I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: South Bay parents' CPS nightmare, police forced sexual assault exam on 5-year-old girl

ByDan Noyes and Khaled Sayed via KGO logo
Friday, June 7, 2019
EMBED <>More Videos

A call to Child Protective Services spiraled out of control, and now, the parents of a 5-year-old girl have filed a claim against Mountain View Police and Santa Clara County; it's the first step toward a lawsuit.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- Five-year-old Madeleine Lother went on a play date to a trampoline park on a Friday afternoon in January. She climbed to the top of this rope, got scared and loosened her grip landing on a large knot at the bottom.

"She was crying. She went in the foam pit and continued to play with her friends, and she was crying, holding her private area," said Madeleine's mother Danielle.

At home, Madeleine's mother saw the scrape and called the doctor for advice, but she told us the injury seemed to be minor.

Danielle said, "I mean, we kept checking it. I washed it. We bathed her, but it was kind of like a non-issue after that."

Doug, Madeleine's father, said, "By the end of the day, there was no bleeding. It seemed like a full recovery, yeah."

But that Monday, Madeleine mentioned her injury to the staff at Landels Elementary School, who called Child Protective Services. That evening, several police officers and a social worker came to the Lother's home.

"They all just came into the house and I was just kind of like pushed to the side," said Danielle.

Bob Powell is the Lother's attorney. He said, "When these people came to the door, they should have told the mother, by law, why they were there, what the claim was."

Danielle said the police would not say why they were there, that they took Madeleine outside, questioned each parent separately, and questioned their other daughter as well.

"Finally, I said, 'Oh! Is this about-' After much thinking, 'Is this about the bleeding vagina?' They were like, 'Yes, you got it.' Kind of like sarcastic and not very nice," said Danielle.

Danielle tells us she explained to the officers what happened on that climbing rope, offered the name and number of a mother who was there at the time, described how the scrape had healed. But the police were not satisfied.

"They say, 'Okay, this is what's going to happen. We just called the paramedic. She's coming out here and we want to examine Madeleine's vagina,'" said Doug.

Doug tells me he objected again and again, but the officers persisted.

"And I said to them, 'You know what? You guys are- there's three of you here and you all have firearms, and there's nothing I can do to stop you,'" said Doug.

There, on the living room sofa, Danielle and Doug Lother helped the paramedic hold down Madeleine and take off her leggings.

"Madeline didn't want her pants off. She was squeezing her legs together, screaming, 'No! Stop it!' Scratching, hitting, you know, self-defense really for her," said Danielle.

The parents tell us the paramedic asked them to pull Madeleine's legs apart, asked Doug to shine a light- he used his cell phone- and examined the girl for several minutes.

"There wasn't even a mark on Madeleine. It had all healed. There was no blood. There was no cut. There was nothing," said Danielle.

The police and paramedic left, but the Lothers say the incident has had a terrible impact on their daughter- that she's sad all the time, her grades have plummeted, she has nightmares.

"She's still so affected by it. That's not good," said Danielle.

Our research shows this should never have happened- the police and the paramedic violated their own guidelines. And police and EMS sources tell us, this is not the way an investigation is supposed to go.

First, the police. Mountain View Police Chief Max Bosel would not give us an interview, but his spokesperson emailed saying, "Officers used their best judgment regarding a reported injury in a sensitive area on the child. As such, they called for a female paramedic to advise if there was an urgent need for medical attention."

But, police department guidelines on suspected child abuse cases say: "An officer should not detain a child involuntarily who is suspected of being a victim of child abuse solely for the purpose of an interview or physical exam without the consent of a parent or guardian." "Child victims should not be interviewed in the home." And "officers should defer interviews until a person who is specially trained in such interviews is available."

"It's not something I've ever heard of happening in this way before," said forensic psychiatrist Dr. Charles Saldanha.

We met Dr. Saldanha at a convention at Moscone Center last week, where he was a panelist. He has worked in several Bay Area counties.

"We try and do things typically in the medical field in order to minimize the risk of trauma to people."

Santa Clara County protocol, which covers Mountain View, requires police to bring potential child abuse victims to Valley Medical Center where a pediatric sexual assault examiner is on call 24-7.

As for the paramedic- her employer, American Medical Response, declined an interview and declined to tell me if the paramedic has been disciplined.

Take a look at for a look at more stories and videos by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.