Documents: Tulalip mom left kids 'covered in feces' for days

Documents: Tulalip mom left kids 'covered in feces' for days »Play Video
Christina Carlson (right), shrouded in a red blanket, is comforted by her attorney during an October court hearing.
SEATTLE -- Social workers closed a child-abuse investigation of a Tulalip woman just weeks before her toddler turned up dead, and now state officials are answering questions about why they didn't do more when they had a chance.

Just as she's done before, Christina Carlson hid her face in tribal court on Monday. The Tulalip woman is accused of severely neglecting her daughters, to the point where her 18-month old died.

According to newly uncovered documents, Carlson is accused of leaving her kids strapped in car seats inside her car for days. The children were allegedly malnourished, severely dehydrated and "covered in feces."

The confidential case file also details how social workers had been alerted to the problems but were unable to act.

"We investigate as long as we can and as long as it seems reasonable, but in this case there were no leads," said Chris Case with the Department of Social and Health Services.

The state first got word of Carlson when the kids' grandmother told social workers Carlson "would drink alcohol and leave her children in the playpen." She also said Carlson didn't give the kids food or medical treatment for their lice and sores.

Carlson met with Child Protective Services once, but only after she cleaned her house and her kids. Then she disappeared, according to the state. Social workers spent months trying to reach her and even went as far as calling her relatives.

"If you can't find them after six months, you're probably not going to find them again," Case said. "So we had just determined to close the investigation when she was found, and tragically found."

According to her case file, Carlson had four other children removed from her home prior to her daughter's death.

Social workers now say they wish they could have done more for the last two kids.

"My heart goes out to these children and that family," Case said. "We did everything we should do. But I don't know if you can ever do as much as you could do."

It's unclear if Carlson's case will remain in the tribal court system. The trial could be taken on by the Snohomish County prosecutor or the U.S. Attorney's Office. She remains behind bars and her second daughter has been placed in protective custody.