On January 10, 2019, Dylan James Groves was born. 153 days later, he was found dead at the bottom of a well two miles from his home in Otway, Ohio.
Where to begin?
Because he was born with illicit drugs in his system, Dylan was removed from the custody of his parents, Jessica Groves (age 39) and Daniel A. Groves (age 41) and placed into the custody of Scioto County Children’s Services.
Lorra Fuller, the Director of Scioto County Children’s Services, told the Columbus Dispatch that after Dylan’s father, Daniel, completed several requirements, Dylan remained in the custody of her agency, but he was placed with his father on a temporary trial basis through its family reunification process. She did not give the date Dylan was given back to Daniel, citing potential damage to the investigation if she did so; however, later reports show the baby was removed from his parents’ custody on January 17 and returned to them on January 28. Daniel was initially compliant with all of the requirements Children’s Services set, but, soon afterward, he began skipping court dates, home visits, and doctor appointments.
Children’s Services, unsuccessful in contacting or locating Daniel and Dylan, contacted the sheriff’s office on May 3. Deputies went to the Groves’ trailer home at 2241 Mount Hope Road in Otway, but no one answered their attempts to contact the family. When they returned several times over the next few weeks, they got the same result.
On May 20, however, when they made another visit to the home, authorities found Daniel and Jessica riding a four-wheeler. After a pursuit, the couple escaped into a wooded area.
Sufficiently concerned and with plenty of probable cause, detectives obtained a search warrant, which they executed on June 10. They were able to take Jessica into custody immediately, but Daniel barricaded himself inside the trailer. During the six hour standoff that ensued, during which the State Highway Patrol’s Special Response Team joined deputies at the scene, which also included a helicopter and a SWAT truck, Daniel finally surrendered without incident and was arrested.
Once in custody, according to Sheriff Mary Donini, Daniel spilled the tea: he said Dylan had been dead since late March. That’s three months the baby had been unaccounted for, for anyone not keeping score.
On June 11, investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources performed a search, complete with cadaver dogs, for Dylan. Donini said Daniel led them “on a wild goose chase,” telling them the wrong location of the body, but eventually, he gave them information that would enable them to find Dylan.
Ultimately, on the evening of June 12, the baby’s tiny, broken body was found at the bottom of a 30-foot well located on vacant property across the road from Mount Hope Bible Camp, which is about two miles from the Groves’ trailer. Fortunately, children’s summer camp had not yet started.
The next evening, a candlelight vigil was held at Faith Baptist Church in Wheelersburg, the home church of Andrea Bowling, who was Dylan’s foster mom for twelve short days after his birth. Andrea described Dylan as a sweet, loving, happy baby who would forever impact her life. “He loved being swaddled and held close, and I did that with him for 12 straight days,” Andrea reminisced with tears in her eyes. “He was just so precious and adorable. I took thousands of pictures of him in the short time I had him.” She was hoping she would eventually get him back and believes the system failed him horribly. “There need to be changes made for this system that we have. This should’ve never happened. I want Dylan’s life to have that purpose and that meaning to stop this from ever happening again.”
Andrea says the only things holding her together are the hope that this tragedy could spark positive change and her belief that she will see Dylan again. “I know he’s up there in Heaven, and I truly believe he’ll be waiting on me.”
A preliminary autopsy by Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, according to WSAZ-TV, revealed that Dylan “suffered skull fractures on both sides of his skull, a fractured left arm (broken radius, humerus and ulna), a left leg fracture, two broken left ribs, soft tissue hemorrhaging in his right chest wall and a laceration to his left arm.” Dylan’s body was sent for a full autopsy, but the results may not be known for six to eight weeks.
A grand jury found there was more than enough evidence to indict both Daniel and Jessica Groves on a buttload of charges related to Dylan’s death, including aggravated murder, murder, interference with custody (because “the child died while kept from children services”), kidnapping, endangering children, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and felonious assault.
At a court hearing on June 17, Daniel and Jessica pled not guilty to all of the charges. The colossal gall. Attorneys for both stipulated they should be held without bond. Assistant Prosecutor Julie Cook-Hutchinson said at the hearing that initial evidence indicated Jessica was the principal offender in the case; Jessica was “visibly upset” throughout the proceeding. Aw. The poor thing.
Want more proof of what a scumbag Daniel is? At the time of his arrest for his son’s murder, he was on probation for a misdemeanor theft charge, so the judge at the June 17 hearing revoked his probation. He was also simultaneously out on bond on a separate theft case that involved two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge, including grand theft. Court documents allege Daniel cut down more than two dozen trees, valued at more than $29,000, from a state forest between September 17 and November 14, 2018. He was arrested and posted a $5,000 bond on December 10, but he was not indicted on the charges until February 14 of this year.
I have to wonder if Children’s Services was aware of Daniel’s sordid legal situation when they handed the baby back to him. I’m obviously not the only one wondering, though, because on Monday, June 24, a peaceful protest took place outside the Children’s Services building in New Boston, Ohio. Community members who attended hold the belief that the agency is partially responsible for Dylan’s death and should be held accountable for placing the baby back in his father’s custody.
