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Michael Lee McMullen
   - October 19, 2013

It was time for Michael to take a nap, only it seemed that he wasn't tired. So there could have been any number of things done, let him stay up until he WAS tired, don't make him take a nap, children DO grow out of naps even before the age of three, so many good options, none of them should have been the "wrap", which is what his Donella, his grandmother and step-father chose for him. The "wrap" was used often on this child who was said to have behavior problems, it seems to me like the people with the behavior problems were the adults around this three year old child. Donella was no stranger to abusing children, she had been arrested and charged with a child abuse related crime in Michigan in 1992 and was on probation from that conviction.

Michael was misbehaving so his caregiver Donella Trainor, who was 45 years old at the time, decided that he was going to be punished and take a nap. Donella rolled Michael up in a blanket and tied the ends so the child would not be able to move. Michael screamed and asked to be let go, he couldn't move under what was said to be six layers of the king sized blanket he had been rolled up in. Donella laid Michael in his crib, (A crib, at three years old?) face down and he continued to plead for her to let him go, she refused and told him that as soon as he calmed down, he could get up. At some point, the woman who had custody of him, his grandmother Gale Watkins, who was 56 years old at the time, told Donella that the knots were too tight and she needed to loosen them. Gale didn't stay in the room to find out if she did and Michael kept begging and squirming trying to get out.

Enter Douglas Garrigus, Michael's 21 year old stepfather who went into the room after about one hour and told him that he should just try to calm down and he could get up. Douglas did nothing to help Michael even though he could hear that the child was having trouble breathing and was still crying. Donella noticed that the knots had loosed so she tightened them up again and stacked pillows all around Michael. When Michael stopped crying, Donella just assumed he had fallen asleep so she left the room so he could finish his nap. Donella returned to the room to wake up him later and found him unresponsive and soaking wet from sweating.

Someone called 911 and when help arrived, Donella and Gale were doing CPR on Michael who was still wet from sweating. Michael was taken to the hospital and 40 minutes later was pronounced dead. An autopsy was done and his death was ruled a homicide. Donella, Gale and Douglas were all arrested and charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and Donella was facing a charge of aggravated abuse of a child. Gale and Douglas each received a bond of $250,000. while Donella was considered a flight risk since she was on probation and she received a bond of $300,000. for each charge. Neighbors were unaware of what had gone on in the home that day:

"The only thing we heard up until this morning was mostly rumors. We heard everything from the
child died eating peanut butter cause he's allergic to it, to just about anything"
Richard

Michael's biological mother, who had lost custody of Michael due to a domestic dispute,  was very upset and unable to talk about the Michael. The woman who cleaned the home said:

"He's an innocent baby that doesn't deserve it. He will be missed, he was a great little boy"
Stacey

Stacey had been a witness in the past to the punishment the children had gone through and she had tried to help them by calling CPS:

"I've seen where they've had to stand on the all with their hands at their sides for hours. If their hands
moved they would either get a spanking or it would add to their time. What I had seen, I thought was
extensive. But I didn't feel it was my place to say nothing"

DCF admitted that they had been called at least four times since 2008 about this family, one complaint said that the children were sleeping in cages. A case worker reported that there was a large cage in the living room though the children admitted that they sometimes slept in the cage with the their cat, there was no indication that they were forced to sleep there, though the report did not report any facts of if they were forced or not. A spokesperson for DCF said:

"The tragic circumstances around Michael McMullen's death saddens and infuriates everyone involved
in the child welfare system. The Department Of Children And Families is currently investigating the sense-
less death of this little boy"
Terri Durdaller

In October of 2013, one of the famous "reviews" took place to figure out what went wrong in the death of Michael it was determined that the background checks that were needed to ensure the safety of Michael and the other children living in the home, were never done. The findings of the review were as follows:

Protocols on background checks were not followed.

The need for a real-time quality assurance process evaluating safety factors

Continuous assessment of a relatives ability to cope with children and provide a safe environment

That services identified for children get implemented immediately as well as grief counseling when a sibling dies.

Case management agencies should develop a protocol for enhances supervisory oversight for young children under
their supervision.

It was noted that in June a report had come in about abuse in the family and three home visits were done in July as well as three unannounced visits in August with two more in September and one more on October 8 of 2013. The October visit was in relation to the children sleeping in cages, a charge which Gale denied though she said sometimes Michael would sleep in the cage because he felt safer there. Safer from what? That is what SHOULD have been asked. It was later agreed that the adults in the home had lied when being questioned by case workers, though CPS did say they had some fault and in the review it was said: However, Child Protective Investigators missed opportunities to reconcile inconsistent statements and assertations by and among adults in this home that would have provided additional insight.

"I don't know if getting that information would have ultimately protected these children because
we can now see, through hindsight, how manipulative and misleading this family was, including
the grandmother"
Mike Carroll - Regional DCF Head

Mike added that the family had used different names and was not truthful about who was actually living in the home. Donella had said that she was only visiting from Michigan and would be leaving soon. It was noted in the report that no one bothered to check if she ever left or to do a background check on her to see if she had a past with children.

Florida's Child Welfare Chief said that the people who used the "wrap" to punish Michael, would be severely punished themselves:

"We are all mourning the tragic death of Michael McMullen. In our work with law enforcement, we feel
confident that those responsible will spend many years behind bars for the horrible atrocity they
committed against this innocent young boy"
Esther Jacob - DCF Interim Secretary

How about THIS, Esther, you work with law enforcement to make sure that these monsters and any others like them, NEVER get out of prison. Send a message to any present and future child abusers that if they kill a child while abusing them, they will NOT get a plea deal no matter HOW much money it saves the state in court costs, they will NOT get away with it and will NEVER get out of prison!


This page was created on May 28, 2014
Death Occurred in the state of Florida

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