|The late Donella Miljour and her
mother Lisa Miljour in a hotel
room during the four-hour visit
permitted between mother and
daughter by Child Protective
|Jessica Lynn Gordon given a kinder, gentler treatment.
Two women, arrested by Niagara Falls City Police officers 18 months apart. One was drunk in her own home and fighting with her boyfriend. She was charged with resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child, an infant sleeping safely in a crib in an adjacent room.
That child, and two others who weren’t even at the house, were taken into custody by the county’s Child Protective Services.
The most serious charges against the woman, Lisa Miljour of Cuddaback Avenue, those involving domestic violence, were eventually dropped.
One of the children, 7-year-old Donella Miljour, was dead of brain cancer within 10 months, still being “protected” from her own mother by the county.
Police said the second woman sold undercover officers “large quantities” of drugs. When they executed a search warrant at her home, on August 20, they found three ounces of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana and $4,700 in cash.
There were also the woman’s two young sons there at the house.
Incredibly, cops told her not to worry, to go ahead and make arrangements for someone to pick the boys up, and then turn herself in at a later date.
Six days later, on August 26, police took Jessica Lynn Gordon into custody as she was working in an office at the county building at 10th and East Falls streets. Gordon, 28, of the Town of Niagara, was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal use of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana.
"We were buying large quantities of drugs from her, pretty much whenever we wanted," Narcotics Division Capt. Salvatore Pino said. "She sold to us the first time out of her car."
On Aug. 20, when narcotics detectives executed a search warrant at her apartment and found 3 ounces of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana and $4,700 in cash, Pino added, "There were two young boys in the home and rather than call Child Protective Services, we told her to make arrangements to have them picked up and then contact us and turn herself in."
Gordon didn’t turn herself in, of course. City police let nearly a week go by before showing up at her office at the county Human Resource Building and arresting her.
She pleaded not guilty at her arraignment and was jailed in lieu of $2,000 bail.
Lisa Miljour wasn’t a big time drug dealer and she didn’t work for the county. In February 2014, she had what could be called a bad night. Her mom, Donna Chew, called from Cleveland that evening to tell her that her beloved grandmother was dying of cancer.
Her older daughters, Donella, 7, and Rubi, 5, were spending the weekend with their father. Her youngest, 19-month-old Maxine, was asleep in her crib.
Miljour's boyfriend and the father of Maxine, George Billings, came by and the couple began drinking. Soon, they began to argue.
Neighbors called the cops, and two undercover narcotics detectives were soon knocking on Miljour's door. It is unknown whether these were the same narcotics detectives who arrested Gordon last week but, dressed in street clothes, they were not immediately recognized as police officers, she told the Niagara Falls Reporter.
By the time it was over, the couple was under arrest, charged with assaulting each other, resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child. The baby Maxine was remanded to the custody of Child Protective Services which placed her in foster care.
Despite the fact that there was no prior record of any kind of abuse in the home and that Miljour's previous criminal record had amounted to a single seat belt violation, Child Protective Services caseworker Diane Fire took a tough stand. Not only would Maxine remain in a foster home with strangers, but Miljour was forbidden further contact with her two older daughters as well.
She could visit the girls under supervised conditions at the county welfare office for one hour each week, Fire ruled. Ironically, the welfare office is housed in in the county’s Human Resource Building, where county employee and alleged drug dealer Jessica Lynn Gordon would be arrested just 18 months later.
On her first such visit, Miljour said, she noticed that her older daughter, seven-year-old Donella, had developed a facial tic and that her hands were trembling. The child was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and finally to Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo where she was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer.
Donella died in December of 2014, still technically in the custody of Child Protective Services.
"It's like a nightmare that's never ending,” Miljour said. "When you don't have any money, it's like you don't have a voice."
The differences in the way the Jennifer Lynn Gordon and Lisa Miljour cases were handled, both by the city’s narcotics squad and the county’s office of Child Protective Services are startling.
There are many questions that could be asked, but the most glaring might be why Gordon wasn’t charged with endangering the welfare of a child when she left her two young sons alone in a house that contained three ounces of cocaine.
Last week, many area residents weighed in angrily concerning the Gordon case on the Facebook pages dedicated to Niagara Falls happenings.
“I don't know the reason but do have an issue with the way this was handled,” wrote Jennifer L. Abbott. “She was stopped and was suspected of being a large scale drug dealer... Drugs and a lot of cash found in her home where two young children reside. Children were not removed immediately from this dangerous house: THAT is a problem. Child Protective Services not contacted: THAT is a problem. Suspect not charged or taken into custody. THAT is a problem. Even though investigators knew where she worked, they only tried to reach her by calling her cell phone for six days?! THAT is a problem. Bail for a large-scale drug dealer is only $2,000? THAT is a problem!”
Davin Strong of Niagara Falls agreed.
“Giving a criminal an opportunity to get away is stupid, wrote Strong. “If you wonder if they extend the courtesy to others with children then ask them. Was it race, gender, did she know someone?”
The wildly disparate treatment received by Gordon and Miljour at the hands of both the city Narcotics Bureau detectives and the county office of Child Protective Services are troubling and warrant investigation.