Judge: Not told 6 kids killed in shooting faced danger

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Confessed Houston Killer David Conley Blames Victims for Bad Behavior

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge who dismissed a state effort to keep six children in foster care two years before they were found dead in their Houston home said Wednesday that he was never told the kids were in any "immediate physical danger."

Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin took the unusual step Wednesday of commenting on the 2013 case, issuing a statement defending his decision to return the children their mother, Valerie Jackson, and to David Conley, who now faces capital murder charges for the fatal shootings of the kids, Jackson and her husband.

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Child Protective Services filed a lawsuit and removed the children from their home amid allegations of neglect and a history of domestic violence. The agency sought to keep them in foster care. Devlin returned the children home a month later, after Jackson and Conley agreed to counseling, among other things.

Jackson, 40; her husband, Dwayne Jackson; and her children, 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity, and 6-year-old Jonah were killed Saturday. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley's son from his relationship with Valerie Jackson, while the Jacksons were the parents of the other five children.

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Judge: Not told 6 kids killed in shooting faced danger
A hearses arrive at Fallbrook Church, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, carrying the caskets of a couple and six children killed in an Aug. 8 mass shooting in Houston. David Conley, the father of one of the children, faces capital murder charges from the shooting. Killed in the Aug. 8 shooting were: Conley's former domestic partner, 40-year-old Valerie Jackson; her husband, 50-year-old Dwayne Jackson; 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley's son with Valerie Jackson. (Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Members of the Jackson family arrive for a memorial service at Fallbrook Church, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, inHouston for a couple and six children killed in a mass shooting Aug. 8 in northwest Harris County. David Conley, the father of one of the children, faces capital murder charges from the shooting. Killed in the Aug. 8 shooting were Conley's former domestic partner, 40-year-old Valerie Jackson, her husband, 50-year-old Dwayne Jackson; 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley's son with Valerie Jackson. The Jacksons were the parents of the other five children. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP )

The procession of hearses arrive for a memorial service at Fallbrook Church, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in Houstonfor a couple and six children killed in an Aug. 8 mass shooting in northwest Harris County. David Conley, the father of one of the children, faces capital murder charges from the shooting. Killed in the Aug. 8 shooting were: Conley's former domestic partner, 40-year-old Valerie Jackson; her husband, 50-year-old Dwayne Jackson; 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley's son with Valerie Jackson. The Jacksons were the parents of the other five children. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP )
David Conley is led into court to make his first court appearance Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Houston. Conley, who has a violent criminal history, entered a Houston home through an unlocked window and fatally shot a woman he'd previously dated, her husband and six children, including a boy believed to be his own son, authorities said. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A house is shown, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
People place flowers and balloons at a house, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A sign sits against the door Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, as part of the condolences left outside the home where eight people were shot over the weekend in Houston. David Conley, who has a violent criminal history, entered the Houston home through an unlocked window and fatally shot a woman he'd previously dated, her husband and six children, including a boy believed to be his own son, authorities said. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Harris County Chief Deputy Tim Cannon speaks during a news conference in the case of David Conley, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people were found dead inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of Conley, who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A body is removed from a home that was the scene of multiple fatalities and loaded onto a truck Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people, including six children and two adults, were found dead inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of a man who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A house is shown, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
The mug shot of suspect David Conley is shown on a video screen as Harris County Chief Deputy Tim Cannon, right, speaks during a news conference Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people, including five children and three adults, were found dead inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of Conley, who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Harris County Chief Deputy Tim Cannon speaks during a news conference in the case of David Conley Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people were found dead inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of Conley, who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Flowers and eight balloons are seen at a house, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A note is taped to a shoe box Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, sitting among the condolences left outside the home where eight people were shot over the weekend in Houston. David Conley, who has a violent criminal history, entered the Houston home through an unlocked window and fatally shot a woman he'd previously dated, her husband and six children, including a boy believed to be his own son, authorities said. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
People place flowers and balloons at a house, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jaelen Charles places flowers, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, outside the home where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A sign hangs on the door Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, as part of the condolences left outside the home where eight people were shot over the weekend in Houston. David Conley, who has a violent criminal history, entered the Houston home through an unlocked window and fatally shot a woman he'd previously dated, her husband and six children, including a boy believed to be his own son, authorities said. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
People place flowers and balloons at a house, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, where eight people were killed on Saturday in Houston. A family of six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday. David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Neighbors leave the scene of multiple fatalities found in a home on their street Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people, including six children and two adults, were found dead inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of a man who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Harris County Sheriff's Department Sgt. D.J. Hilborn, left, escorts a family back to their home near the scene of a multiple shooting Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people were found dead inside a home following the arrest of David Conley, who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Harris County Sheriff's Department Sgt. D.J. Hilborn, right, walks away from the scene of a multiple shooting Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people, including six children and two adults, were found dead late Saturday inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of a man who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A member of the Harris County Sheriff's Department raises the crime scene tape for a vehicle outside the scene of shooting Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. Eight people, including six children and two adults, were found dead late Saturday inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of a man who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Members of the Harris County Sheriff's department work outside the scene of a shooting Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. At least eight people, including six children and two adults, were found dead late Saturday inside a Houston-area home following the arrest of a man who exchanged gunfire with police, Texas authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In this image made from a video, police arrest a man after he surrendered Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. According to authorities the bodies of multiple people including several children were found inside a Houston home following his arrest. (Photo via AP Video)

