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Sara's Story

I am Colleen Calcote, great-aunt to Sara LeeAnn Tibbetts. First, I must inform you that the following story is what I and my family believe to be the true events. To date, we have not been able to find any legal representation to help us prove that the there was negligence on the part of DFS, even though the facts and events speak clearly for themselves. Having said this, please read Sara's story, and decide for yourself. Sara was beaten to death on March 16, 2000 by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. The purpose of this letter is to notify you of the atrocities done to Sara by not only her mother, but also by the state of Missouri’s Division of Family Services.

Sara LeeAnn Tibbetts was born on July 7, 1996 in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. She lived there with her single mother, Tommi L. Tibbetts until she was six months old. At that time, Sara and her mother moved to the home of Tom and Debby Hall, Tommi’s mother and stepfather, on their farm in Blackwater, Missouri. Tom and Debby Hall had raised Tommi for the majority of her life, with no support or assistance from Tommi’s biological father, Tom Tibbetts. During her teenage years she had on or two emotional disorders, which she compounded by assisting in a robbery, for which she was placed on probation. Tommi Tibbetts also had problems dealing with reality at times, making up outrageous stories about her family and siblings. Tom and Debby Hall were very supportive of Tommi during the troubled times, and helped her seek counseling to straighten up her life. It appeared to have worked. For the next two and one half years, the entire family lived a very normal, happy life. Sara loved her grandparents deeply, they were a very significant part of her family. Tom and Debby Hall were always there for Tommi Tibbetts. When she became pregnant again, and gave birth to another daughter, Marla Christine Tibbetts, out of wedlock in 1998, Tom and Debby Hall helped her purchase a mobile home, which they parked on a section of their farm. They set her up with all her utilities, built a road so she would have private access to her home, and made certain their beloved granddaughters were well provided for. Tom and Debby Hall were a very large part of their granddaughter’s lives, as Debby took care of the girls while their mother worked in Columbia, Missouri.

Tragically, around December, 2000, Tommi Tibbetts underwent an unexplainable change in behavior. At this same time, she began secretly dating a man she had met where she worked in Columbia. His name was Daniel L. Collis. He had recently been paroled from prison. Daniel had an enormous influence on Tommi L. Tibbetts. Where before she had been a fairly good mother, she now exhibited signs of restlessness, and mood swings. Then, in January, 2000, Tommi packed up a few of her and the girl’s belongings and in the company of Daniel L. Collis, moved out of their home in the middle of the night, without any notice or explanation to Tom and Debby Hall. Tommi, Daniel, and the two baby girls wandered around, contacting no one, until they decided to settle in Belle, Missouri, where Tommi’s biological father, Tom Tibbetts lived. She became delusional about the reality of her childhood, and imagined horrible events that had never happened. I believe she was encouraged to believe and tell these vicious lies by her biological father, Tom Tibbets, who is a “Reverend” of the Hardcore International Ministries. I also found out that at this time, she started abusing methamphetamines, which was also the drug Daniel L. Collis used. Things got out of control. Tommi finally contacted her mother, Debby Hall, around the first of February, 2000, telling her “she had lost control while taking drugs and whipped Sara really hard”. She agreed to let Debby and Tom Hall keep the girls “while she got her life together”. Tommi dropped the two girls, Sara and Marla, off at her ex-sister-in-laws, Shannon Tibbetts, who lives in Boonesborough, Missouri, with instructions to take them to Tom and Debby Hall in a few days, “after the bruises” on poor little Sara’s face and body had faded some. When Debby found out her granddaughters were at Shannon’s home, she insisted that she be allowed to pick them up. When she picked up the two girls, she discovered Sara had large bruises on her head, face, and body, and had apparently been beaten so severely she couldn’t sit or bend over because it was too painful. Debby immediately took Sara to Columbia University Hospital, where Sara was examined by emergency room staff. Doctors confirmed and documented that Sara had been brutally abused. Debby Hall hotlined the incident to DFS. Howard County Children’s Services took the report. Debby told them that her daughter, Tommi L. Tibbetts had admitted to the abuse, and that she, Debby Hall, felt the girls would be in danger if returned to their mother. At that time, the social worker told Debby that she felt comfortable releasing the girls into the care of Debby and Tom Hall while an investigation was done. Debby was told by the social worker that if the mother, Tommi L. Tibbetts, tried to take the girls, to call DFS,or sheriffs department in Cooper County, to have the mother stopped. Sara, who was before a happy, loving little girl, was now afraid of all men except for her grandfather, Tom Hall. Also, due to some trauma we will never know the extent of, Sara became hysterical anytime she was asked to take a bath. Debby gave her sponge bathes, due to Sara’s intense fear of being placed in a bathtub. After a week, Sara began opening up to her grandparents, constantly seeking shows of love, and affection, which Debby and Tom Hall were very willing and happy to shower her with. Her trust around people was returning.

Then, on February 14, 2000, Debby received a call from Tommi Tibbetts, saying that she and her father, the “Reverend” Tom Tibbetts, were coming to get the girls to take them home. Debby begged them to reconsider, to wait until Tommi L. Tibbetts had undergone some type of treatment for her escalating drug abuse, but they refused to wait, and said they would be there that day. Debby immediately contacted Howard County Children’s Services, Cooper County Children Services, and Cooper County Sheriffs Department, advising them of the situation, and requesting their help. All three agencies refused to help, in fact, they told Debby Hall that she would be arrested if she tried to prevent Tommi Tibbetts from taking her daughters. When “Reverend” Tom Tibbetts and Tommi Tibbetts arrived at the Hall home, Debby again pleaded with them to reconsider. They refused, and proceeded to load up the rest of Tommi’s belongings, along with furniture the family had loaned her for her use until she could afford her own. “Reverend” Tom Tibbetts told Debby Hall that he gave his “word” that he would constantly supervise Tommi and the two girls, as he was in fact living in the same house with them. He swore an oath that Daniel L. Collis was no longer in the area, ( which we found out two days later was a lie, as Daniel was still in fact living in the same home with them in Belle) and that he would not allow any harm to come to either of the two baby girls. Little Sara cried, and clung to her grandmother, begging her to ”let me stay with you, Maw-ma, don’t make me go, me stay here with you and Pawpaw!” Those were the last words Debby Hall was to ever hear her granddaughter Sara speak. Laughing at Sara’s tears and pleas, Tommi Tibbetts and “Reverend” Tom Tibbetts forced Sara to leave with them.

After they left, Debby Hall contacted several different agencies, including but not limited to Cooper Co. Children Services, Maries Co. Children Services, Howard Co. Children Services, and Boone Co. Children Services, repeatedly asking about the investigation into Sara’s documented abuse, and begging them to please make unannounced visits to the Belle home of Tommi Tibbetts, Daniel Collis, “Reverend” Tom Tibbetts, and her two granddaughters, Sara and Marla. These calls were repeated numerous times over the next month, to no avail. Only one, pre announced visit was ever made to the home. No investigation was ever done. Upstairs neighbors made numerous complaints to their landlord, because of repeated sounds of fighting and violence they heard coming from the Tibbetts/Collis home. Strangely, no calls were made by these neighbors or the landlord to report the sounds of violence and fighting coming from the Tibbetts home, located directly below their home in the same house. On March 16, 2000, at approximately 6:30 p.m., Debby Hall finally received a phone call from Tommi Tibbetts, stating that the girls missed her and their grandfather, and that they were “fine”. Debby was not allowed to speak with Sara, as Tommi said the girls were at home with Daniel Collis, and she was using a pay phone. Tommi ended the call after voicing delusional accusations against Tom and Debby Hall. Then, around 7:00 p.m., Debby Hall received a hysterical call from her other daughter, Christine Tibbetts, who resides in Rolla, Missouri. Christine was at Phelps County Regional Medical Center, where precious little 3 year old Sara L. Tibbetts had just been pronounced dead on arrival. The upstairs neighbors who had before complained of sounds of violence coming from the Tibbetts home, called 911 when they heard Daniel Collis calling for help. Sara was observed lying on the ground in their backyard, with her mother supposedly kneeling beside her. Upon arrival of the paramedics, it was obvious to them that abuse was involved. The Missouri Highway Patrol was notified, and Sgt. Roarke was assigned to the investigation. He interviewed Tommi Tibbetts and Daniel Collis, who both stated that they were the only persons besides 1 year old Marla, Sara’s little sister, in the house for at least four hours prior to the 911 call. Sgt. Roarke also stated in his affidavit that his examination of Sara in the emergency room showed the child had numerous bruises covering most of her face and body. An autopsy was ordered, and preformed by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Case, which revealed that cause of death was “loss of blood resulting from abdominal tearing of tissue in the abdominal cavity”. She reported a large number of external injuries on Sara’s body and face, plus massive internal injuries to the abdomen and chest, and described the injuries as resembling fingertip marks, which are actually caused by knuckles. Dr. Case stated these injuries were “non-accidental and inflicted”. Dr. Case found over fifteen tears in Sara’s abdominal cavity, also there were tears found around the small bowel. Bruises found on Sara’s head, face, pelvis, and back were documented, some of these were “old” bruises, according to Dr. Case, inflicted up to two days prior to Sara’s death. Both Tommi L. Tibbetts and Daniel L. Collis are being held in Pulaski County jail on charges of second degree murder and class A felony child abuse in connection with Sara’s death.

