DES MOINES -- Gov. Tom Vilsack said on Monday he remains satisfied the Iowa Department of Human Services responded appropriately to complaints that 5-year-old Evelyn Miller had faced abuse or neglect before she was kidnapped and slain.
The Floyd County child disappeared from her home July 1, and was found dead in the Cedar River five days later, the victim of what authorities say is homicide.
No one has been charged in her death and abduction. But since her death, Casey Frederiksen, the live-in boyfriend of the girl's mother, has been charged with possessing more than 1,000 images of child pornography.
A joint report by the Waterloo Courier and Mason City Globe-Gazette this week quoted neighbors who reported observing drug use by Evelyn's mother and finance in the home.
But Vilsack said he hadn't seen evidence of that in the DHS reports.
"There wasn't anything in the record that I reviewed that would suggest all of the problems that have now come to light," Vilsack said. "Clearly, this was not a perfect family, but there wasn't anything to suggest that this youngster was going to be abducted or killed or was in any physical danger."
He said he isn't in a position to say whether that DHS report was complete or accurate.
"I think it was accurate at the time," Vilsack said. "Obviously, conditions over time deteriorated and, we're faced with the circumstance we're faced with today."
He said Evelyn's mother did everything DHS asked her to do, and drug tests administered in the case came back negative.
"The reports that were submitted in the Evelyn Miller situation suggested concerns expressed by family members, people who had an axe to grind, people whose credibility was a bit suspect. They were looked into," Vilsack said.
Vilsack said the reports did not hint at any allegations of child pornography that have been leveled against Frederiksen, the live-in boyfriend of Evelyn Miller's mother, Noel Miller.
"Hindsight's always, 20/20 and any time a young child is hurt, we always have to ask ourselves how can we do better the next time to make sure this doesn't happen again," Vilsack said. "And I would hope that that's what's happening, and I believe it is happening in the Department of Human Services. We're constantly trying to figure out ways to do our job better."
State Sen. Amanda Ragan, a Mason City Democrat, said she hasn't seen the report on how DHS responded to complaints in the Miller case before her death but was told the agency followed proper procedures. She said it's unlikely the question of whether DHS acted appropriately will be answered until the case is solved.
Community leaders in the Charles City and Floyd area are talking about what they can do to protect vulnerable children, Ragan said.
"I think a lot of people in the community are talking about it. We've been meeting with local people to see what we can do so we don't have another situation," she said.
Charlotte Eby can be reached at (515) 243-0138 or email@example.com.