Chanting and holding signs, a vocal group of protestors converged on the Cuyahoga County Division of Child Family Services building on Euclid Avenue Monday afternoon as part of a peaceful, hour-long protest to demanded accountability from the agency after a 4-year-old girl was allegedly murdered by her mother, who was the subject of multiple prior CFS investigations.
Sierra Day and Deonte Lewis, the girl's mother and her mother's boyfriend, both face aggravated murder charges in the beating death of Aniya Day-Garrett. According to the medical examiner’s office, the little girl died of blunt force trauma to the head and was malnourished. Euclid police officers also noted several burn marks on the child’s body.
Both have pleaded not guilty.
Frustrated and furious, but still grieving, Aniya’s biological father, Michael Garrett, led the impassioned protest.
“We want them held accountable. [CFS] failed me!,” Garrett said. “They failed us all! Nobody should have to go through this.”
The protest coursed its way up and down Euclid Avenue. At one time, the group of protestors stood in the intersection of Euclid Avenue and E. 40th Street. The goal of the protest was to demand a federal investigation into CFS’s policies and procedures.
Garrett was surprised and humbled by the turnout.
“It means the world to me. It means my life. It means Aniya’s life,” Garrett said. “That’s why we’re here today, together, we’re here together to stop it and make a difference and make a change.”
Last fall, Garrett said he began seeking emergency custody of Aniya upon hearing that the girl was being neglected and abused. According to a Euclid police incident report, the allegations of abuse dated back to 2015. The girl’s mother, Sierra Day, didn’t have a criminal record in May 2017 when a report was filed by Aniya's daycare, Harbor Crest Daycare, for "abusing a minor." The daycare had been documenting injuries to Aniya since 2015 at that point.
According to police, the daycare's incident reports concerning Aniya included:
- September 17, 2015: Bruise to right side of face, looked like a hand print.
- October 22, 2015: Bruise to the right side of face, looked like a hand print. Child cried most of the day.
- September 12, 2016: Bruises on face, eye and arm. Mother stated that Aniya had fallen out of bed and she had removed some bandages where Aniya had gotten shots.
- September 21, 2016: Bruises on her face, under her eye and on her eye lid. Aniya stated that mom did it.
- October 25, 2016: Bump on head. Aniya was crying.
- December 1, 2016: Aniya had a bruise under her right eye and was crying. Aniya stated that mom had hit her. Mom stated it happened at Applebee’s
- December 2, 2016: Bruise on left? (sic) Aniya stated that mom had been hitting her.
- December 6, 2016: Rug burn type scar on left elbow. Aniya said that mom hit her.
- December 27, 2016: Bruise on forehead. Mommy hit me.
- January 18, 2017: Aniya came to school with several bruises on the face, arm and back. Aniya has a raised bruise on her left upper forearm. When asked about it, Aniya stated that her mommy had scratched her.
- February 10, 2017: Aniya has a dark-colored bruise under her left eye. Aniya stated that mom did this. Staff had noticed bruises on her every day when she comes in.
- March 14, 2017: Right side of lip. Busted lip.
- May 15, 2017: Scrape on top and under nose. Mother said child fell at the park. Child says mommy pushed her down at home.
- May 18, 2017: Right side of head and ear. Swollen and dried blood.
According to police, a childcare center worker said Aniya wanted to be held and hugged, and constantly asked, “Am I being good?” On May 18, 2017, Aniya was transported to Euclid Hospital when daycare staff noticed dry blood in her ear and abrasions on her head, according to a police report.
At the hospital, police gave a county social worker a report detailing all the incidents listed above. According to police, Aniya told the county social worker, "Mommy hits her and hurts her."
News 5 has requested reports related to Aniya from Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services.
“So many people have tried and tried and tried to make sure Aniya Marie Garrett was safe and they failed our family,” Garrett said. “They failed us!”
Children and Family Services were made aware of the reports of abuse, and a worker told police on March 6, 2018 the agency received a request from an "undisclosed party" to conduct a home visit and evaluation on Aniya.
Following the protest, Mary Louise Madigan, the communications director for Cuyahoga County, released the following statement:
We know that we are expected to see and recognize patterns of abuse and neglect and if the internal investigation determines we did something wrong there will be discipline. We will continue to cooperate with police and the prosecutor.
The protestors also invoked the names of three other children who were allegedly murdered by a parent. The parents in those cases also had been investigated by CFS before the child’s death or there were active investigations when the child died.