Aunt of Fergus Falls boy who died after abuse launches petition to try to save others
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — An aunt of Justis Burland, the 6-year-old who died in the northwest Minnesota of Fergus Falls on Monday morning, April 9, after allegedly suffering horrific abuse, is at the head of a petition to change how child protective services works.
Two people from Fergus Falls — Bobbie Bishop, 40, and Walter Wynhoff, 44 — are in jail on $1 million bail each facing charges of third-degree murder.
Right now, child protective services are handled at a state and county level, with different rules and procedures for every jurisdiction. Angela White, the victim's aunt, has started a petition to change that.
She believes a national database could have prevented this tragedy.
The path to 333 Friberg Ave. in Fergus Falls was a long one for 6-year-old Justis. Before suffering abuse in the home, court documents show he lived in at least two other states, Washington and Montana. White, of Washington, says that's true.
Before living with Bishop, who was a family friend, court documents suggest he lived with his biological mother, a cousin and his grandmother in Montana.
That's three different states and cases in at least three separate child protective services systems that fell through the cracks — and White has started a Change.org petition to try to amend that.
"So, my goal is for there to be a national database for CPS to access that has the information of anybody that has had children removed by CPS so these types of issues aren't happening," she said.
White said Bishop previously had custody of Justis and his brother, but they were taken away in Washington. She believes Bishop hopped states to get them back.
"She went to Minnesota for the sole purpose of getting those boys. Why she wanted them, I will never know," she said.
Minnesota's child protective services has a statewide system and a county-to-county system for transferring information, but there is no system in place between states. White believes moving children between states lets them slip through the cracks.
"It is very horrifying. It's ridiculous," she said. "You would think that in 2018 with all of the technology that we would have this database."
Several old screenshots circulating on social media of text conversations alluded to the fact others may have known about the abuse, and even reported it. When asked if the county knew about any abuse, it didn't comment on Justis' case, but responded with a flowchart explaining the process it uses to respond to reports.
White believes, reports or not, Bishop wouldn't have ever had the children if a national database existed.
"Absolutely, I think they would've been removed immediately," she said.
Now, she's hoping her efforts can save someone else.
Otter Tail County could not confirm or deny if it received any complaints about abuse against the boy.