By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn, a 15-month-old EBCI tribal member, was pronounced dead at the Cherokee Indian Hospital on the morning of Jan. 10, 2011. Now, more than six years later, a Department of Social Services official has been sentenced after ordering the falsification of records following Littlejohn’s death.
Candice Lassiter, 34, former Swain County DSS supervisor, was sentenced in Swain Co. Superior Court by Judge William H. Coward on Monday, March 20 after pleading guilty to felony forgery charges. As part of the plea, the six to eight month sentence was suspended, and she was placed on 24 months of unsupervised probation. Lassiter will also have to pay $3.632.30 in court costs.
Per the plea agreement included in court documents filed in her sentencing, three counts of Obstruction of Justice were dismissed and “the three counts of Attempted Common Law Forgery will be consolidated into one Class 1 Judgment”.
According to the Findings of Fact in the case, “On April 15, 2013, the Defendant (Lassiter) entered a guilty plea before Honorable James Downs and judgment was continued from term to term.”
A year later, through counsel, Lassiter filed a Motion to Withdraw Plea which was eventually denied by Judge Alan Thornburg.
Lassiter’s subordinate at Swain Co. DSS, Craig Smith, was sentenced on federal forgery charges in May 2015 after pleading guilty to three counts of Attempted Common Law Forgery. As with Lassiter, three counts of Obstruction of Justice were dropped. His four to five month sentence was suspended, and he was placed on 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
Lassiter was Smith’s supervisor at the time of incidents leading up to Littlejohn’s death. As a result of an investigation into a possible cover-up in the case, Swain County DSS offices were raided on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 and computers and records were seized.
According to court papers filed at the time, Smith documented that he placed a phone call on Sept. 24, 2010 to Cherokee Indian Hospital and spoke with a doctor regarding a visit following a fall by Aubrey.
According to the court papers, Swain County Sheriff’s Department Detective Carolyn Posey and Daniel Cheatham, the private investigator hired by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to aid in the investigation, formally interviewed the doctor in Smith’s report who told them that she had never had a phone conversation with Smith and had never seen nor examined Aubrey Littlejohn.
The court papers state that the investigators approached Smith with evidence of the “non-existent telephone” call and he admitted to making it up.
Smith also related that “he had documented that false conversation because he was instructed to do so by his supervisor Social Worker Supervisor Candice Lassiter” who allegedly gave Smith a handwritten note on what to include in the narrative.
Lady Bird Powell, Littlejohn’s aunt, pleaded guilty to several charges https://www.theonefeather.com/2013/02/powell-pleads-guilty-in-littlejohn-case/, including involuntary manslaughter, in the death of the toddler who was under her care at the time. Powell made her plea in Swain Superior Court on Feb. 18, 2013 and was sentenced to at least nine years in prison by Judge James Downs. She also pleaded guilty to extortion, possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts of felony child abuse.