A woman who survived a deadly shooting that killed her parents has sued Wake County, saying social workers who worked with the family failed to investigate claims of child abuse while she and her estranged husband, the man accused of the killings, were arguing over custody issues.
LaTonya Taylor, a mother of three, survived being shot in the face and chest in April 2014, but the incident left her parents, Anglia Smith Taylor and Sylvester Taylor, dead inside their Wendell home. Nathan Lorenzo Holden has been charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury.
As Holden awaits trial, attorneys for Taylor are pursuing claims in Wake County Superior Court against the Wake County division of Social Services. In the lawsuit, Taylor and her children contend that a county office that was supposed to help them might have contributed to the cycle of violence.
At issue is whether social workers failed to thoroughly investigate and vet Holden’s criminal history before the murder charges, as well as look into whether guns were in the house as tensions and reports of domestic violence escalated.
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Holden had been convicted of drug offenses when Taylor took out a domestic violence protective order in January 2014, four months before the homicides. She reported that Holden had beaten their son with a broomstick and assaulted her.
Taylor moved in with her parents in their home just outside Wendell after receiving the order, which prohibited Holden from coming near her or her family.
At the end of that January, Holden gained emergency custody of the couple’s son, according to the lawsuit, by falsely claiming that Taylor’s father, Sylvester, had slapped the teenage boy and pulled a gun on him.
During that exchange, the lawsuit contends, Wake County social workers failed to investigate Holden’s criminal history, which included drug-related convictions, and failed to look into whether he had smoked marijuana with his son, as the 15-year-old boy reported to his school counselor, which would have violated the safety plan they had developed.
The lawsuit, filed by Harvey L. Kennedy, an attorney in Winston-Salem, also contends that social workers who picked up the case from the first social worker did not visit Holden’s home as many times as policy dictates and had failed to look into whether he had guns in his home, as the safety plan they had developed prohibited.
On April 9, 2014, prosecutors say, Holden walked into the home of Sylvester and Anglia Taylor, killed his mother-in-law first within feet of one of the children, then fired fatal shots at Sylvester Taylor who was in the yard before going into a bedroom and shot LaTonya Taylor. A bullet pierced her chest, heart and spine, while the children hid in a bedroom closet.
Since then, the family has pieced together a list of steps that attorneys say show negligence by county workers that led to wrongful death and emotional distress for Taylor and her children.
Efforts to reach the Wake County DSS director on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Holden’s trial is scheduled for July.