BAKERSFIELD, CALIF - As we learn more about a married couple who had two infants die in strikingly similar ways, in back to back years, many viewers have reached out to us-questioning what child welfare officials could have done to intervene.
In the 418 page police report in the Debra and Gage Roberts case, it's clear that child welfare officials knew they weren't model parents, well before two of their babies died. But it's unclear if anyone in Kern County understood the severity of the allegations in their first infant's death, until after their second baby died in a nearly identical way.
When Debra and Gage Roberts had their first child, Camden Roberts, there were immediate red flags. The baby was born with meth in his system. Records show the Kansas Department for Children and Families filed a case and requested court oversight as the pair worked with a dug endangered child program. Camden was never taken away from his parents.
But after the child's death, numerous abuse allegations came from neighbors and other witnesses, who told Topeka Detectives, to get the baby to stop crying, Gage Roberts would cut off his air supply until he passed out. One neighbor said they reported the suspected abuse, but police couldn't find any record of it.
The coroner in Kansas ruled the child's cause of death SIDS, and the manner accidental. Gage and Debra Roberts were never arrested or charged.
Debra Roberts' former foster mom called Topeka Police the day after 6-month-old Camden died, and told investigators she was deeply concerned about the couple's unborn baby. Debra Roberts was pregnant at the time. It's unknown if their second baby would've been taken away if the pair stayed in Kansas.
Reports show they got on a bus to Bakersfield in 2016. Just after giving birth at Kern Medical, a social worker spoke with Debra Roberts, who was open about her and her husband's history of drug abuse, their transient lifestyle, and having a former baby die from SIDS.
Reports show the Kern Medical social worker referred CPS to the couple because of the information shared by Debra Roberts. From then on, a CPS social worker spoke with the pair five times during the 18 days their second baby was alive. The social worker mostly counseled them on safe sleeping and drug abuse. During that time, Gage Roberts tested positive for morphine, THC, and codeine.
During the day 18 days their second child was alive, an anonymous call to CPS's hotline voiced concerns about their second baby's safety due to Gage Roberts' drug use.
While Kern County CPS was aware of the parents previous issues with drugs and unsafe sleeping, reports do not say if they knew about the child abuse allegations in Kansas. It's unknown if any of those investigators, or child welfare personnel ever contacted Kern CPS about the Roberts.
Kern County CPS, The Kansas Department for Children and Families, Topeka Police, and The Kern County District Attorney's Office all declined to comment on the case.
Officials with the Kern County Network for Children say when families move out of state, it complicates any previous allegations of child abuse and neglect-making it sometimes difficult for agencies to track the information.
Meanwhile, officials in Kansas say detectives are still investigating the death of the couple's first child.