CLEVELAND — On Day 4 in the murder trial of Aniya Day-Garrett, the sister of Aniya's mother Sierra Day took the stand, revealing long before the 4-year-old's death how she noticed changes in her niece's physical appearance and behavior.
In her testimony, Day's sister described how her sister became very distant from her family and wasn’t coming around as much as she used to before she met Deonte Lewis.
Prosecutors opened with questions, asking Day's sister, who has two daughters of her own, about the relationship Aniya and Day had with the rest of the family before and after Lewis came into the picture.
Her sister said she and her siblings were close during their childhood, a bond that she said continued into adulthood.
"We were pretty good, really close. We were all each other had," the sister said.
It was during a family party in July 2017 that Lewis was introduced as Day's boyfriend.
“They were always together. Every time Sierra came around, Deonte was there. He had a car so he was basically her ride. Every time I saw my sister, I saw Deonte," said the sister.
A change in Aniya
Her sister said changes became noticeable after Lewis came into the picture. On occasions when Day brought Aniya to family gatherings, she observed noticeable changes to Aniya, first in her behavior.
“She didn’t really seem like a child. She was very standoff-ish. She didn’t really seem happy,” Day’s sister said on the stand after talking about Aniya’s change in behavior after her mom began to see Lewis.
Then the physical changes began to become noticeable.
“She was getting smaller. I thought maybe it had something to do with her getting taller. When toddlers grow, they slim out a little bit. She was getting littler and littler to the point you could see the extension of her stomach sticking out," said the sister, referring to Aniya during the July family party.
When Day's sister would see Aniya, she observed little things that started to bother her.
“I didn’t want to think that things were what I was observing in my head," Day's sister said. "I would ask questions and I would get excuses and I would just leave it at that it.”
She told the court that she noticed on some occasion that Day would take Aniya in a separate room and discipline her. She pointed out that she never saw Lewis discipline Aniya.
She mentioned out Aniya would come out crying, and one time, she came out with a bloody nose.
"When I asked my sister about it, she would make up an excuse, saying she fell or hit her face," she said. It was never something she did or admitted to doing to Aniya.”
Around September and October, Day’s sister cited a falling out she and her sister had about “something really stupid, getting mad at each over over dumb things.”
After the falling out, Day’s sister said she would text her, reach out on social media, even going through her brother to reach out to her sister.
The call for help
After not talking for some time, Day's sister said she grew concerned for Aniya and her mother. She would reach out to her brothers, who were still in contact with Day, to get information on her sister and her niece.
With the knowledge of what she observed and the things her brothers told her, she called Aniya's father and Children and Family Services.
She made the call to Aniya's father Mickhal Garrett in fear for her niece and her sister.
“I told Mickhal that I felt Aniya was being abused, something wasn’t right. They were hiding her. She wasn’t coming around a lot and that we needed to do something to stop this. I told Children and Family Services the same thing," she said.
She told the court that when she made the report to Children and Family Services in January 2018, she also said Day needed help.
The tragic news
Then came the call on a Monday from a friend who saw on the news that a 4-year-old girl from Euclid was found dead.
"I had lost contact with Sierra at the point. I called my brothers who tried to contact Sierra and there was no answer. We drove to Euclid Hospital where no one would tell us information until we got to the police station."