The father of a 4-year-old Ohio girl who was killed last year by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county’s Department of Children and Families, accusing the agency of ignoring evidence of abuse before his daughter’s murder.
According to WJW, Mickhal Garrett filed the lawsuit against the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services on Wednesday morning. Garrett had reportedly filed for custody of his daughter and had warned the courts about abuse occurring at Sierra Day’s Euclid home before Aniya was found unresponsive on March 11.
News of the lawsuit comes a month after Sierra was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sierra’s boyfriend, Deonte Lewis, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in 20 years for his role in Aniya’s death. WKYC reported that Aniya’s cause of death was listed as cerebral necrosis due to blunt impacts to the head and a subdural hematoma. The 29-pound girl had burns on her body and a black eye when medics found her.
“As a result of the systemic and institutional failures of [the defendants], on March 11, 2018, the physical abuse and neglect of Aniya became so pervasive, severe, and unchecked, Aniya ultimately succumbed to the physical injuries inflicted upon her,” the lawsuit states.
In addition to DCF, about three dozen people and entities are listed in the wrongful death suit, including the 4-year-old’s killers, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, and day care employees at Get Ready, Set, Grow Preschool and Harbor Crest Childcare Academy.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had scrutinized both day care facilities for failing to report evidence of abuse in a timely manner. ODJFS confirmed in December that Harbor Crest had already closed and was close to reaching a settlement. Harbor Crest’s owners were found to have 13 reports of abuse dating back to September 2015 but didn’t provide them to police until May 2017.
Get Ready, Set, Grow—where Aniya’s mother reportedly worked—closed its doors in March and ODJFS barred its owners from applying for a license to open a new childcare provider for four years. The facility had received 14 violations for failing to complete background checks on several employees, not reporting possible abuse, and forcing children to sleep in closets.
In October, ODJFS released a 21-page report in which they criticized Cuyahoga County DCFS for rampant violations and failures in Aniya’s case. The agency determined that DCFS ignored evidence that Aniya’s mother was abusing her for at least two years. The report zeroed in on the time period between February 2017 through March 2018 and found that DCFS was alerted to abuse on at least five instances, according to WEWS.
In their report, the state agency cited a February 2017 incident in which a caseworker failed to interview the hospitalized child—despite her claim that “Mommy” caused her injuries. The caseworker reportedly had a face-to-face meeting with Sierra and determined that she and Aniya were “bonded” despite never seeing the pair interact. State officials alleged the social workers didn’t interview Aniya “due to the target child’s age and development,” according to Cleveland.com.
The recent lawsuit references six reports filed with DCFS between February 14, 2017, and March 6, 2018. Garrett, his aunt, police, and hospital staff had filed complaints but their reports “were miscategorized and summarily closed without proper investigation,” the suit alleges.
According to WEWS, Garrett had sent a letter to Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court where he claimed Sierra was keeping him from his daughter and said relatives believed she was being abused.
The concerned father reportedly wrote in December 2017, “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.”
Continuing coverage on the Aniya Day case can be read here.
[Featured image: Aniya Day, Mickhal Garrett/WEWS video screengrab]