Iowa lawmakers want answers after teen girl's death

Adopted 16-year-old girl weighed only 56 pounds when she died

Marc Alan Ray of Perry was charged Thursday, May 18, 2017, in the death of his daughter, Sabrina. (Dallas County Jail)
Marc Alan Ray of Perry was charged Thursday, May 18, 2017, in the death of his daughter, Sabrina. (Dallas County Jail)

Legislators are scheduling a joint hearing to investigate the Iowa Department of Human Services following the death of a Perry teenager.

Authorities found Sabrina Ray, 16, unresponsive May 12 in her home, according to a Perry police news release. Initial autopsy results from the State Medical Examiner noted severe malnutrition and found Sabrina weighed 56 pounds at the time of her death.

According to authorities, her home was being monitored by the DHS due to earlier complaints of abuse. At the time, child protective investigators said they found no evidence of that.

Her parents — Marc Alan Ray and Misty Jo Ray — were arrested Thursday and face multiple neglect charges in her death.

Sabrina’s death comes after some lawmakers already had raised questions about a seemingly similar death, that one in West Des Moines. Natalie Finn, also 16, adopted and home-schooled, died last year of starvation. Her parents were arrested and await trial.

A joint meeting of the state House and Senate Government Oversight Committees has been scheduled for June 5. A news release announcing the meeting, from committee co-chairs Rep. Bobby Kaufmann and Sen. Mike Breitbach, both Republicans, showed frustration.

“Reports (Thursday) indicate that another child on the Department of Human Services’ radar was abused and is now dead,” the statement said. “ ... The process overseeing children placed in the state system must be examined and reforms need to be considered. Justice must be served to those responsible for these unconscionable crimes.”


Two Democratic members of the Senate Oversight Committee, Sen. Janet Petersen and Sen. Matt McCoy, also released a statement calling for the resignation of DHS Director Chuck Palmer.

“The state has failed at-risk children again and again,” Petersen said. “Iowans are demanding change, they are demanding results, and they do not want to see another child die due to the failures of the Branstad/Reynolds administration.”

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