Leo's Story

Our family believes Leo’s death represents a failure of Indiana’s legal system. We tried everything in our power to keep Leo and his siblings safe, but our concerns fell on deaf ears.

Here’s how it started: In May 2023, concerned for the safety and well-being of Leo and his two younger siblings, Leo’s grandmother Sherri and aunt Kristi petitioned for emergency guardianship of the children. Family members had made numerous reports to the Department of Children and Family Services, including a substantiated sexual abuse claim against Leo’s father Joseph, filed with Indiana State Police and referred to prosecution. Ultimately, this sexual abuse claim landed in juvenile court even though Joseph was an adult when the alleged abuse took place, according to the report. 

Despite these serious concerns, Leo and his siblings were left in the custody of their father and his girlfriend, with little oversight. On Aug. 2, 2023, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) was assigned to investigate the abuse allegations and the children's safety. Our understanding is, after conducting interviews via pre-arranged video call, and without any in-person visit or home inspection, the GAL ultimately reported to the courts on Oct. 3, 2023, that they didn't find any reason to remove the children from their father's custody. Our family found the GAL’s findings inaccurate and problematic, but we hit a roadblock when it came to cross-examination—the GAL accepted an appointment as a judge, and the only recourse we had was to request another GAL and a second investigation, at our own expense of $250 an hour. Attorneys told us there wasn’t much hope of winning custody without a strong GAL report; with mounting legal fees and feeling discouraged, Sherri and Kristi said they would be willing to dismiss if they would consider grandparent visits.

Nearly three months later, Leo is dead after unspeakable abuse.

On Dec. 29, Louisiana DCFS contacted Sherri with heartbreaking news: Leo had been life-flighted to the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. On life support, he showed no signs of brain activity. Joseph and his girlfriend had been arrested for alleged abuse. Devastated, Sherri and Kristi got on the next flight to New Orleans to be with Leo. After arriving, the family learned the extent of Leo’s injuries: he sustained three brain bleeds, injuries to his abdomen and more than 50 loop marks on his body. He also appeared to have several bruises, cuts, a puncture wound, burn marks and more. Sadly, Leo was declared dead on December 31, 2023.

Leo's Voice will be heard!

In the aftermath of this tragedy, we have several objectives we want to achieve, but we can't do them without financial support from friends and family. Here is how your donations are being used:

  • Transport Leo back to Indiana for a funeral with his loving family

    Thanks to all who have so generously donated, we raised enough to cover the cost of Leo's funeral and were able to have a beautiful service. We are so grateful for your support!

  • Establish Gurdianship of Leo's Siblings

    Our main priority now is to get guardianship of Leo’s two younger siblings and bring them back home to be in our loving arms again.

    Guardianship Update 1:

    Temporary emergency guardianship was granted in Indiana on 1/19, with another hearing for permanent guardianship scheduled for 1/31 @ 1:30 PM

    Guardianship Update 2:

    Although emergency guardianship was ordered by the court in Indiana, we must still go to the next hearing in [redacted] (1/29) to find out if we will get the children then, or if we will be required to go through the ICPC process, which could take from weeks to months to complete.

    Our need for donations continues as the guardianship situation in [redacted] is not yet resolved. Donations will be used to cover travel expenses to/from [redacted] as well as possible legal fees that may arise if [redacted] ends up requiring the ICPC process.

  • Establish an advocacy group dedicated to legislative change

    Leo's ordeal was harrowing - no child should suffer similarly. Implementing straightforward reforms can prevent such occurrences. Our plan is to establish a 501(c)(3) that will work with the community to change the law to make the legal system work better for all children. While it is too late for Leo and countless other children, each one of their stories hold valuable lessons and insights that needs to be examined to identify and fix the points of failure in the system.

We acted within our legal limits to protect the children, yet existing laws favor parental rights over the safety of potentially endangered children. Leo, unable to advocate for himself, and his aunt and grandmother, found their voices silenced, but with community support they can amplify Leo's Voice to champion the rights of other children.

Donate Now



You can make cash/check donations to Leo's memorial fund at any Old National Bank location. Just reference "Leo's Voice".