DHS to pay $1.1 million in death of Keizer boy

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) will pay $1.1 million in compensation related to the death of a Keizer 12-year-old in January 2017. 

Caden Berry was strangled to death by his mother, Amy Robertson, in their apartment in south Keizer and the DHS and a tort claim filed on his behalf alleged DHS failed to act on information relating to Robertson’s mental state in the lead up to Caden’s death. DHS is admitting no wrongdoing in the matter, but an 2017 internal review of the case by DHS officials found, “Staff turnover, along with high caseloads and heavy workload demands, decrease the ability of the Department to provide effective child protection and ultimately decrease the ability to ensure child safety.”

The details of what DHS knew and when they knew it have stayed sealed. 

A third of the settlement, roughly $368,000, will go to attorney David Kramer of Salem. The remainder will be put into trusts for Caden’s two surviving half-brothers. 

In court documents, Timothy Wood, the court-appointed representative for Berry and a former attorney, stated that he felt strongly that a jury would find DHS liable in Caden’s death “it would have been unreasonable to decline the proposed settlement and gamble that a jury would have awarded significantly more.”

The same documents cite DHS records showing Robertson was abusive to one of Caden’s half-brothers and had “a history of unemployment, mental illness, suicide ideation and a forgery in the second degree.” Robertson allegedly let Caden smoke marijuana regularly with her permission. 

Robertson was found unfit to stand trial after Caden’s death and is currently being held at the Oregon State hospital. Berry’s biological father was incarcerated at the time of his death and since released.