Hancock County

Lawsuit: Hancock DHS falsified documents to 'steal' children

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BAY ST. LOUIS -- A Harrison County woman filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Mississippi Department of Human Services, its Hancock County office and two Hancock County DHS employees, alleging they falsified documents to "steal" her three children.

The lead plaintiff, Marie Gill, filed the suit in Hancock County Circuit Court and included her three minor children as plaintiffs.

The suit repeated claims Gill made in a criminal report to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office in February.

Gill's report came on the heels of a similar criminal report made by Mindy Stiglet just weeks before and prompted Sheriff Ricky Adam to launch a full investigation into Hancock County's DHS office.

In the suit, Gill claims that in February she had an argument with her husband at her Gulfport residence. Emergency services were called, and Gill was taken to Garden Park Medical Center in Gulfport.

Doctors and staff evaluated her and found her not to be suicidal and sent her home.

Gill's husband had taken the kids to his parents' home in Waveland. When Gill visited that home and asked the paternal grandparents to return her kids, they refused to do so, according to the lawsuit.

Gill then contacted Waveland police, which subsequently called Hancock County DHS to the scene.

DHS worker Patricia Piazza, one of the named defendants in the suit, arrived on scene, spoke to the grandparents, then spoke to Gill to inform her the children would remain in the custody of the grandparents, the suit said.

Piazza, the suit claims, handed DHS documents to Gill to sign, and when Gill initially refused, "Piazza threatened to place the children in foster care" if Gill did not do so.

Gill asked for a copy of the documents, but Piazza refused to provide one, prompting Gill to take cell phone photos of the documents as she reluctantly signed them, according to the claim.

Two days later, Gill met with DHS to show them the results of her mental evaluation and drug screen. She was then provided a copy of the documents she had previously signed, but the documents were "falsified" to include more allegations that made it appear Gill was unfit to care for the children, the suit claims.

The "falsified" paperwork also bore DHS worker Tequila Hall's signature, another named defendant in the lawsuit.

Gill's case was immediately transferred to Harrison County DHS, and she regained custody of her children in early April.

The suit also claims DHS "attempted to alienate" the children from their mother while they were in state custody.

The defendants have not yet filed a response to the suit.

Gill is seeking a jury trial, punitive damages, attorney's fees and expenses and "all other damages allowed by law."

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