updated 8/4/2009 12:28:17 PM ET 2009-08-04T16:28:17

When the 15-year-old girl accused her father of abusing her, she was placed in a foster home while the allegations were investigated. That home was just two doors down.

A week later, the girl's father fatally shot her and her foster father before killing himself in the northwestern Tennessee community of Dyersburg. Now people are questioning the actions of the state agency responsible for protecting children from abuse and neglect.

Officials at the Tennessee Department of Children's Services insist there was nothing unusual about placing the teenager in a house less than 200 feet from the father she accused of abuse.

Agency spokesman Rob Johnson would not speak specifically about the case, citing the privacy of surviving relatives, but he did say the department is looking into how the matter was handled.

Authorities would not specify the nature of the abuse. Police are still investigating both the shootings and the girl's allegations.

When children bring accusations of abuse, he said, the department tries to place them where they will be comfortable.

"When these things happen, it's not like we spirit them away," he said. "The parents know where the kids are ... unless there's some extreme case, an indication that something could befall the child."

Christopher Milburn, 34, did not have a criminal history.

'Good friends'
Neighbor Frank Hipps said Milburn was good friends with the foster father, 46-year-old Todd Randolph. The two had even vacationed together in Las Vegas.

Neighbor Charles Wootton, who called 911, recalled hearing gunshots Sunday night and seeing Randolph lying in his yard across the street. A neighbor who was a nurse tried to perform CPR while holding a towel to the bullet wound in the man's neck, he said.

Randolph's wife, Susan, had been shot as well and was slumped over on the porch. She was taken to the hospital and released the following day. Wootton did not enter the house where the girl was slain.

When a child is placed in a temporary home, all parties must sign a protection agreement, Johnson said. The details of the agreements are different in each case, and he would not disclose what was in this one.

"The goal is to get the child out of the home while the allegations are being investigated," Johnson said. "Sometimes the allegations aren't true."

Child's safety 'top concern'
Ira Lustbader is associate director of Children's Rights, a nonprofit group that sued the state in 2000 over how the Department of Children's Services was run. In general, he said, when a child is taken from a home, that child's safety is the top concern.

"It is good to keep a child within the community so they can retain important relationships," he said. But "safety trumps everything."

Frank Hipps was less circumspect.

"That kid shouldn't have been in that house," he said. "This might have been preventable if she had been placed with foster parents out of the community."

State Rep. Sherry Jones, a Nashville Democrat who leads a legislative committee on children and youth, said the panel plans to look into allegations that child-welfare officials are not removing children from dangerous situations.

"It's ridiculous to place a child two doors down when the department is doing an investigation," she said. "They're not doing what they need to do to keep children safe."

More on: foster parents

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