Annastasia Smith, mother of a young boy who drowned in a neighbor’s pool last May, has contracted a lawyer and private investigator to build a case against the boy’s paternal grandmother, Darlene Williams, as well as Calaveras County Child Protective Services (CPS).
Despite many accusations within the family and the wider community, law enforcement and CPS have both conducted investigations and have not reported any charges filed at this time in relation to the incident.
Smith, 21, who lost custody of 3-year-old Clifton Williams to his father, Mark Williams, 20, approximately two years ago, claims to have found her son unattended in a “dog pen” on at least two occasions within the month of December 2017 when visiting the Williams’ San Andreas home.
“During one of my visits, when I got there, Darlene was inside the house on the computer playing games, and everyone else was in the house,” Smith said on Friday. “I asked her where my son was, and she said he was inside the dog pen, playing. I had to go in and get him out.”
When she went to remove her son from the pen, Smith says she found him climbing on piles of wood pallets that were placed inside of it.
In a previous article, Smith told the Enterprise that she understood the custody agreement to list Darlene Williams as a “legal guardian,” as Clifton was often left in her care while Mark Williams was at work.
Multiple sources have also reported that Darlene Williams often babysat other young children at the household.
Although Clifton was reportedly attended by his 17-year-old uncle, his “bedridden” grandmother, and another adult relative with a 6-month-old baby at the time he went missing, both Smith and Mark Williams have accused Darlene Williams of alleged negligence leading to their son’s death, citing previous occasions during which he was left unattended while under her care.
As previously reported, several neighbors have claimed to have seen Clifton wandering the street and their yards on many occasions, sometimes climbing over fences and saying that he was “afraid to go home.”
Those neighbors cited repeated complaints lodged with CPS, though no change was observed.
It is suspected that Clifton crossed through several yards and scaled multiple fences to reach the pool in which he was found.
Darlene Williams has declined any further interviews, stating on June 5: “Somebody is putting this out there, and they’re probably blaming me.”
The condition of the Williams’ home has also come under scrutiny. Smith’s mother, Uta Robinson, who is helping pay for Smith’s investigation, claimed in a previous article that the house was “nasty” and that CPS did not adequately survey the living conditions.
Mark Williams, who lived in the home at the time of the incident, has also stated previously that he did not believe it was a suitable house for a child, and that CPS visited the home on one occasion and told the family to “clean up the front yard.”
“Our detectives did a lot of work (on the case),” Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio said in late July. “It’s now in CPS’ hands. We did not find any criminally liable actions at this point.”
Lora Larson, program manager for Calaveras County Health and Human Services Agency, which oversees county CPS, stated on Aug. 9: “We have completed our investigation and determined that no further information is to be released pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 10850.4.”
That code dictates that if law enforcement, CPS and the coroner’s office do not find substantiated abuse or negligence leading to a child’s death during their respective investigations, CPS is not required to release any additional information regarding the incident.
A representative from the Calaveras County Coroner reported on June 1 that there were “no signs of abuse” on Clifton’s body.
The Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office is not commenting on the incident at this time, as stated on Aug. 10.
Meanwhile, Smith and Robinson are “waiting patiently” for a hired detective to complete an investigation, Robinson wrote in a private message on Friday.
“We are staying on top of it,” Robinson said. “They are doing a thorough investigation and it’s going to take time. … The CPS investigation is what’s taking the longest.”
Robinson continued, “We are going to fight this until there is justice. I am tired of everyone in this town getting (away) with everything.”
Smith and Robinson say they have not been in contact with the Williams family since Clifton's passing.
Mark Williams has declined any further interviews at this time.
Update: Since the publishing of this article, Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook has confirmed that her office received a report on this case and that it is currently under review for consideration of charges.