally told 12 News this allegation was also unsubstantiated, but the newly released records show abuse was substantiated and DCS closed the case anyway.
A spokesperson for DCS said they would look into the discrepancy and didn’t agree to do an interview with 12 News.
"DCS messed up," said Darcy Olsen, a child advocate with Gen Justice.
"When you look through these pages, even with the hundreds of redactions they have in there, it’s obvious that this child was being harmed at home and in imminent danger every day."
Scottsdale police also investigated the family in 2017 after a school reported concerns of abuse and again in 2021 in a disorderly conduct case.
Earlier this year, the I-Team uncovered that during all prior contacts with DCS and Scottsdale Police, Stephanie Davis had an active warrant out for her arrest in Minnesota. In that case, Davis is accused of violating a harassment order of protection in 2016. Court records show the warrant was issued in October of that year after Davis failed to appear in court for an arraignment in Minnesota.
Stephanie Davis and Thomas Desharnais are both facing charges connected to Chaskah's death.
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