In this image made from a video, authorities investigate after reports of an active shooter in a home Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. According to authorities the bodies of multiple people including several children were found inside the home following the arrest of a man who surrendered. (Photo via AP Video)

In this image made from a video, authorities investigate after reports of an active shooter in a home Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. According to authorities the bodies of multiple people including several children were found inside the home following the arrest of a man who surrendered. (Photo via AP Video)

In this image made from a video, police arrest a man after he surrendered Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. According to authorities the bodies of multiple people including several children were found inside a Houston home following his arrest. (Photo via AP Video)

In this image made from a video, authorities investigate after reports of an active shooter in a home Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Houston. According to authorities the bodies of multiple people including several children were found inside the home following the arrest of a man who surrendered. (Photo via AP Video)

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Conley, 48, gave jailhouse interviews to several Houston television stations, saying he loved his son, Nathaniel, "to death" but that he and the other children weren't being raised properly and acted unkindly toward others.

"They were growing up to be monsters, they were disrespectful, rude in school," Conley told KPRC-TV, referring to the children. "I'm not saying they're dead because of that. I'm not even saying I killed them. God says in the Bible do not disrespect your mother and father or your days will be short, but I'm not saying that's what happened."

In its 2013 lawsuit, CPS noted Conley's history of domestic violence against Valerie Jackson and stated that the "mother's lack of control and parenting skills places the children in immediate danger."

CPS said the children told authorities they were often left alone. On at least two occasions, then-7-year-old Caleb left the home and wandered around the family's neighborhood unsupervised.

Court records show that about five months before CPS took custody of the children, Conley was arrested for threatening Jackson with a knife. In 2000, he was arrested for retaliation, accused of putting a knife to Jackson, threatening to kill her, her baby and himself. The lawsuit also listed other cases in Conley's long criminal history, including arrests for aggravated robbery and drug possession. The couple had been together when the lawsuit was filed but had recently ended their relationship before the deadly shooting.

Devlin said Wednesday that he couldn't base removal of the children on the adults' criminal histories and that CPS never stated there was "a current or immediate threat of violence from anyone."

"While the tragic events that occurred some 18 months after the CPS case is horrific, neither CPS nor any attorney or the Court could have prevented it based upon the case presented in court," Devlin said.

Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which includes CPS, said his agency didn't have any immediate comment on Devlin's statement.

At a 2013 hearing, Devlin noted that he had been told that Valerie Jackson had installed an alarm system so her kids couldn't sneak out and that the parents agreed to counseling and therapy for one of the children. At a March 2014 follow-up hearing, he was told the kids were doing well and that Jackson had completed parenting classes.

Conley is next scheduled to appear in court Sept. 15. His attorney, Joseph Scardino, did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors haven't decided whether they'll seek the death penalty.

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