Monica Cannady and her children froze to death in a field. Could it have been prevented?

Ttwo days before Monica Cannady and two of her children were found frozen to death in a Michigan field, concerned neighbors began alerting the police about a family wandering the area wearing clothing that could not possibly protect them from the merciless cold.

The mother experienced a mental health crisis in the days before the gruesome discovery on Jan. 15 and was convinced people were out to kill her, Oakland County police have said. She reportedly instructed her children — Lilly, 10; Kyle, nine; and Malik, three – to hide if someone came up to them and asked them to lie down and lie down on the ground.

Only Lilly would escape death from hypothermia, rushing to a nearby home to call for help after waking up next to the bodies of her mother and brothers.

The local sheriff initially reacted to news of the deaths by decrying the nation’s broken mental health system — largely glossing over the fact that his agency had been alerted to the dangerous situation that began on January 13.

Records obtained by The independent has since revealed that at least one deputy who responded to the calls from concerned neighbors is now under investigation for allegedly failing to conduct a full search of an area where the family was discovered.

Two other deputies made contact with the family — the children wearing only sweatshirts and wrapped in white sheets in 30F temperatures — at three different locations and offered them jackets. Authorities did not intervene further because Cannady “did not appear to be suffering from any medical or mental health crisis and repeatedly asked to be left alone.”

On the eve of the tragedy, police conducting a welfare check on Cannady and her children found her apartment empty. Two other calls from neighbors led to fruitless searches for the family in the area.

Deputies also did not immediately connect their previous encounters with an apparently “clear” Cannady to reports from her family that she had an episode of paranoia and “believed the police were involved in the conspiracy.”

Within the complex web of factors, including police response and a mental health crisis, an impossible question has emerged: Could the deaths have been prevented?

Cannady’s family have said she recently showed signs of her struggle with mental health. Her aunt Rodhesa Cannady told her The independent that Cannady had no history of mental health problems and had always taken care of her children.

“What happened in the last few weeks was her first debut. This tragedy was clearly out of character for her and just came out of the blue,” said Rodhesa Cannady. “She loved her children and that was just the bottom line, that’s exactly who she our. She was the epitome of one [great] mom.”

Here’s what you need to know about the case so far:

A shocking discovery

At 3:10 p.m. on Sunday, January 15, Oakland County deputies were called to an overgrown field near Pontiac, where three bodies were discovered.

Police identified the deceased as 35-year-old Cannady, and her children Kyle and Malik Milton.

Their deaths were determined to be an accident resulting from hypothermia.

Deputies were called to the scene when Cannady’s third child, Lilly, knocked on a stranger’s door and said “her family was dead in a field,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

Monica Cannady, 35, was found dead with her two young sons after the three froze to death in a park in Michigan. A third child survived

(Supplied by family)

The weeks before the tragedy

Cannady was an attentive and competent mother, who had only recently begun to show signs of mental health problems, according to the aunt.

“What happened in the last few weeks was her first debut. This tragedy was clearly out of character for her and came out of the blue,” said Rodhesa Cannady The independent on Wednesday. “Children were always neatly dressed, their hair always combed. She was a great provider and support for her children.”

Rodhesa Cannady said her niece was a hard worker and sole breadwinner for her children.

“She loved her children and that was just the bottom line, that was just who she was. She was the epitome of a [great] mom. A single mother just raising her children is doing what she needed to do, she added.

“She was absolutely beautiful. I don’t live in Michigan and we went home in August for a family reunion and she was just her normal, quiet self, a very pretty girl.”

Over the past three weeks, however, Cannady’s family had begun to notice an alarming change in her behavior. Her loved ones tried to get her help, but the mother of three had refused, Bouchard said during a press conference on Monday.

Timeline for the police response

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement The independent that a comprehensive review of the events was carried out at the request of Bouchard.

