The daughters of a foster mother who was strangled in her Pasadena home in 2018 have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County.
Lorie Hope and Tanya Juhasz claim that Mary Jean O’Connor, 43, was able to locate and murder their mother, 75-year-old Jeri Douglas, due to negligence on the part of employees with the LA County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), who allegedly provided O’Connor with confidential information about Douglas.
“Beyond Douglas’ premature, tragic and unnecessary death, DCFS’s apparent failure to protect its foster parents is a violation of the public trust and unreasonably puts some of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable children and most selfless citizens at risk,” the lawsuit states.
DCFS is the largest child protective services agency in the nation, responsible for ensuring the safety of 2 million children, according to its website.
According to the lawsuit, O’Connor used the information provided by DCFS to track down Douglas. O’Connor allegedly called Douglas and claimed she was a DFCS employee that needed to get some paperwork signed. After she gained access to Douglas’ home, O’Connor allegedly choked her to death. There were indications of trauma to the slain woman’s upper body, police said.
O’Connor is set to return to court today, Jan. 2, on one count of murder.
Pasadena police officers found Douglas’ body inside her condo in the 200 block South Madison Avenue in Pasadena on Dec. 17, 2018. Paramedics declared her dead at the scene.
Authorities went to the home after one of Douglas’ daughters was unable to reach her mother for several days, according to Pasadena police.
Over the past decade, the Pasadena Weekly published several stories about O’Connor’s fight with DCFS officials to keep her children.
O’Connor had been deemed an unfit mother and her son was placed in Douglas’ care. Juhasz later adopted the boy.
Later, O’Connor had a daughter that also became Douglas’ ward, according to a report by City News Service.
It was not immediately known how many children O’Connor has.
O’Connor was arrested in a mobile home in North Hollywood in late December 2018 and charged with one count of murder. She faces 25 years to life if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty.
In a Jan. 17, 2019 interview with the Pasadena Weekly, O’Connor proclaimed her innocence.
Her bail has been set at $2 million.
“No, I didn’t do it, but I am not going to discuss it on a recorded phone line.” O’Connor said in a phone conversation from the Pasadena jail. Subsequent attempts to reach her in custody were unsuccessful.
O’Connor has a lengthy history of encounters with law enforcement and the foster care system dating back to at least 2006, when she was charged with solicitation of prostitution in Long Beach. In 2008, the Pasadena Weekly covered her successful battle to avoid eviction over having too many service animals in her apartment, a cased which she ultimately won.
In 2010, she was the subject of a number of stories regarding her battle with DCFS officials over custody of two of her children. Since then, one other child has been placed with O’Connor’s mother, another is in DCFS custody, and yet another child’s whereabouts were unknown.
In 2012, O’Connor and Marjorie McNary were ordered to vacate an Altadena property which the owners claimed they were occupying illegally. Authorities turned off the water in an attempt to convince the women to move out, which the pair eventually did.