Local

25 Investigates: Fitchburg mom wants answers after sudden death of daughter in DCF custody

FITCHBURG, Mass. — A Fitchburg mother tells 25 Investigates she’s desperate for answers after the sudden death of her 12-year-old daughter.

As 25 Investigates first reported last week Syeisha Nicolas lived in a group home and was in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) when she died on September 3rd.

According to her mom, Taisha Deris, Syeisha had a seizure disorder. Deris says she had a seizure the night before she died, was taken to the hospital, discharged back to the group home she was living in and within hours of being sent home from the hospital, she was dead.

“She was a very happy child. She was very energetic,” Taisha Deris told Boston 25 News.

Deris shared a cell phone video with anchor and investigative reporter, Kerry Kavanaugh which she says was taken Thursday, September 1st. It shows Syeisha playing and laughing with her sister. Deris says she took the video during a scheduled visitation through DCF. This would be the last time she’d see Syeisha alive.

“She was doing fine. She was playing,” Deris said. “So, for this to happen like this, it’s still unbelievable.”

Both Syeisha and her 10-year-old sister were in temporary DCF custody. 25 Investigates met with Deris at the Fitchburg courthouse where she had a pre-scheduled DCF hearing Wednesday, September 14th.

Deris says since November of 2021, DCF has been investigating allegations of medical neglect and sexual abuse involving the girls’ stepfather. The couple denies all allegations, but as a result, Syeisha was at the LUK Crisis Center, a group home in Fitchburg that cares for kids in DCF custody. Her sister, whom we’re not identifying due to the allegations still being investigated, is staying in foster homes, according to Deris.

Deris also says Syeisha suffered from epileptic seizures. And that brings us to the day after that final visit, Friday, September 2nd. Police records obtained by 25 Investigates show a 911 call came from the LUK Crisis Center at 6:39 pm for “a female seizing” described as “conscious and alert.”

Records show first responders took the female patient to UMass Memorial Health Healthalliance - Clinton Hospital, in Leominster. 25 Investigates has learned Syeisha was discharged back to the LUK Crisis Center, a non-medical facility, later that night.

The following morning, Saturday, September 3rd, there was another 911 call. Police records show this time the call was for someone “unresponsive, not breathing.”

“They called me Saturday to tell me telling me my daughter was deceased,” Deris said. “I want to know how she died. Not only that, usually when she goes to the hospital they keep her.  I want to know why was it that specific night, they didn’t keep her. Is it something behind the hospital or in the home that she was in,” Deris said.

25 Investigates contacted UMass Memorial Health in Leominster to ask why Syeisha was discharged and not kept for further evaluation. A spokesperson wouldn’t confirm or deny anything citing HIPPA laws.

We also contacted LUK Inc. about what happened in the hours before the 12-year-old’s death. A public relations firm shared a statement from Beth Barto, CEO LUK, Inc.

“The entire LUK organization is devastated by the recent passing of a beautiful child at one of our programs. Our heartfelt thoughts and sympathies are with the child’s family. LUK has been working closely with authorities and has been providing support to the employees who cared for this child. Due to privacy laws, we are unable to provide any medical or personal information. We appreciate the community’s support during this difficult time.”

“I know I’m not going to be able to hug her anymore. I’m not gonna be able to kiss her anymore,” Deris said. “I still feel like I’m in a nightmare because this….this is crazy.”

Deris tells 25 Investigates since Syeisha’s death, she’s had limited communication with DCF. The department would also not comment on Syeisha’s case, citing privacy laws.

“The word that they’re (DCF) telling me, I don’t want to hear it. The word ‘sorry.’ What I need is more information and why she wasn’t kept at the hospital that night,” Deris said.

As for the exact cause of death, Deris says investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy which will take three months.

DCF continues to have temporary custody of Deris’s -10-year-old daughter. Their care and protection case is back in court in December.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW