SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The mother of a 12-year-old girl who was hit and killed on Business 80 last January has sued Sacramento County and the foster home her daughter walked away from the night of her death.
The National Center for Youth Law released a statement Tuesday on the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Michele Bryant, the mother of Kendra Czekaj.
Czekaj died the night of Jan. 15, 2020, as she followed a group of other children from the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento across Business 80 near the Watt Avenue exit. Investigators said she was chasing after a 16-year-old girl who ran away from the Children’s Receiving Home when she was hit by a truck.
Bryant said she later learned her daughter had died from a Post-it note left on her front door by someone at the coroner’s office.
The lawsuit says Czekaj was suffering from mental health problems after she was sexually abused by her father while she was in his custody. She was removed from her father and stepmother’s custody in March 2019 and placed in her mother’s custody.
For months, the lawsuit says the girl struggled with severe depression and PTSD, and had to be hospitalized more than once.
“This triggered a cycle of hospitalization and placements by the County that failed to provide the stability, intensive mental health services, and family therapy Kendra desperately needed – and left Michele jumping through hoops to get her daughter back home,” the NCYL wrote in its release.
In January 2020, Czekaj was placed in the Children’s Receiving Home by the county, which had a contract with the facility.
The lawsuit says during her 11 days at the Children’s Receiving Home, the 12-year-old had been able to leave the facility 15 times unsupervised. The last time she walked away from the facility was the night of her death.
On one of those days, the lawsuit claims Czekaj told facility employees she had been lured into a vehicle by a stranger and offered marijuana in exchange for sex. The person then offered to be her “pimp.”
Over the course of five years between 2015 and 2020, Tuesday’s release says the Children’s Receiving Home submitted 16,363 missing persons reports to the Sacramento Police Department.
The lawsuit says the home, which is located “steps away” from the highway, is also in a dangerous location that puts its young clients at risk of sex trafficking and other crimes.
Back in 2017, an investigation by FOX40 uncovered a history of violations surrounding the Children’s Receiving Home. In that year alone, there had been multiple violations of children not being given their medication or not being given proper medical care, an issue also cited in Bryant’s lawsuit.
Since her daughter’s death, Bryant claims she has never been contacted by the Children’s Receiving Home.
“The people who were supposed to keep her safe are held accountable for this,” she told FOX40 days after her daughter died. “Her death is on their hands.”
Attorneys for the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento sent the following response to FOX40 Tuesday evening: