GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- Nearly five years ago, the burned body of 10-year-old Emani Moss was found inside a trash can in a Gwinnett County apartment complex.
Police said her father and stepmother set her on fire, hoping to make evidence of their abuse of her disappear. Before her body was burned, the girl was literally starved to death.
Eman Moss and his wife Tiffany were arrested and charged after Emani's body was found at the Coventry Pointe Apartments on November 2, 2013. At the time, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter called the death the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen.
Emani's grandmother Robin Moss has filed suit against the state Department of Family and Children's Services. The lawsuit says that caseworkers were aware of deteriorating conditions in the home, and could have stepped in sooner, possibly saving Emani's life.
According to the lawsuit, four months prior to Emani's death, in August 2013, the Department of Family and Children's Services received an anonymous call that said Emani was being neglected by her father and stepmother and "that she appeared to be thin."
The lawsuit said that DFCS did not follow up on the call, and "screened the call out 'due to having no current address and no current maltreatment.'"
In May 2012, Emani's school reported emotional and psychological neglect to DFCS after Tiffany Moss allegedly hit Emani on her back and head with a belt "because she was eating breakfast too slowly which would make her late for the bus."
Emani received treatment from the school nurse, which included an ice pack for her back.
DFCS opened an investigation in connection with this report. As part of this particular incident, a DFCS caseworker spoke to Emani, her stepmother and her teacher. No concerns were noted by the caseworker and the case was closed with no additional action being taken. The actions reported by the school were "identified as insignificant and determined to be corporal punishment."
In 2008 and early 2009, the lawsuit says DFCS was made aware by a reporter Emani may have been sexually abused when she was three years old. The report says "there was blood in Emani's underwear after picking her up from daycare but she never received any subsequent medical treatment."
Loganville attorney Mike Jones represented Robin Moss in 2013 and said that after stepmother Tiffany Moss pleaded guilty to beating Emani in 2010, the state agency returned the girl to their custody.
"She (stepmother Tiffany Moss) is on probation for five years for child abuse of that child and they place her back there anyway," Jones said in 2013. "Somebody needs to answer for that."
According to incident reports, there were indications of child abuse involving Emani dating as far back as 2004. In that year, Eman Moss was charged and convicted of battery and child cruelty for beating Emani's biological mother in the child's presence.
In 2010, Emani's teacher called police when the girl told the teacher her stepmother had spanked her with a belt. The teacher reported severe bruising on her chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs.
Then, in July 2012, two incident reports were filed when Emani attempted to run away from home. The 10-year-old told police she had been tied to a chair with two of her belts and placed in a cold shower. Police said there was never enough information to charge her father and stepmother at the time. But each of the cases was reported to DFCS.
Georgia state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), a long-time child advocate, said at the time, the case of Emani Moss was particularly disturbing due to the pattern of problems within the home setting.
"These are preventable deaths," she told 11Alive News in 2013. "We in Georgia have to change our laws. This child fatality review system, I don't believe is working effectively."
When contacted by 11Alive News, officials with DFCS said they could not comment on pending litigation.
In order to avoid the death penalty, Eman Moss accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to two counts of felony murder, two counts of first-degree child cruelty and one felony count of concealing a death. Investigators said at the time that while he helped to dispose of his daughter's body, he was likely not the main culprit in Emani's death.
Meanwhile, Emani's stepmother Tiffany Moss is expected to go to trial later this month in Gwinnett County Superior Court and faces the death penalty. She insists on representing herself in the case.