(13 WHAM NEWS) – December 21, 2016. Images of Brook Stagles, the Greece toddler who died after being abused, will soon be seen on billboards across the country, including here in Rochester.
Brook’s grandfather, John Geer, said his mission now that his granddaughter is gone is to save the lives of children, prevent abuse and do what he can to reform Child Protective Services.
“The billboards show that no child should die from child abuse, especially how Brook Stagles did,” John Geer told 13WHAM News.
The two people charged in the case – Erica Bell and Michael Stagles – were before a judge Wednesday. Jury selection and pre-trial dates were set for both.
Bell, the girlfriend of Brook’s father, is charged with second degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of Brook Stagles and was seen smiling in court. Michael Stagles, Brook’s father, is charged with criminally negligent homicide.
For the first time, 13WHAM News also talked to Ashley Geer, the mother of Brook Stagles. She was visibly shaken and said she is having a very difficult time coping.
John Geer is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put the billboards up to raise awareness about child abuse. He said the signs will begin going up Friday and will eventually be in seven states including New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North and South Carolina.
On one billboard, an image of Brook, happy and healthy is shown on the left and a picture of her dying in the hospital from abuse is shown on the right. A second billboard has a picture of Brook dressed as a doctor and reads, “Don’t let children die from child abuse, like Brook Stagles.”
Geer also purchased rights to a website, TrumpforChildren.com, which will be featured on the billboards. The site, he said, was created to be a portal for child abuse awareness and to illustrate what he calls the shortcomings of Child Protective Services and why reform is desperately needed.
Geer is also spending $150,000 of his own money for a ten-minute phone call with President-elect Donald Trump. Geer said he hopes Trump can appoint someone to reform CPS.
“CPS and DCFS are run like businesses and they are businesses that are failing.” Geer told 13WHAM News. “Instead of losing money, they are losing children.”
As Geer has maintained from the day Brook died, if CPS had done their job, Brook would be alive. He claims multiple calls about abuse went unnoticed and that CPS never entered the home Brook lives in.
“Erica Bell had a warrant for her arrest the whole time CPS was investigating her as we told CPS to look into her,” John Geer said. “If they would have done that, there is a possibility they would have gotten her out of the house in time.”
John Geer said his life and that of Brook’s mother, Ashley, have been shattered.
“There are no words that I could say,” Geer said tearfully.
Michael Stagles and Erica Bell will be back in court February 1, 2017 for a motion argument. Their trials are both set for sometime in May.