Father demands answers after Arizona boy dies days after being taken into state care


Flagstaff, Ariz. — Richard Blodgate, a single father, was in jail on drug charges when an Arizona child welfare worker delivered. TYhe news: His son was brain dead and on life support — days after being taken into state custody.

Blodgett screamed, cried and screamed some more. Jacob was her only son, a “very cute,” curious 9-year-old who loved remote control cars and video games.

Blodgett is now trying to figure out how it happened.

A medical examiner listed Jacob’s death in late December as natural with complications from diabetes. Tcondition he was diagnosed with as a child. Specifically, type 1 diabetes, which means his body couldn’t produce enough insulin to survive.

Blodgett said she suspects the Arizona Department of Child Protection failed in its duty to protect her so. Aither by not monitoring his blood sugar levels or. By not making sure Jacob had enough insulin to prevent a serious. Life-threatening complication known as ketoacidosis.

“They couldn’t save him for two weeks, two weeks,” the father told The Associated Press on a recent furlough from prison. “It’s absolutely crazy. It was my pride and joy. I finished. I am completely lost. My family is completely lost.”

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Jacob’s death. The office declined an interview request. With Sheriff Paul Penzone, citing the ongoing investigation.

The Department of Child Protection also declined to comment specifically on the case, citing privacy laws. But spokesman Darren Arizona Daronko said. In general, foster parents must receive training from a medical provider before accepting. A child with any medical condition.

DaRonco did not respond to further inquiries — including whether Jacob’s insulin pump was removed. And whether the boy’s regular doctor was consulted about his care — questions raised by Blodgate and his mother, Cheryl Doenges. They said Jacob couldn’t administer insulin on his own.

In the fiscal year that ended last June, about 26 children died while in the agency’s custody. Including overdoses, medical conditions, natural and still-undetermined causes. In the previous
fiscal year, this number was 14. The figure is about 97 deaths per 100,000 children during that period, for which the most recent data is available.

This rate is higher than the overall infant mortality rate in Arizona. Nationally, about 55 children died of all causes in the general population in 2020 per 100,000 children — similar to the number in Arizona.

Karin Kline, director of child welfare initiatives at the Family Involvement Center in Phoenix. Said the death of a child is a concern, especially if it’s in state custody.


Blodgett, who already had a pending drug case and spent time in jail, said he was operating a

backhoe most of the day and pulled into a gas station to sleep. Show Low Police Department reports support as much, but officers wrote that they suspected Blodgett was nodding off as a result of drug use.

Authorities eventually found more than 4,000 fentanyl pills in Blodgett’s possession. According to the report. Blodgett was booked into the jail in Holbrook. And charged with possession of a drug, according to Navajo County Superior Court records.

Blodgett told the AP that he was using fentanyl for pain management after losing 300 pounds through weight loss surgery.

Blodgett said. “Unfortunately, they’re illegal. I can’t get around to it. But they were stronger than my potions and they were working.”

According to police reports, Jacob was alone in the motel room when an officer picked him up and alerted the Department of Child Protection. Blodgett said someone at the motel always checked on her son, whom police confronted when she called.

He told Jacob he was in trouble, and the boy asked if his father was OK, Blodgett said. The two often traveled the vast expanses of Arizona together — taking selfies, stopping. At gas stations for snacks and playing with Nerf guns.

“The last time I got to see my son, he was already dead,” Blodgett said.

The Doenges were unable to visit Jacob at the Washington state hospital due to bad weather. But he asked a friend in Arizona to sit with Jacob, pray with him and play music for him so he wasn’t alone — even if he didn’t know she was there.

Released from jail, Blodgett arranged to drive to Phoenix, a three-hour drive to see B

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