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Baby Left Alone In Room With Her Mother’s Body For 5 Days In A New York Homeless Shelter, Lawsuit Claims

Photo: Gordon Bell / Shutterstock
New York Supreme Court Building

A lawsuit has been filed against the New York City Department of Homeless Services, and some of the claims within it are truly shocking and horrific.

The lawsuit, filed by 31-year-old father Quraan Laboy, claims that NYCDHS neglected to care for his one-year-old baby, Lyric Laboy, who had been stuck alone in a room with only her deceased mother for five days.

Laboy seeks $5 million in damages from the city of New York and the Department of Homeless Services.

The lawsuit claims that the baby was neglected in the NYC shelter after her mother died.

According to the lawsuit, when mother Shelbi Westlake passed away in the East River Family Center in July 2021, her and her one-year-old daughter remained alone in their room for five days.

An incident report provided from NYCDHS alleges that they only found the deceased mother, Shelbi Westlake, and her child when someone called building security, reporting a “foul odor” that had been coming from Westlake’s room.

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This meant that, according to the lawsuit, the baby had already become covered in feces and was in great need of food and water by the time the discovered her with her deceased mother.

NYCDHS’s incident report states that they found the infant, only 15 months old at the time, on July 25 under the bed near her mother’s body and immediately took her to the hospital to be evaluated.

The 26-year-old mother had reportedly died of an accidental overdose, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Shelbi Westlake had not signed in to the shelter in several days.

The last time the mother had signed in was reportedly on July 19, 6 days prior to being found.

A spokesperson for the NYCDHS says that such specific case details cannot be discussed publicly due to client privacy client privacy and confidentiality laws, but they maintain that it had been less than five days.

Meanwhile, the incident is still being investigated, according to NYCDHS.

River Family Center, in order to prevent any similar incidents, now require same-night wellness checks on all residents who haven’t signed the nightly roster.

The baby's father says that his daughter is still traumatized from the event.

Quraan Laboy says that the tragedy has clearly left an effect on his daughter, claiming that she has developed “a lot of separation anxiety.”

One of Laboy’s attorneys, Seth Harris, said that the baby has been “routinely slapping her dad while he’s sleeping to make sure he’s alive.”

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Laboy, who left his job to care for his daughter full time, said that Lyric also often wakes up in the middle of the night, kicking and crying for her mother.

Physically, he stated that Lyric had been found with awful diaper rash, that had still not been completely healed by the point of the interview six months later.

However, she at least has regained the weight she has lost during the terrible experience.

Overall, her father declares himself to be completely dedicated to his daughter, saying that she is his “number one priority right now.”

Laboy believes that this incident shows clear negligence on the part of the shelter and the agency and city that oversees it.

According to another of Laboy’s attorneys, Allison Keenan made a statement that demonstrated beliefs at the heart of this lawsuit.

Keenan said, “Allowing an infant to remain with her dead mother for five days unnoticed not only highlights the indifference and lack of humanity shown to those most in need but exhibits complete malfeasance by the City of New York and Department of Homeless Services.”

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Amanda Hartmann is a writer and editorial intern who writes on various topics such as news and entertainment.

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