‘I think I lost it. I lost it. My mind just could not bear to think about something like that’: Aniya Day Garrett’s father testifies in murder trial

Data pix.

Warning: Some of the testimony may be graphic.

CLEVELAND-- The trial continued on Monday in the cases of a woman and boyfriend accused of murdering a 4-year-old girl.

Sierra Day, 24, and Deonte Lewis, 27, are charged with aggravated murder, murder and endangering children.

Day's daughter, Aniya Day Garrett, died on March 11, 2018.  Police and paramedics were called to an apartment on Lakeshore Boulevard in Euclid.

The jury heard testimony from Aniya’s father, Mickhal Garrett.

"I think I lost it. I lost it. My mind just could not bear to think about something like that," he said about the day his daughter died.

Garrett told the jury that he filed a complaint with Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services and a report with East Cleveland police when he noticed signs of abuse during a visit with his daughter.

"I visibly observed a bruise in my daughter's chest area and on her lower back,” he said. Mickhal Garrett testified that he was fighting for emergency custody of his daughter at the time of her death, but said the court would not consider his request because Sierra Day had been granted a restraining order against him.

Also on Monday, Aniya's former baby sitter and worker at Harbor Crest Daycare testified. Tamira Finley's voice cracked with emotion.

Finley told the jury that when she first met Aniya at the day care center, the child was, "Sweet, outspoken, energetic, she was a little angel.”

Finley testified she began to notice bumps and bruises on Aniya’s body, and that when she asked the child what caused the injuries, “Aniya said she fell.”

She said one day Aniya was crying in the classroom, and she asked the child to sit on her lap and tell her what was wrong. Finley told then the jury, “Aniya told me ‘Mommy hit me, but ‘Mommy said I fell.’”

Another time the 4-year-old arrived at her home with a black eye.

“Aniya told me ‘Mommy hit me.’”

Finley testified that when Sierra Day arrived to pick up her daughter, she confronted Day about the black eye. Day accused her daughter of lying about the cause of the injury, Finley said.

She said she filled out observation reports about the injuries she witnessed and gave them to her supervisor at the day care center.

An investigation by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found that the operators of Harbor Crest and a second day care center failed to forward the reports of abuse to authorities in the months leading up Aniya’s death. As the Fox 8 I-Team first reported, the state revoked the licenses of the two day care centers in May 2018.

A second employee at Harbor Crest, Michelle Marshall, openly wept as she told the jury about the various injuries she saw on Aniya’s body.

Marshall testified that when she asked Aniya what happened the child said, “Mommy hit me, mommy hurt me.”

Marshall said she also filed observation reports with her supervisor at the day care center. Marshall cried as she related the events of May 18, 2018.

She testified that Aniya arrived at the day care, with injuries that included abrasions on her face and blood in her ear.

Marshall testified that when she asked the child what happened,” Aniya said ‘Mommy pushed me down.’”

Marshall told the jury that she was so upset and angry about the abuse, that she immediately took Aniya to Euclid Hospital.

While Aniya was being treated, police were contacted.

A Euclid police officer testified that he contacted Cuyahoga County Children’s Services about the child’s injuries, and that when he questioned Sierra Day about what happened, she told him that the injuries happened at the day care center, and when asked why Aniya said she was responsible, Day told him “Aniya lies.”

The officer testified that when he questioned the operator of Harbor Crest about Aniya’s history, she supplied 18 observation reports filed by employees, detailing injuries suffered by the child.

The officer testified that he gave the reports to a children’s services case worker.

A 911 dispatcher took the witness stand Thursday. Prosecutors played the call as the dispatcher described giving CPR instructions. She commented on how long it took for Aniya's mother to mention the girl wasn't breathing.

A firefighter, who responded to on the scene, said the girl was cold and stiff, with several burns, cuts and contusions in various stages of healing. He said he believed Aniya had been dead for some time, but emergency personnel continued to administer first aid.

Day told police at the scene she thought her daughter had a stomach virus and the girl fell while in the bathroom, according to the police report.

Months before her death, Mickhal Garrett, Aniya's father, filed for custody.

“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 in an affidavit.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services ruled Cuyahoga County child welfare workers failed the 4-year-old girl. Aniya wasn't removed from her mother's home even after telling caseworkers, "Mommy did it."

Garrett and other local activists pushed for changes to  the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services. In September, the county created the Children and Family Services Advisory Board in response.

Continuing coverage of this story here

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