Published On: Tue, Jul 3rd, 2012

Social Worker reinstated despite pending charges

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

     A Swain County DSS social worker facing several grand jury indictments has been reinstated after a four-month investigative status leave. 

     Candice Lassister, who was indicted in February on charges relating to an alleged cover-up of the incidents leading up to the tragic death in 2011 of EBCI tribal member Aubrey Littlejohn, is back on the job according to a press release from the Swain County DSS dated Tuesday, June 26. 

     “We have determined that there is no credible evidence available to us at this time which indicated Ms. Lassiter falsified or directed the falsification of any reports, or that she attempted to mislead the Swain County Sheriff’s Department of State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) in any way,” Robert White, Swain County Social Service Board chairman, said in a statement.  “To date, the SBI and Swain County District Attorney have not provided to us any evidence to justify continuing Ms. Lassiter on administrative leave.” 

     He went on to say that their office is required to reinstate Lassister according to Section 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Handbook. 

     Lassister was indicted in February by a grand jury and charged with three counts of Obstruction of Justice and three counts of Forgery.  She was also named in a civil suit filed on Wednesday, June 6 by a personal representative of the estate of Aubrey Littlejohn. 

     According to the civil complaint, it was filed “for the wrongful death of Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn, based on the acts and omissions, negligence, gross negligence, and systematic conduct of the Swain County Department of Social Services, by and through its employees and agents, the independent negligence of SCDSS, and the individual acts and omissions of some of the individual defendants.”

     White related in his statement, “She has never been charged with abuse of a child or with the death of a child.  She is the mother of an eight-month-old son.  We are aware there is a civil action filed against Ms. Lassiter.  Please note that a civil action is not a criminal indictment.” 

     Littlejohn was pronounced dead on Jan. 10, 2011 at the Cherokee Indian Hospital.  The autopsy findings, released in May 2011, states the cause of death as “Undetermined Sudden Death”. 

     It is important to remember that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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