As if this in not horrifying enough, our family found out several days after the murder, that (1) Both Tommi Tibbetts and Daniel Collis had warrants out for their arrest prior to and at the time of the murder. Tibbetts had a warrant from Johnson County, Kansas, for probation violation, and Daniel Collis a Missouri warrant issued for parole violation. (2) On March 14, 2000, Eugene Jones, owner of Southside Laundromat in Belle, MO found that the business had been broken into and burglarized. He checked security cameras on the premises, then turned the video tapes over to the Belle Missouri Police Department, in care of Officer Marshall McKinnon. This tape clearly showed the burglary being committed by Tommi Tibbets and Daniel Collis, while the two little girls were with them, watching. McKinnon testified at the preliminary hearing that when he viewed the tape, he recognized Tommi Tibbetts, but had never seen Colllis before. McKinnon was aqauinted with Tom Tibbetts and his family, long time residents of Belle, MO. When asked why an immediate arrest was not made, McKinnon sated he was “still investigating, talking to the prosecutor, etc.”

I am seeking an investigation into all the factors that contributed to little Sara’s brutal murder. Her unheard voice cries out for justice to be done. The various Children Services were notified she was in danger numerous times, abuse was even documented by Columbia University Hospital, family members called repeatedly asking them to check on Sara’s and Marla’s wellbeing. These pleas were ignored. The Belle police were in possession of warrants for both Tommi’s and Daniel’s arrest, which had they served those warrants, Sara would be here today. Officer Marshall McKinnon was in PHYSICAL possession of a video tape showing the two burglarizing a Belle business while accompanied by the two little girls.

WHY were they not arrested THEN, which would also have prevented Sara’s murder? There were so many chances for intervention, yet no action was taken by anyone until it was too horribly late for our beloved Sara. I feel an investigation MUST be done! How many more children will have to suffer horrible deaths from preventable abuse before these government agencies are held accountable for their non-actions? When will the “veil of immunity” be lifted, and these avoidable deaths shown the light of day?

Please investigate Sara’s story. We, her grieving family, and even little Sara are crying out for justice. Don’t let another call be ignored. We have tried lawyers, advocate groups, and countless others to get some closure for our Sara’s painful, unnecessary, horrible death. I am asking you to please look into this matter and tell me how I can avenge the mistakes made by the Children Protection Services, and the local law enforcement agencies. You can contact me at my home address, or e-mail address. Thank you for your time and patience in reading through this letter. I would also like to ask that you please sign my guestbook, which is found on the Home page. Your thoughts and comments on this tragedy would be greatly appreciated.

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