BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Scorpio Sharp was born prematurely in the summer of 2019. And his death, just six months later, of course, was also premature.
A trail of state records that 9 Investigates reviewed leads back to missteps within the Florida Department of Children and Families in the weeks before his untimely death.
On Saturday, February 15, 2020 Titusville Police responded to a call about an unattended child wandering in traffic. When police arrived, they were unable to identify the child, but canvassed the neighborhood and went door to door at a nearby motel, in hopes of locating someone who would recognize the child.
When they got to one room, the door was slightly open, according to the responding officer. Inside, police say they found a woman passed out in the bed, she had been left there to care for the children by their mother, Roxanne Raphael, who told police she had gone to the store. Also, inside of that hotel room was that child’s younger brother, 6-month-old Scorpio.
Raphael was arrested that day and has since been charged with child neglect. Her case is awaiting trial. Raphael’s children were placed with 25-year-old Ricky Tubbs, who was familiar with the family. Tubbs told Brevard County investigators that one of Raphael’s daughters called the day her mom was arrested and asked if she and her siblings could stay with her.
On March 1, Brevard County sheriff’s deputies were on patrol when they found three children wandering, again. This time, it was Tubbs’ two children and Scorpio Sharp’s 4-year-old sister. The deputies, with the help of neighbors, realized the children had made their way out of a nearby apartment complex. Tubbs had left the three children, along with 6-month old Scorpio Sharp with her stepdad.
When deputies arrived at the apartment, records show they found Tubbs’ mother, Tanya Galvin, passed out in the apartment. Scorpio was found unresponsive in a plastic container inside of a closet, according to law enforcement records.
“The only reason I was not back here is because we drank and we were in Daytona and we didn’t want to drive all the way from Daytona here drunk,” Tubbs told Brevard County detectives during an interview at the scene, while she sat in the back of a patrol cruiser. “And I just knew that the kids were fine.”
9-Investigates obtained two interviews Tubbs did with investigators and another interview with the DCF Child Protective Investigator who was assigned to oversee the Sharp children’s case after their mother’s arrest. Tubbs told investigators her stepdad called around 4:30 a.m., the morning of March 1, to let her know he was leaving for work. Tubbs told investigators during that recorded interview that she was in a dead sleep when she got the call from a detective.
Facebook videos provided to 9 Investigates as part of a public records request show Tubbs partying in what appears to be a hookah lounge with friends. For more than an hour, in one interview, detectives ask Tubbs about whether she believes her mother intentionally harmed little Scorpio. Initially, she states repeatedly that she didn’t think her mother was capable of that. And then she described a vendetta her mom has had against her. “My mom always had a vendetta against me, so maybe she tried to do something to try to get me in trouble,” Tubbs told detectives.
9-Investigates requested and reviewed the child’s DCF case file. A special review of Sharp’s case after his death shows a longtime DCF child protective investigator placed Scorpio in Tubbs’ care, even though she seemed to have concerns. The CPI said she performed a required home study, which includes a background check on the caregiver and anyone else who would have contact with the children, in this case, Tubbs’ stepdad. A financial review showed Tubbs had only $100 left each month after car, insurance and cell phone bills were paid.
The home study also requires the potential caregiver to answer a long list of questions. The CPI noted no immediate disqualifying factors for Tubbs and her willingness to care for the children. During an interview 9 Investigates listened to, she expresses reservations.
“I said, ‘Well you already have two children of your own’ and she says, ‘You know, I can do this.’ And I said, ‘Because that seems like that’s a little overwhelming for you to get these three kids on top of your two kids.’ And I did discuss that with her, and she said no, it’s not a problem,” Barbara Smith, the CPI, explained during the interview.
Smith also told Brevard County deputies that she never actually met Tubbs’ stepdad, and relied on personal information provided to her by Tubbs to run his required background check because he was out of the country at the time. And Smith told investigators she didn’t have the required home study paperwork with her at the time she performed the home study, which means she filled out that documentation 9 Investigates reviewed when she returned to her office, after the visit.
And the DCF worker took Tubbs’ at her word when she said her mother, Tanya Galvin, didn’t live in the home, with her and her stepdad. Court records 9-Investigators found within minutes show Galvin had a previous warrant for violation of probation, and her address was listed as that apartment where the newborn died. The probation officer’s notes show Galvin moved six days after little Scorpio’s death.
And DCF had a previous case for Tubbs’ children because they were found wandering in the neighborhood, even prior to Scorpio’s death. Investigators asked Smith if she ever discussed Galvin or whether she would be caring for the Sharp children along with Ricky Tubbs.
“Ms. Galvin was not discussed, because the way Ricky talked, I had no reason to believe that she had any contact with her,” Smith said.
Tanya Galvin is also charged with aggravated manslaughter and, like Tubbs, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
A seven-page special review of Sharp’s death reveals DCF missed three opportunities to remove the infant from the home where they placed him before he was found dead in a plastic container. The child protective investigator who placed him with 25-year-old Ricky Tubbs, who had two toddlers of her own, has been with the agency 15 years.
“My job is to go out and assess abandonment, abuse and neglect. The supervisor gave me the case because it was a difficult case,” Smith told investigators.
The CPI and her supervisor made the decision to shelter Scorpio and his two sisters with Tubbs because their mother was arrested for child neglect. DCF found during its special review that the decision to approve this home study and utilize Tubbs as a placement should have been further explored, based upon her pattern of decision-making as a parent.
“I had a concern with that, so when we went out there, my supervisor and I went out there, I said, ‘This is a lot on you,’ and she says, ‘Yes, but I can do this,’” Smith told investigators again during a recorded interview 9 Investigates obtained through a public records request.
That home study the CPI and supervisor approved failed to consider the recent investigations concerning Ms. Tubbs due to her leaving her children in the care of her mother, Tanya Galvin, the records show.
Galvin was passed out on the couch when deputies found little Scorpio unresponsive in a plastic container, with cocaine and marijuana in the house. Tubbs’ small children and Scorpio’s sister had wandered out of the apartment, Tubbs had spent the night out partying.
“Ya’ll don’t understand how I’m feeling right now...I’m angry, for one thing,” Tubbs told detectives, insisting that the other children in the home couldn’t have placed the infant in the plastic container.
DCF sites three opportunities when its staff could’ve made a decision to move Scorpio and his sister prior to his death: twice during internal meetings and again during a shelter hearing.
During interviews, staff members expressed they feel pressure to utilize alternative placements in order to prevent children from entering foster care. Smith said Tubbs told her that her mom did not reside in the home. Tubbs’ herself, as a child, had been in and out of foster care, according to DCF records and the investigator said she was aware that it was because of Galvin’s substance abuse history.
Still, she said, she felt Tubbs was a qualified caregiver for Sharp and his sister. “You were also aware that her child had gotten out of the home and was found wandering in August of 2019 were you aware of that?” the Investigator asked Smith. She replied, “Yes.”
9 Investigates is waiting to find out from DCF whether any of the employees involved with Scorpio’s case were disciplined.