VAN ZANDT, Texas - A Child Protective Services caseworker and two foster children died in a head-on crash in Van Zandt County.
State troopers said 19-year-old Jesse Brown was passing in a no-passing zone near Edgewood on Tuesday. His car hit one driven by CPS worker Connie Wells.
Wells died in the crash along with 10-year-old Elijah Tuma and 14-year-old Adam Tuma. Their 12-year-old sister, Issiebella, was seriously hurt.
Dawn Morrison admits it's been years since she's seen or talked to her children. But she says they were working with CPS on getting them to Ohio where she and her ex-husband live before a teen driver took the children's lives.
"I don't want to hate him, and I don't want to see his life ruined," she said. "But yet, he took my children and I don't know what else to do except to let justice play out."
Wells was taking the kids home to their foster families from a counseling session.
Morrison says her children were removed from her care when she and her now ex-husband went through a difficult time and she moved to Ohio for cancer treatment.
"I thought that was the worst thing that could happen, and it's not," she said. "It's finding out you lost your children."
Morrison says the children went to live with their grandmother, Thelma Morrison-Duff, and her husband at their Canton home.
According to a CPS report, the children made several outcries about alleged abuse at that home and deplorable living conditions from animal waste. CPS removed the children Thursday. On Friday, the SPCA and Van Zandt Sheriff's Office seized 109 dogs and cats from the home and one horse.
For now, Morrison says she's just eager to see her daughter but is anticipating a very difficult talk.
"When she does find out about her brothers, I know it's going to be very hard," she said. "And she's going to ask the question: why her?"
Quinten Wells is grieving the loss of his 61-year-old mother who became a CPS caseworker after going back to school in her 50s to better provide for her family and protect children.
"I'm very, very proud of her for all she's done, all she's accomplished and all the different lives she's touched," he said.
Wells says his mother had been living in Willis Point, often seeing her three grandchildren and taking care of her parents. She just buried her father last Saturday.
Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman said he is close to his caseworkers and often works with them in the field.
"It is difficult to convey our shock and sadness from this terrible tragedy," he said. "The loss of these young people, coupled with the loss of one of our devoted front-line CPS workers, is almost too much to bear. Our prayers are with all of the affected families."
Troopers said the teenage driver and his teenage passenger were also hurt. They were reportedly stable when taken to a local hospital.
The crash is still under investigation. It's not yet clear if the teenage driver will face charges.