Father, day care warned of possible abuse months before murder of 4-year-old Aniya Day

EUCLID, Ohio -- The father of 4-year-old Aniya Day-Garrett warned that he felt the girl was being abused and that her life could be in danger months before she was killed, and the child’s day care made more than a dozen reports of suspected abuse.

Aniya was pronounced dead after Euclid Police were called to her mother’s apartment on Lakeshore Boulevard on March 11. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office said Aniya suffered from blunt impacts to the head and malnutrition.

The girl's mother, Sierra Day, and her boyfriend, Deonte Lewis, were charged with aggravated murder in the case. They are being held on $1 million bond each.

In December, Aniya’s father, Mickhal Garrett, filed for custody, writing in an affidavit, “I truly, truly, truly, feel as though our daughter (Aniya) is being abused at home physically/mentally and that her life could possibly be in danger.”

Garrett wrote that he last saw Aniya in late September and was “very disturbed and concerned” about scars and bruises on her body. He stated that after he confronted Day about the wounds, she began cutting off his visits with Aniya and claiming the girl was out of state.

Day was granted custody of Aniya in October after filing for an order of protection for herself and Aniya against Garrett. A judge granted the order in November, noting Day testified that Garrett had committed domestic violence.

Garrett did not attend the hearing and wrote in his affidavit that he did not receive notice because he had moved to a new home and his address changed. He called the allegations of domestic violence “completely untrue” and stated Day “has been telling false allegations to the domestic violence courts” since he questioned her about suspected abuse.

Day did not attend a February custody hearing, during which the court appointed a guardian. The court set another hearing for March 19, days after Aniya was murdered.

Harbor Crest Childcare Academy, which Aniya attended, made internal incident reports of suspected abuse more than a dozen times, but only reported one to police, according to the Euclid Police Department.

In May 2017, owner Tamika Robinson called Euclid police to report staff saw marks on the girl throughout the week and noticed Aniya was bleeding from her ear, according to an incident report. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

According to the report, Aniya told staff earlier that week that “mommy had pushed her down at home and her nose got hurt on the carpet” but that “mommy keeps saying that it happened at the park.” The report states the girl constantly wanted to be hugged and asked staff, “Am I being good?”

In the report, a Euclid police officer summarized all the internal incident reports made by the facility, which up until that point was owned by someone else, according to Robinson.

Sept. 17, 2015 – Bruise to right side of face, looked like a hand print

Oct. 22, 2015 – Bruise to right side of face, looked like a hand print. Child cried most of the day.

Sept. 12, 2016 – Bruises on face, eye and arm. Mother stated that Aniya had fallen out of bed.

Sept. 21, 2016 – Bruises on her face, under her eye and on her eye lid. Aniya stated that mom did it.

Oct. 25, 2016 – Bump on head. Aniya was crying.

Dec. 1, 2016 – Aniya had a bruise under her right eye and was crying. Aniya stated that mom had hit her. Mom stated that it happened at a restaurant.

Dec. 2, 2016 – Bruise on left? Aniya stated that mom has been hitting her.

Dec. 6, 2016 – Rug burn type scar on left elbow. Aniya stated that mom hit her.

Dec. 27, 2016 – Bruise on forehead. Aniya stated that mom and dad did it. Mommy hit me.

Jan. 18, 2017 – Aniya came to school with several bruises. Aniya stated that her mommy had scratched her.

Feb. 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 the May 18 report, Day denied abusing Aniya.

A social worker from Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services responded to the hospital, was provided information about the past incidents, and spoke with Aniya, who “told her that her mommy hits her and hurts her,” according to the report.

A spokesperson for Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services confirmed the agency had conducted three investigations into abuse of Aniya, and there was an open case at the time of her death. Garrett joined activists in a protest outside the agency’s offices Monday, claiming Children and Family Services failed her.

“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 the police and prosecutor,” a county spokesperson said in a statement.

Continuing coverage.

Editor's note: This story was updated on March 23, 2018 to clarify that previous incidents listed were noted on the day care's internal incident reports, but only one was reported to police, according to the Euclid Police Department.