An Ohio woman and her boyfriend were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for last year’s beating death of the woman’s 4-year-old daughter.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy McCormick called Aniya Day’s death a “committed form of torture” before sentencing Sierra Day to life without parole and her boyfriend, Deonte Lewis, to life with the chance of parole after 20 years. An emaciated Aniya lost her ability to walk and suffered a blow to the head that killed her in March 2018, according to Cleveland.com.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office listed Aniya’s cause of death as cerebral necrosis due to blunt impacts to the head and a subdural hematoma. Medics who responded to the Euclid home noted burns on the unresponsive girl in addition to a black eye, according to WKYC.
Earlier this month, a jury deliberated for a few hours before convicting the pair of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, child endangering, and permitting child abuse. Cleveland.com reported that the court heard testimony from several witnesses who claimed they saw Sierra abuse her daughter in the final months of her life and had reported it to the Department of Children and Family Services.
Prior to sentencing, the slain girl’s father, Mickhal Garrett, thanked the jury for convicting Day and Lewis. He went on to call Lewis weak for not stepping in to stop the abuse and admonished Day for harming her own daughter, according to WJW.
“I have waited for this day and I sought justice to the full extent of law,” he said, addressing the court. “In my opinion, the death penalty would be fair. But then again, that would be too easy for the torture and death for a 4-year-old child.”
“These two monsters ruined my entire life.”
Months before her beating death, Garrett reportedly pleaded the courts for custody and alerted them to possible abuse at Aniya’s Euclid home. He reportedly sent a letter to Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court in December 2017 where he claimed Sierra Day was keeping him from his daughter and said relatives also believed she was being abused.
According to WEWS, he wrote, “I truly, truly, truly feel as though our daughter is being abused at home physically/mentally and that her life could possibly be in danger.”
In October, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) found that Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) failed to follow protocol and ignored two years’ worth of abuse involving the slain 4-year-old.
Between February 2017 and March 2018, the state agency found DCFS was notified about the abuse on five instances. The state also identified three occasions where DCFS closed cases without evaluating Aniya or ensuring Sierra completed her parent counseling, according to WEWS.
In its report, ODJFS highlighted a February 2017 encounter where Aniya said, “Mommy did it” while in the hospital. Not only did the caseworker find that Aniya and Sierra “bonded” despite never observing them together, but they dismissed Aniya’s claims due to her “age and development” and claimed she couldn’t be interviewed, according to Cleveland.com.
In December, one of two day cares under scrutiny for allegedly ignoring the abuse agreed to close its doors per an agreement with state regulators. WEWS reported at the time that Get Ready Set Grow Preschool was to cease operations March 2019 and its owners were barred from applying for a license to open a new childcare provider for four years.
The slain girl’s mother had reportedly worked at Get Ready Set Grow Preschool and its owner claimed supervisors would’ve immediately fired her if they knew she was abusive, according to the news station. The state ultimately identified 14 violations at the preschool, including failing to complete background checks on several employees, failing to report suspicions of abuse, and for children being forced to sleep in closets.
The second day care, Harbor Crest Childcare Academy, reportedly had documentation detailing abuse that went as far back as September 2015 that wasn’t turned over to authorities until months later. WKYC reported that Harbor Crest’s new owner provided police with 13 records of suspected abuse involving Aniya on May 18, 2017, after she came to the facility with blood coming from her ears.
An ODJFS spokesperson told WEWS in December that Harbor Crest Childcare Academy had already closed its doors but was in the process in of reaching a settlement with the state.
In light of Aniya’s death, Garrett has pushed legislators to pass “Aniya’s Law,” which would allow for a child’s immediate removal from a home when abuse is evident. The law also seeks harsher penalties for social workers and caseworkers who ignore protocol.
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[Featured image: Aniya Day, Mickhal Garrett/Instagram]