The number of child abuse and neglect deaths in Kern County is on the rise. Six local children died in 2017, according to the Department of Human Services. They were all under two years old— many hadn’t reached their first birthdays.
Experts say prevention is key. With the number of deaths up, the message is especially important.
The Death of Marky Dixon
In March, a local mother was sent to prison for the 2010 death of her four-year-old son. Marky Dixon died of a head injury. His mother said he fell, but evidence proved otherwise. The warning signs were there and family members said this didn’t have to happen.
Marky’s short life was filled with pain. He was born to parents with drug, criminal and CPS histories. By the time he was two months old, he was already in foster care.
Marky’s great-aunt, Rhonda Hicks, called him her valentine. He came to live with her on Valentine’s Day 2006 when his parents, Mark and Alexis Dixon were arrested on drug and child abuse charges.
“He was just like a little light,” said Hicks.
Two years later, in May 2008, Marky’s father completed the necessary steps to regain custody. His mother did not. Behind closed doors, things hadn’t changed.
Days after Marky returned home, his mother gave birth to another baby. The baby tested positive for meth.
Hicks said Marky told her what went on at the home and she was scared for his life.
Hicks said she called CPS countless times with no result. Records show CPS responded to the Dixon household eight times before Marky’s death.
The Department of Human Services declined our request for an interview about Marky’s case. Under state law, they were forced to give us Marky’s CPS file— a detailed account of repeated contact with social workers.
Mark and Alexis Dixon’s abuse and neglect history goes back even before Marky was born. Alexis Dixon had her first child taken away at birth, back in 2002. And Mark Dixon was first investigated by CPS in 1999. Between the two, they had 30 referrals. So the question remains, how did Marky end up dead?
In the days and weeks following Marky’s death, community leaders sought answers. Then Kern County Supervisor Michael Rubio ordered a report into Marky’s death from the DHS internal investigator, but little came of it.
In a letter to the board, then CPS Director, Pat Cheadle didn’t even mention Marky’s death. She referred only generally to procedures in place to review unusual incidents involving child deaths. Leaving many asking why, even after the case is closed.
To report child abuse call the child abuse hotline at 661- 631-6011. If it’s an emergency, call 911.