The state Department of Justice will not open a criminal investigation into how Rock County Human Services handled the case of a Milton teen who died by suicide.
In a letter to the teen’s father, a representative from Attorney General Josh Kaul’s office said the Department of Justice lacks primary jurisdiction to investigate the conduct of a social worker in relation to Cole Fuller’s death.
Jeff Fuller, Cole’s dad, said he is disgusted the state’s highest ranking law enforcement official will not take action.
“Disappointed is not the word. Disgusted would be the word,” Fuller wrote in an email to The Gazette.
“Regardless of party or position, I reached out to everyone from the governor’s office to the Senate to the Assembly for help. I was assured that each branch would be on top of this. Yet, it appears to all have been lip service,” he wrote.
Family members of Cole Fuller, who died by suicide April 4, believe Rock County officials failed to help Cole during the 45 days he was under county supervision for a Chapter 51 mental health commitment.
Jeff Fuller filed a complaint with the state, hoping the county would be held accountable for failing his son.
An investigation by the state Department of Health Services identified four deficiencies in how Cole’s case was handled.
Cindy O’Connell of the state Department of Health Service Division of Quality Assurance sent information in September on Cole’s case to the state Department of Justice, per Jeff Fuller’s request.
O’Connell’s email to Fuller said her sending the information did not constitute a referral from her division.
The state Division of Criminal Investigation has investigative authority that is generally limited to crimes with statewide impact, according to the letter.
The letter directs Jeff Fuller to take his concerns to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office for investigation and Rock County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
The Fuller family does not think the county would do anything to help the case, Fuller said.
Rock County Board supervisors were unresponsive when Fuller reached out to them in the past, he said.
“There is no way any sane person would believe that the county would investigate itself,” Fuller said. “But that is what the attorney general expects us to believe.”
The state Department of Justice Medicaid Fraud Control and Elder Abuse Unit reached out to the state Department of Health Services to discuss the investigation into Cole’s case, but the unit does not have authority to direct the health department on its investigation or findings, the letter states.
Fuller has decided he will not appear in Madison to talk to officials about proposed laws to address mental health as he had planned because of his disgust with the state, he said in an email.
Fuller and his family have advocated for suicide awareness and policy changes since weeks after Cole’s death. They helped put mental health awareness programs in local high schools and assisted in creating a mental health resource card in Oconomowoc.
Now, Fuller and his family will take time to heal and step away from advocacy, he said.
“I know that I did my best,” he said. “I know that I put so much into this. I also know that my other two boys are healthy.”
“I didn’t do this for my benefit. I did this for all of the others struggling. I had hoped the same level of commitment existed in the people I asked for help on the above topics. It appears I was wrong.”