2 girls file suit against DSHS, say state ignored their abuse for years

TACOMA -- A Lewis county mother has already been convicted of abusing her daughters. Now, the girls are blaming the state.

Lawyers for the two girls filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Department of Social and Health Services, claiming DSHS knew about the neglect and abuse and failed to do anything about it.

Katie and Kristeena Auman lived in squalor on a farm with more than 100 animals, including a puppy mill.

Their mother, Theresa Hutton, apparently made Katie take care of the animals, and if she didn't do it right, Katie would be forced to sleep outside, even in the winter.

When Katie became infested with lice, her mom shaved her head and made her wear a hat. The girl was also regularly deprived of food and became so malnourished, she suffered from something called Psychosocial Dwarfism.

“This was a child who literally failed to grow,” said Steve Bulzomi, the Aumans’ attorney. “The abuse was so terrible that her body shut down, and was, essentially, the medical and psychological term, a dwarf.”

Plenty of people noticed the abuse, from other family members, to neighbors and teachers who called Child Protective Services. State investigators went to the house several times but never pulled the children.

Katie’s former school counselor, Paula Warme, said she called DSHS at least three times.

Warme said, “I was concerned but was told by investigators, `You can`t condemn people for being poor. We have to support this mother.’”

Katie finally ran away, at age 13, weighing only 60 pounds. She was found by police living in the woods.

“Police went to the her home and couldn't believe what they saw,” said Bulzomi. “Finally, DSHS acted and they took the children away, placed them with maternal aunt and brought criminal charges against Ms. Hutton.”

Hutton was convicted of criminal mistreatment of her daughter.. but the girls' lawyers now says the state is also guilty of not acting sooner and saving them from years of abuse.

A spokesman for DSHS refused to comment on the lawsuit.

The girls are apparently doing much better and living with an aunt, but still suffer from what's being described as post-traumatic stress disorder.