RICHMOND - Neighbors, school officials and relatives knew that something was not quite right with 8-year-old Raijon Daniels of Richmond, but they couldn't specify what was wrong.
At least three times since March 2005, Contra Costa County child-welfare workers were alerted to check on Raijon's well-being. But it is unclear whether the agency ever paid a visit to Raijon's home. Because of confidentiality rules, agency workers cannot say if they did.
If they did check, however, they apparently found no signs of abuse and did not remove him from the home where he lived with his mother, Teresa Marie Moses, 23, and his younger sister.
Police said the boy had traces of vomit on his face and may have died from swallowing household cleaner or another poison. Authorities are awaiting results of toxicology tests from the Contra Costa County coroner to confirm the cause of his death.
Now, Raijon's death is raising questions about whether anything more could have been done to protect the child.
Lynn Yaney, spokeswoman for the county's employment and human services agency, which oversees Children and Family Services, declined to discuss specifics of the case Tuesday, citing confidentially issues.
Generally speaking, Yaney said, "We can only go out and investigate what we're told about. And when we go out, we can only make decisions on what we see that day. We can't speculate. We're not mind readers. We're not seers."
The first time Raijon came to the attention of the child-welfare workers was in March 2005. Police notified the agency after Moses called police, accusing her estranged husband, Damian Hall, the father of her 3-year-old daughter, of sexually abusing Raijon, sources said. Police found no evidence to support her claims, and prosecutors declined to file charges. Hall is filing for divorce from Moses.
Child welfare authorities were again alerted to possible problems in Raijon's home two months later, this time by the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Around that time, Moses had sent a letter to King Elementary School in Richmond, which Raijon attended, instructing school officials not to give Raijon cafeteria food.
"For medical reasons Raijon will be on a special diet and will no longer be eating food from the cafeteria," Moses wrote. "I will bring his lunch to him."
Moses pulled Raijon out of the public school system around the same time that school officials notified county child-welfare authorities, said Paul Ehara, spokesman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Child welfare officials again were notified about possible problems with the boy in July 2005.
This time, Raijon had apparently run away from home and had been playing on a jungle gym for hours at a San Pablo restaurant, police said. In court papers filed in connection with a divorce filing, Moses describes herself as a former preschool instructor whose "parental skills are still growing and being exercised daily" with Raijon and her daughter, who is now in protective care.
In the filings, she wrote that she had spoiled Raijon in the past, resulting in 13 cavities. "So out of his anger and disappointment, Raijon would go to school begging, lying and over-exaggerating the hunger because of his new eating habits," she wrote.
On the rare occasion that Raijon was allowed outside his locked bedroom, the boy would look to his mother for approval before addressing other people, his great grandmother, Lillian Ponder, 82, of Richmond, said Tuesday.
"If I offered him a cookie, he would have to look at her," Ponder said. "When he comes and sits down, he couldn't move until she said he could." Although Ponder said she thought that was strange, she didn't notice any signs of abuse. "She would sit right between us," Ponder said. "I couldn't notice anything. He was fully dressed."
Moses' sister, Tracy Bland, said, "It's shocking to everybody, and we're trying to cope with it the best way we can."
Residents and managers of the Monterey Pines apartment complex in Richmond also didn't report anything suspicious. "We had no idea or information which would have led us to suspect this type of abuse," said Jennifer Borland, president of Evans Property Management.
Raijon was born at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley on Jan. 31, 1998, to Moses, then 15, and Desmond Daniels, then 16, Alameda County records show. Daniels could not be reached for comment.
In September 2005, Raijon was enrolled at Franklin Elementary School in Oakland. He didn't finish the school year and didn't show up for school in August of this year, said school district spokesman Roqua Montez, who would not say whether officials reported signs of abuse.
In January, a Contra Costa commissioner presiding over a civil domestic-violence case filed by Moses against Hall ordered her to undergo psychotherapy "for the purposes of addressing issues with anger and control." Raijon should also undergo psychotherapy, the commissioner ruled. It was unclear from court records whether that happened.
On Oct. 2, Moses filed a private-school affidavit with the state Department of Education establishing "Teresa's Home School" at an Oakland address where she apparently has not lived for several years.
The affidavit, required for parents who wish to home-school their children, is a legitimate way of preventing students from being declared truant. But if a child has shown signs of abuse or trouble at home, the affidavit can be a red flag to educators that something is wrong, said Barbara Colton, who runs the state's elementary-education office that maintains those records.