WATCH LIVE: Governor Branstad Resigns From Office to Become Ambassador to China

After Second Teen’s Death, Branstad Praises DHS Director But Says Next Gov. Should Decide His Fate

Chuck Palmer (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa–Following the second death of an adopted, home schooled teen who had been under supervision from the Iowa Department of Human Services, Governor Terry Branstad declined to speculate on the future of the agency’s director, Chuck Palmer.

“That’s going to be his decision and that of the new governor,” Branstad said.

(Watch Channel 13’s full interview with Governor Terry Branstad on Sabrina Ray’s death)

Thursday, prosecutors charged Marc and Misty Ray in connection with the death of their adopted daughter Sabrina, 16, in Perry.

Authorities say Sabrina weighed just 56 pounds when medics found her dead in the family's home Friday night. That is about half the weight an average teenage girl should weigh at that age.  

Natalie Finn, 16 of West Des Moines, was also severely malnourished when she died last October. She, too, had been adopted and home schooled. Finn's parents are charged in connection with her death.

Sabrina Ray's death prompted DHS to conduct a review. Republicans in the statehouse Thursday called for their own oversight hearings into DHS. Republicans earlier in the year, rebuffed Democrats' call for hearings. So Democrats held them on their own before the session ended in April.

Democrats Thursday called for Palmer to either get fired or resign. They have also criticized Republicans for cutting $24 million in yearly funding for the DHS and for reducing the DHS staff.

Asked if he could assure Iowans that budget and staffing cuts are not putting children at risk, Branstad responded, "Yes."

DHS spokesperson Amy McCoy said Iowa Code prevents the agency from disclosing whether the department had investigated any potential claims of abuse in Sabrina Ray's case, once she was adopted. "When an adoption is finalized through the courts, DHS is no longer involved with services for the family unless they seek them or there is a report of abuse," McCoy emailed in a statement.