UPDATE Advocate: Derry Dad Who Killed Self and 6-Year-Old Son Referred To DCYF 8 Times

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Preston Edmunds, 6, obituary photo

Office of the Child Advocate seeking full review of Derry boy’s death, suggests prevention services might have made a difference.

From Gov. Chris Sununu:

“The preliminary findings released today by the Office of the Child Advocate detail a tragic and potentially avoidable situation,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “Throughout the past year, I have visited those on the frontlines at the Division of Child Youth and Family who stressed the importance of voluntary and prevention services being made available. I heard their concerns and made the restoration of these services a key priority of mine this legislative session. Those proposals are making their way through the legislature, and I look forward to them reaching my desk.”


Office of the Child Advocate seeking full review of Derry boy’s death, suggests prevention services might have made a difference.

CONCORD – A 6-year-old Derry boy’s death might have been prevented if Voluntary Services existed. Moira O’Neill, Director of the Office of the Child Advocate, today announced preliminary findings of a Division of Child, Youth and Family (DCYF) records review on Preston E.  The body of the boy was found with his father’s on February 12, 2018 in what has been called a homicide-suicide. O’Neill will seek a full review of the case.

There was no open DCYF case at the time of Preston’s death. However, O’Neill found eight referrals were made to the child protection agency between February 2015 and June 2017. None met the threshold for opening a case with support services to address abuse or neglect.

The DCYF records described Preston’s father as nurturing and protective with strong parenting skills. Records also documented a man constantly asking for help managing difficult family situations. Already grieving the death of an older son, Preston’s father expressed being overwhelmed with managing family conflicts and Preston’s developing behavioral issues.

In April 2017 the father left the DCYF child protective service worker a message indicating an emergency. He said he was “not doing well” and had lost child care services. But the assessment was already completed and allegations of abuse or neglect unfounded. His requests for help were assessed as parenting strengths for keeping his children safe.

“This is a clear case of a family that could have benefited from Voluntary Services if they existed,” O’Neill stated. Voluntary services are supports for families at risk of, but not found to be abusive or neglectful. They were eliminated in New Hampshire in recent years, a key deficiency noted by an independent review of DCYF in 2016. Three bills aimed at reinstituting funding for these kinds of preventive efforts are currently before the legislature.

“We will never know what Preston’s dad was thinking when he sealed himself and his son in a room with two charcoal grills,” O’Neill said, “But if the DCYF worker had been able to open a Voluntary case for this family with ‘moderate risk’ of abuse and neglect, the outcome could have been different. Tight budgets make appropriating funds for family support services hard, but New Hampshire cannot afford this kind of family despair.” O’Neill urged lawmakers to consider carefully the legislation that would restore funding to Voluntary and prevention services.

Pursuant to NH RSA 170-G:18, the Office of the Child Advocate is an independent state agency mandated to oversee the Department of Children, Youth and Families, and to promote policies and practices that ensure the safety and wellbeing of New Hampshire children. O’Neill was appointed as the first director of the new office in January, 2018.

Moira O’Neill, Director

Office of the Child Advocate

State of New Hampshire

Concord, New Hampshire 03301

News release from the Attorney General’s Office on Feb. 13.
Autopsy Results Regarding Deaths in Derry
 Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald and Derry Police Chief Edward B. Garone announce further information regarding the on-going investigation into two deaths in Derry. The investigation to date reveals that this was a murder/suicide with Matthew Edmunds, age 39, murdering his son Preston Connor Edmunds, age 6.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. on February 12, 2018, a call came into the Derry Police Department for a welfare check at 30 Kendall Pond Road, Unit #35 in Derry. Unit #35 is a mobile home in a mobile home community. Police forced entry into the locked home. Once inside, the police forced entry into a locked bedroom. In that bedroom, police discovered the bodies of Matthew Edmunds and Preston Connor Edmunds. Police observed that the room had been sealed from the inside using duct tape and a blanket. Also in the room, police located two charcoal grills each containing burnt charcoal and ash. Police found a sign hanging from the living room ceiling fan. The sign warned police that they “will find me and my son” in the bedroom and to be aware of “dangerous carbon monoxide levels”.

Autopsies were performed on Matthew Edmunds and Preston Connor Edmunds by Chief Medical Examiner Jennie V. Duval. Dr. Duval determined that the cause of death of Preston Edmunds was carbon monoxide poisoning and the manner of death was homicide. Dr. Duval also determined that the cause of death of Matthew Edmonds was carbon monoxide poisoning and the manner of death was suicide.

The investigation into this matter will continue. No further information is expected until final toxicology reports are completed, which is estimated to take several months.

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