By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
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By Craig Malisow
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Houston police responded on a late April evening to a 911 call from a town-house complex just off Chimney Rock in southwest Houston. A woman had reported that the guy she lived with had threatened to kill her if she didn't hand over her gun and car keys.
Officers edged through the darkness past a security gate surrounding the group of red brick buildings and headed for the source of the emergency request for help. They peered through the uncurtained window of the condo and confirmed that there was trouble. The couple inside was shouting and grappling. Police separated the pair and began interrogating them.
That's when it became apparent that this was no ordinary domestic dispute.
The woman involved was Dee Anne Deen, a petite five-foot-tall brunette with blue eyes. She also had 16 years of experience with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. Deen had worked her way up from probation officer to supervisor -- it was her service revolver that part of the fight had been about.
Deen was 39 years old. But her male companion turned out to be a minor -- a 16-year-old handsome but troubled teen. In fact, Deen first met him while overseeing his juvenile probation worker. She'd eventually showered him with gifts and attention and privileges. And when he left a probation department-sponsored stay at a counseling center months earlier, Deen had him move into her town house.
According to a police spokesman, Deen told officers that night that she had just taken the boy in as a favor to his mother and was trying to help him complete a GED in preparation for college.
However, the teenager says he was frank in his answers to police: "I told them she was my probation officer at one point in time and we fucked, and she got mad and wanted to fight. And that's exactly what I told 'em."
Certainly, juvenile probation authorities would want to know about accusations of such a sordid relationship involving one of their own supervisors. After all, news reports in recent months had alleged abuses of minors by probation department workers. There were even isolated cases of female teachers being criminally charged for consensual sex with boys in their schools.
Juvenile probation officials, though, already knew of Deen's strange relationship. For months, concerned co-workers had reported the unusual situation between Deen and the teen, who was less than half her age.
A former supervisor says she filed warning memos after noting the pair spent long hours together at night in Deen's office at the county's Burnett-Bayland home for juveniles. Three months before the April incident, the youth's father had warned agency officials that his son was involved in an apparent sexual relationship with Deen and had access to her service revolver and car -- he'd drawn the gun on his own father.
Despite all those red flags, there is no indication Harris County probation authorities took any effective steps to investigate the allegations. Even after she quit her job, law enforcement turned a blind eye while the relationship continued. By all indications, criminal justice system officials are similarly shunning serious attention to the matter.
Linda Crocker, the former Burnett-Bayland superintendent who first issued the warning memos about Deen's conduct, raises several questions about the actions of juvenile probation officials.
"Why would you ask someone to resign once she did violate policy by having a child living with her that was on probation or recently off probation? She was obviously treated differently," Crocker says. "She was allowed to resign and the boy was not placed in detention."
To Crocker, there's only one logical explanation for the almost comedic chain of events: "It's called cover-up."
Ephraim McDuffie, the operator of a juvenile treatment facility, was amazed at the way the agency hushed up the scandal. "If it had been anyone else, it would be plastered all over the news media and everywhere else," he says.
The boy himself laughs at the memory of that evening and Deen's denials. "She can't admit nothing because she thinks she's an angel."
When Dee Anne Deen and Terry Williams (his real name is not being used, because he is a juvenile) encountered each other at Burnett-Bayland in the fall of 2000, both were pretty much on their own -- she by choice, he by circumstance.
Deen, whose extended family lives in Anahuac east of Houston, attended Lee College in Baytown and earned a degree from Sam Houston State in 1985. She joined Harris County Juvenile Probation the summer after graduation and never worked anywhere else.
She started as a detention center employee and advanced to a court caseworker position, helping determine placement for juveniles. Co-workers describe her as a pleasant, caring woman who was drawn to children who were without family support systems. No one recalls her having steady boyfriends in recent years -- her job seemed to be her social life.
When Bayland director Linda Crocker had an opening at the facility in 1998, she says, she promoted Deen from worker to supervisor of a unit of caseworkers because she cared about the children and had good writing skills. "Of the people I had, she was my probably best choice at the time," she says.