The Board of Scioto County Commissioners asked the Children’s Services Board to place Director Lorra Fuller on administrative leave pending a third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dylan’s death. Commissioner Bryan Davis also requested Children’s Services immediately begin a review of the case of every child currently in county custody, because he is afraid there is “another Dylan waiting in the wings.”
On June 25, Scioto County Children Services Board went into executive session to discuss Dr. Lorra Fuller possibly being placed on leave. After 3 hours of discussion, it was decided that Fuller will remain in place pending a third party review by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services that began Monday.
After the hearing, Board officials released a statement: “At this time the Executive Director, Dr. Lorra Fuller will remain in place pending the result of the 3rd party review. We will be requesting a meeting with partnering agencies to better facilitate agency relationships to help promote the better welfare of our county’s children. We as a board care very much about children in our custody and we are deeply saddened by Dylan Groves’ tragic death.”
Meanwhile, June 25 also brought about another pre-trial hearing for Daniel and Jessica, who both waived their right to a speedy trial. The next hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2019, and the final pre-trial hearing is scheduled for September 27. The murder trial itself, which is anticipated to take four days and during which the Groves will be tried as co-defendants, will begin on October 15 in front of Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Kuhn.
Remember that search warrant from June 10? Not only did that raid lead to the arrest of Daniel and Jessica and the eventual discovery of Dylan’s body, but it also resulted in at least Daniel being charged with unrelated charges of theft and receiving stolen property. Stolen items valued at $42,000 were found on the Groves property, including two four-wheelers (one of which he was apparently trying to sell on Facebook Marketplace in February), a camper, two trailers, a utility task vehicle, and a riding lawn mower. Damn. Somebody’s got sticky fingers. Too bad they weren’t sticky enough to prevent these two schmucks from throwing their baby down a goddamn well.
Dylan’s cousin Alisha Maddy told Fox19, “I think the whole situation is horrible. We knew from the moment [Jessica] was pregnant that it was going to be something awful.” She said in a prepared statement during her interview that her family was still in shock and grieving over what happened to Dylan.
“We are both disgusted and devastated by what has happened in the past week, and we wish nothing more than the ultimate punishment to be given to these sick individuals, to which we have the burden of calling family,” Alisha said.
“Jessica and Daniel were not always the people you see in the mugshots on the news. They were not always the parents of a dead baby found in a well, they were normal people like you and I,” Alisha explained. She said drugs took over their lives, which is why Dylan was born with drugs in his system. “He liked to be swaddled, held close, because he constantly had the shakes, things like that, from the addiction,” Alisha said. As for Daniel completing the reunification requirements, she added, “I can’t imagine he got clean off of what drugs he was on in 12 days. Daniel and Jessica wouldn’t really allow us to be around him.”
The family is being criticized on social media for not intervening. “People are posting, ‘Why didn’t the family do this? Why didn’t the family do that?’ But Daniel threatened us that if we show up on their property, he would either shoot us or quote, let their dogs loose,” Alisha said.
“As his family, who loved him more than anything, anyone could even imagine, do not let him be another face of a child who had the misfortune of druggie parents,” Alisha said. “So today and every day, until there is justice, my family and I will use our voice to make sure Dylan James is not forgotten.”
Botkin Funeral Homes has agreed to cover the burial if the family can get the body released to them.
For anyone curious about what the Scioto County requirements are for family unification, they seem a bit nebulous. Scioto County boasts a “Family Reunification through Recovery” court program, less formally known as drug court. Defendants who have opted into the program are all addicts or recovering addicts who have lost or are in danger of losing custody of their children. Some are ordered to attend in-patient rehab, counseling, or transitional housing; some are sentenced to jail time, which, in some cases, may be served around the defendant’s work schedule. Some less compliant participants receive community service, and some must check in with a local sheriff’s office daily. All participants in the drug court program are drug-tested at least weekly, and at each of their weekly hearings in front of the judge, they are expected to give the judge a progress report, at which point the judge hands down case-specific instructions to the parent. It is completely at the judge’s discretion when or if the defendants’ children are returned to their custody. In this case, it’s brutally obvious that Dylan being returned to his father’s custody was the worst possible thing that could have happened to him.
The Scioto Voice published the following article on June 27, detailing the timeline of Children’s Services’ interaction with the Groves family. The article reveals that Dylan has an older brother, Daniel Jr. Another interesting tidbit is what Director Lorra Fuller apparently said when asked about filing an Amber Alert, which, if true, would explain why there has been such a public outcry about having her removed from her position.
Also, I apologize that most of the images in this post were of Dylan’s hideous criminal parents; there is a dearth of images of this sweet baby boy online.
Anyone with further information on Dylan’s case should contact Detective Jodi Conkel at 740-351-1091. All calls will remain anonymous.
Click here for more of my coverage on Dylan’s case.
Sources: Portsmouth Daily Times; WXIX; WSAZ; WVAH; WCHS; WCMH; WKYT; 10TV WBNS; Fox19; The Columbus Dispatch; Justice for Dylan on Facebook