Impact of Marcus Fiesel’s death reverberates 10 years later

Changes implemented in Butler County foster care system after 3-year-old was killed.

Even though a decade has passed since 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel was killed at the hands of his foster parents, the images of his playful grin remain indelibly carved into the memories of many who followed the horrific story in 2003.

Butler County Children Services Director William Morrison said with the development of new reporting systems, improved internal protocols and new legislative regulations, no child has died under the care of Butler County Children Services since.

“Knowledge is our most important tool,” said Morrison at a remembrance ceremony Friday for Marcus. “Knowledge comes from information and relationships. We have more knowledge today than we did 10 years ago through the systems that have been developed and the relationships that we maintain with the adults in the child’s life.”

The public first became aware of Marcus Fiesel on Aug. 15, 2003, as part of a rouse concocted by his foster parents.

The Middletown boy with autism lived with foster parents Liz and David Carroll Jr. in Union Twp., Clermont County. Liz Carroll told police that while at a park in Anderson Twp. in Hamilton County, she passed out and when she came to the 3-year-old boy was missing.

Thousands of people helped in the search for the boy.

But the Carrolls’ tale of fiction fell apart and two weeks later the pair was indicted by a Hamilton County grand jury.

The truth comes out

What actually happened, based on police investigation and trial testimony, the Carrolls and their children and foster children, live-in girlfriend Amy Baker, and the family dog went to a family reunion in Kentucky for the three days in August. Before they left, they bound Marcus in a blanket with duct tape and stuck him in a play pen inside an upstairs closet.

He had no food and no water during one of the hottest weekends of the year, when investigators believe temperatures of the closet likely exceeded 100 degrees.

The 3-year-old died either from dehydration or starvation, officials said.

Baker, according to her testimony, helped David Carroll burn the boy’s body in rural Brown County and throw the rest of his remains in the Ohio River.

Liz Carroll, 40, is currently incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. She was sentenced in February 2007 to 54 years in prison. Her term is set to expire in August 2060.

David Carroll, 39, is currently incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution. He accepted a plea deal and was sentenced in March 2007 to 16 years in prison. His term is set to expire in September 2022.

The Carrolls declined interviews with this news outlet, as well as other similar requests from other local news outlets.

Baker's charges were dismissed due to her cooperation in the investigation and testimony the led to the conviction of the Carrolls. Baker, who now goes by Amy Ramsey, was sentenced to 2 years in prison in July 2010 in Clermont County after selling prescription pills to a police informant that March.

Changes to the system

The Ohio child welfare system needed changes made for years, but it took the death of Marcus Fiesel to prompt those changes, said Gary Cates, who was in the Ohio Senate during this time.

Cates introduced legislation in the Ohio Senate while then-Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, introduced legislation in the Ohio House.

The Criminal Justice Information System was formed in Montgomery County after Marcus’ death, which was developed with the help of Cindy Carpenter, a Butler County commissioner who was the county clerk of courts in 2006. It integrates data from multiple databases and computer systems.

She said Marcus’ memory is not forgotten by the prosecutors, law enforcement and children protective services.

“His memory serves as a constant reminder to remain ever vigilant by the hundreds of us who continue to work to improve Ohio’s child welfare system,” said Carpenter.

Cates said he think the changes made by the General Assembly has prevented any similar tragedy from occurring.

“A lot of people came up with ways about making the system better,” he said. “It wasn’t about finger pointing but trying to find ways to make the system better.”

Legislation since Marcus’ death has increased the frequency of background checks performed and narrowed the intervals, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That was in addition to implementing the Rapback program in 2007 which provides notifications of subsequent criminal activity even after an initial background check.

And Morrison said if just the CJIS technology — which BCCS uses every day — was developed before Marcus’ death, he likely would have been removed from the Carroll’s care.

“We would have found out the Carrolls had contact with law enforcement about a domestic violence event weeks before Marcus’ murder,” he said. “The advent of that technology has helped save the lives of children multiple times over the last 10 years.”

As a result of Marcus Fiesel’s death, the state legislature established a “Fiesel allocation,” said Angela Terez, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The state funds are distributed to county public children services agencies to subsidize the cost of implementing foster care services.

Since state fiscal year 2012, Ohio JFS has included the Fiesel allocation in the State Child Protection Allocation that it gives to counties for child welfare purposes.

“Overall, Ohio spends more than $1 billion a year on child protective services programs,” she said.

The Ohio JFS also has an ongoing partnership with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to help find permanent homes “with stable, loving families” for children in foster care.

“Because of these and other efforts, there has been a 16 percent decrease in the number of children in foster care in Ohio since 2006,” Terez said.

An indelible tragedy

A tree is to be planted at Butler County Children Services to remember Marcus, which is the second one planted in his honor. A tree was also planted at the county facility on Fair Avenue soon after his death.

His tragic life won’t be forgotten, at least by those who were in charge of his case.

Joe Beumer was the case manager for Marcus Fiesel. He was significantly impacted by his death, but Beumer said he never wanted to leave the field of work he’s “passionate about, and it’s what I believe what I was put here to do.”

Unfortunately, Beumer said “something negative had to happen to force change.”

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