GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — One month after his 5-year-old daughter was killed, Gregory Holland wants to raise awareness of how he tried to keep his daughter safe but said the system worked against his favor.
Holland’s daughter, E’nijah, died on Feb. 12 after being found stabbed inside the apartment of her mother.
“I have nightmares and I haven't slept,” Holland said. “This is the toughest pain a person can endure by far.”
Holland detailed how he tried to gain custody of his 5-year-old daughter from her birth mother beginning last summer after concerns over his daughter’s health and safety, but told News 5 he ran into roadblock after roadblock. Holland argues many of those roadblocks existed because he was the father.
He told News 5 when he was finally able to get a hearing set for February, it was canceled due to a snow storm. That hearing would have occurred just days before his daughter’s death.
“I did everything the correct way,” Holland said. “I went and got a lawyer, did everything the correct and honest way and the system failed me.”
A handful of people gathered outside the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center, calling out how they believe fathers are treated during custody hearings, specifically citing Holland’s situation.
According to Section 3109.042 of Ohio law:
(A) An unmarried female who gives birth to a child is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court of competent jurisdiction issues an order designating another person as the residential parent and legal custodian. A court designating the residential parent and legal custodian of a child described in this section shall treat the mother and father as standing upon an equality when making the designation.
“So many things could have been done to prevent this,” Joseph Jones with Father Lives Matter said. “Both parents are equal parents and that’s the way it’s supposed to be in the court of law but that’s not the way it is.”
For Gregory Holland, his family keeps E’nijah’s memory alive however they can. Now, their goal is to keep more than just a memory alive for others in similar situations.
“I just want justice for this because the system failed me and I don't want any other father to endure what I had to endure,” he added.
Holland’s mother, 29-year-old Menokka Nealy, of Bedford Heights, is charged with aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, and endangering children, according to Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas records. All of the charges are felonies.
She was arrested on Feb. 12 after police responded to an apartment in the 5300 block of Northfield Road to conduct a welfare check on the child.
According to police, officers found the child lying on the floor. The child had been stabbed repeatedly and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said the mother claimed responsibility for the attack but didn't give a reason why it happened.
RELATED: Mother tells Bedford Heights police she was responsible for stabbing 5-year-old child to death
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