Maeve Clifford, Destiny Jackson
Just two weeks after child protection workers returned a 15-month-old girl to her teenage parents following
a child abuse investigation, the St. Paul toddler died Tuesday morning from a blow to her torso.
Destiny Jackson's father, 18-year-old Beauford Jackson, was arrested on suspicion of murder at the
Highland Park apartment he had been sharing with the child's mother.
The toddler died from internal injuries caused by blunt force trauma to her torso, St. Paul police
say. Destiny's mother, 18-year-old Maeve Clifford, was taken into custody by police but later released.
After Destiny suffered a skull fracture in late November, she was placed in foster care. Jackson told
child protection investigators that he had accidentally dropped her, according to Maeve's mother, Mikel Clifford of St. Paul.
When authorities couldn't prove the toddler had been abused, her parents regained custody on Jan. 31,
according to police and relatives.
Jackson and Maeve Clifford, who met three years ago at an alternative St. Paul high school, had lived
together at a Sibley Manor apartment unit that Maeve Clifford had rented since early January.
When paramedics arrived at the apartment at 12:35 a.m. Tuesday, Destiny was "unresponsive," according
to a report filed by the apartment complex's security guard.
The toddler's parents were standing in the street when police arrived, and soon were taken into custody.
"The baby is in bad shape and may not make it," the guard wrote in his report, adding later: "The baby
did not live." Destiny was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital.
Asked if child protection workers had returned the toddler too soon to her parents, the grandmother
said: "Well, we're all Monday morning quarterbacks now, aren't we?"
Questions for the system
Sometime around Thanksgiving, Destiny suffered a skull fracture, according to Mikel Clifford, 66, a
"Maeve noticed the baby's head was not symmetrical," said Clifford, who visited Destiny twice while
she was in foster care. "She recovered and was in fine form from the skull fracture."
Jackson failed a polygraph test on the skull fracture, Mikel Clifford said. But her daughter supported
her boyfriend in their request to regain custody of the baby.
Susan Ault, director of Family and Children's Services for the Ramsey County Human Services Department,
said that state and federal law prohibits her from comment.
Police spokesman Tom Walsh said that, typically, a child is removed during an investigation of child
abuse or neglect. But the parents' request for custody usually is approved if no crime is proved and abuse can't be substantiated,
"I don't understand it at all," Mikel Clifford said about the baby being returned to the parents. "It's
well-documented that social service is grossly understaffed. They have too many cases and not enough people to follow them.
"They do their best and social workers have to go by the book ..."
Sharise Drown, Jackson's mother, said that authorities weren't able to prove that the skull fracture
was intentional. She defended her son Tuesday night, saying that he had recently landed a job at McDonald's and had spent
most of his free timing caring for Destiny.
"He's not a violent person and I don't believe he beat the baby," said Drown, 42, who lives near downtown
"I didn't know what happened during the whole [skull fracture] thing. But they couldn't prove he did
anything to her on purpose."
Drown said her son often shuttled back and forth between her home and Maeve Clifford's apartment, buying
wipes and caring for his daughter. "It's a good thing B.J. was around to help look after the baby, because [Maeve] was constantly
stressed out," Drown said.
She added that her son recently moved dishes and a color TV to the apartment so that Destiny could
watch cartoons. "He just received his second paycheck from McDonald's and he was doing well," she said. "He loved Destiny."
Maeve Clifford attends the AGAPE (Adolescent Girls and Parenting Education) School, a public school
program in St. Paul that helps pregnant and parenting teens stay in school and receive child care. Mikel Clifford said that
Destiny brought her much joy, but added that the little girl "never seemed that precious" to Jackson and her daughter. "She
was something to give [them] status," the grandmother said.
Staff writer Paul Gustafson and news researcher Jim Phillips contributed to this report. Curt Brown