So afraid of his mothers boyfriend was Samantha McMullens son that he asked state child protection investigators to rescue him and his siblings from the man, so he would not kill them.
The little boy was removed from his mothers home but not from danger.
Again and again, when case workers from Lutheran Services visited McMullens four children at their maternal grandmothers house in Lee County, McMullen was there, with the boyfriend who had been accused of beating both her and her kids.
McMullen, her boyfriend and her mother all were charged with murder last week when 3-year-old Michael McMullen, police say, was restrained to death by the three adults while under the supervision of a privately run child welfare agency under contract with the state. Michael is among about 25 children who have died since last spring after the Florida Department of Children & Families had investigated allegations of abuse or neglect and declared them to be safe.
A review of Michaels death, provided Monday morning to the Miami Herald, says the little boy was wrapped so tightly in a straight jacket-like blanket that he simply stopped breathing. Along with McMullen, boyfriend Douglas Garrigus, 21, and the boys grandmother, 56-year-old Gale Watkins, also are facing murder charges.
Its horrific a horrific murder of this poor baby, DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo said Monday
Both DCF and its private social work agency should have done a better job of recognizing the red flags that were present in the boys home, Jacobo said. At the very least, Jacobo added, case workers should have significantly increased the number of visits to the troubled familys home. Investigators and caseworkers also should have seriously considered asking the judge who oversaw the family to remove the four children from the grandmother and place them in the home of either another relative, or a foster family.
Michaels death, Jacobo added, remains under investigation. This is very early, she added. We still have a lot of work to do.
The 11-page review shows that both DCF and Lutheran Services had observed and dismissed a host of critical red flags:
On July 8, a month after Michael and his three siblings were sent to live with Watkins, DCFs abuse hotline received a report that Michael and the other children were being forced to sleep in a cat crate.
Watkins said Michael liked to sleep in the crate with his comforter because he feels safe there, a report said. She denied the children were forced to sleep there, as did Michaels mom, who was in the home when an investigator arrived to look into the allegations. One of the children reported that both Michael and another youngster slept in the crate.
In August, a Lutheran Services case worker observed one of the children with a penny-size bruise, and the girl told the worker her grandmother had hit her. Though Watkins first denied hitting the girl, she later acknowledged the punishment, saying Michael and his sister were biting each other. The case worker saw no teeth marks on either child.
Though he had been repeatedly accused of beating both McMullen and her children, Garrigus was also in the home, and possibly living there along with McMullen. Watkins told a caseworker that one of the children pees his pants when Garrigus arrives an indication the boy was petrified of his mothers boyfriend.
One of the children told the case manager that he and his siblings sleep a lot at their grandmothers house, and, during one home visit, the children were already in bed by 5:30 p.m.
One of the children described the kids routine to a case worker this way: We take a nap, then lunch and drink, then go to bed, eat dinner and get medicine We sleep a lot.