DETROIT -- A court official who was asked to remove a Detroit child from her home just weeks before she was fatally stabbed turned down the state's request because he believed there was no immediate danger, according to a transcript released Friday.
"They're in no more danger today than they were yesterday. And no one came to court yesterday to ask for the children to be removed," Richard Smart, a referee in the family division of Wayne County Circuit Court, said on Nov. 23, referring to Tameria Greene and her four siblings.
On Sunday, five weeks later, 8-year-old Tameria was fatally stabbed at home. Her mother, Semeria Greene, has been charged with murder.
The Michigan Department of Human Services had sought to remove Tameria and the other children from their home. The detailed petition presented to Smart alleged that Tameria had been bitten by her mother on her hand, forearm and face. The agency said there were multiple marks and bruises elsewhere.
"It is my feeling that it's contrary to her well-being to be placed with the family and they need to be removed," caseworker Rosalyn Green told Smart. "If there's no relatives available, then we have no other option than to place them in, you know, foster care."
Smart said he hadn't heard anything that would compel their removal, although he suggested that Greene should move out or voluntarily get the children to another home.
He warned her that the Department of Human Services could return to court with an emergency petition and try to take the children.
"I think it would be injurious to the children to have them snatched in the middle of the night, which is, of course, their ability to do so," Smart said.
Referees regularly preside over hearings in Michigan abuse and neglect cases. They are attorneys like judges. However, judges still have a right to intervene in the cases.
Smart told the department that it could appeal his decision to a judge, but the state declined. Instead, the removal request was set for a January trial.
"It's generally not done. It's not successful," agency spokesman David Akerly said of appeals. "The referee had signed off on this. It's highly unlikely you're going to get that changed or overturned. It's just not the norm."
The department has defended its work in the Greene case. Officials disclosed Friday that caseworkers first tried to file the petition on Nov. 15 but court was closed. It was subsequently rejected because of minor errors before finally being accepted on Nov. 21, two days before the hearing.
"We will continue to investigate our own involvement with this case in its entirety, by way of a comprehensive review by our Office of Family Advocate," director Maura Corrigan said.
Semeria Greene, 26, is being held in jail without bond. She faces life in prison without parole if convicted of felony murder, the equivalent of first-degree murder.