Nevada fugitive arrested after child’s death in Idaho
COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — A 6-year-old autistic girl drowned in her bathtub Tuesday,
a month after her therapists warned authorities that she was being mistreated by her legal guardians — one a fugitive from Nevada authorities.
Autopsy results show Elizabeth ”Lizzy” Goodwin drowned at the home of Denise and James
Whittle in Coeur d’Alene. Prosecutors said they plan to take action today to remove the remaining children from the home.
Denise Whittle, 33, was arrested on unrelated fugitive charges from Nevada on Wednesday. She posted the $2,000 bail. Calls to the Whittle home were not returned Thursday.
Two therapists with Partnerships for Inclusion detailed concerns about Goodwin’s living condition in a letter to state social workers on Sept. 4.
The therapists — who specialize in work with developmentally disabled children — said the little girl was called a “brat” and a “monster,” that she was forced to sit on the toilet for hours until she had a bowel movement.
They also said Goodwin’s leg was broken once as James Whittle tried to keep her from “squirming
off” the toilet. The therapists said Denise Whittle told them the couple put hot sauce on the girl to “We at Partnerships for Inclusion are incredibly saddened by Lizzy’s death,” said director Lisa Robbe-Soults.
The letter from the two therapists says they had been working with Goodwin for the past year.
The two therapists, Andrea McCarty and Teri Johnston, said in the letter they reported their
concerns to Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials, but that the girl was not removed from the home.
The therapists also said in their letter they noticed a burn on Goodwin’s buttocks and back and
”obvious marks from a beating on her upper thigh, arm and buttock area.”
Coeur d’Alene police Lt. Don Jiran said the case is being treated as an unattended death investigation. No charges have been filed against anyone in connection to the death, Jiran said.
Toxicology results, as part of the autopsy, are pending.
Capt. Ben Wolfinger said the Kootenai County sheriff’s department had been to the Whittles’
home in the past for allegations of child abuse and to assist social workers with inspections of the
The therapists’ letter said when state social workers talked to the Whittles about some of the
accusations, the Whittles were “astonished and outraged that anyone could ever accuse them of
such things after ‘all they have done for these children.’ ”
The Whittles then brought in their landlord to testify in their behalf about “what wonderful parents they were” and Health and Welfare officials did not pursue it further, the letter said.
No abuse charges have ever been filed in Kootenai County Court against the Whittles, however,
Denise Whittle has a criminal record in Nevada and Idaho.
Whittle was arrested July 19 for domestic battery after she allegedly hit her husband James on
the chest and bit him on the cheek. She pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge of disturbing the peace.
Whittle, who has also been known as Denise Shaughnessy, Denise Gage and Denise Douglas, was charged with five counts of child abuse and endangerment in 1993 in Nevada, according to Carson City Justice Court records.
She also had an arrest warrant, which later was rescinded, for 17 charges involving fraudulent use of a credit card.
At that time, Whittle listed on court records her work address as the Kit Kat Ranch, a brothel in Mound House, records show.
In 1994, Whittle was convicted of misdemeanor battery and passing bad checks. In May 1999, Whittle and her husband, James, filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court in Coeur