Bouchard said the department analyzed calls, radio traffic, neighborhood canvasses and deputies’ interactions with the family “which [could] potentially finding ways to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”

The review found that local police tried to help Cannady several times on Friday after receiving calls from neighbors. They did not receive messages on Saturday or Sunday, before Lilly alerted neighbours.

The family was first located by police around 1pm on Friday (January 13) near Water Street and Mill Street.

“The mayor asked if Cannady needed help and where she was going. Cannady responded that she was OK and did not need help and quickly walked away from the deputy, the report said.

Another deputy approached Cannady five minutes later, while she was inside McLaren Oakland Hospital in downtown Pontiac. She reportedly said her family was at the hospital for an appointment while she was being questioned “in depth,” and left the facility after claiming she was waiting for a ride outside.

The same deputy followed her out of the hospital and repeated that he would not ask for identification and that she was not in trouble. The officer then walked the family to a nearby school and offered Cannady to go to the police station to get coats for the children, who were wearing sweaters and sheets.

Cannady reportedly refused once again, saying she was fine and had family in the area.

“The deputy mayor spent about 20 minutes with Cannady until 1.30pm on Friday. In these conversations, she was lucid, did not appear to be suffering from any medical or mental health crisis and asked several times to be left alone, the review states.

Two hours later, Cannady visited his mother’s home before an argument about her mental health between the two unfolded. Cannady left the apartment and a welfare check was carried out at her own residence, but she was not found.

While a family member spoke with investigators later that day about possibly committing Cannady to a mental health facility, a resident reported seeing a woman walking in the cold with children near Franklin and Rapid.

“The caller noted that the children were not properly dressed for the cold temperatures,” the department said.

A deputy dispatched to the area “did not fully search the area as expected and did not locate or make contact with the family.” He is now under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit.

A commander sent five other deputies in two other cases, but they were unable to find the family after searching the area.

No reports were made Saturday (June 14), but investigators later learned from a resident that Cannady had knocked on a door before she passed away.

Throughout the weekend, Cannady allegedly knocked on random homes and asked for food, but he would not accept money.

“They were hungry,” resident Charles Witherspoon, whose neighbor interacted with Cannady and her family in the days before the deaths, told Click On Detroit. “I said, ‘What did you do?’ She said, ‘I didn’t let them in,’ but her brother Arthur said he tried to give the young lady money and she wouldn’t take it.”

Police said they did not understand the situation to be a mental health crisis.

“From our side we were not called about a person or child in crisis,” Mr Bouchard so on Monday. “We’d get the occasional phone call, ‘Hey, there’s someone in the area who doesn’t look like they’re properly dressed.’ Deputies wanted to go there and see, and they weren’t there.”

He added: “We later learned from the surviving daughter [Cannady] had told her children to run whenever someone approached.

“This tragedy was fundamental evidence of the breakdown of our mental health system in America.

“We don’t give our mental health providers and systems enough support and have enough resources at our fingertips.

“The state and federal government need to give us funding that allows us to do more mental health services in partnership with the mental health community, including having more mental health practitioners on our team who can be part of a holistic response to mental health calls.”

The investigation into the deputy’s response was made public on Wednesday.

“She was a loving, caring mother”

Family members said Cannady’s children were her top priority, and they don’t know what triggered her seemingly sudden crisis episode.

“She was a loving, caring mother and she wasn’t troubled or dealing with mental health issues [in the past]”, Rhodesia told Cannady The independent. “A single mother just raising her children, doing what she needed to do.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe to cover funeral expenses.

Cannady’s surviving child, Lilly, is in hospital in stable condition. Child protection is investigating the case, and she will be released to family members.

Cannady said that while her niece had been affected by the 2021 murder of her children’s father, she made the best of her situation and didn’t seem to struggle until recently.

“We are not allowed to define what a crisis is, so if you feel that you are in a crisis, or someone in your immediate family or friends notices that something is wrong, then you may be in a crisis,” says Kristin Blevin. mobile crisis team at Common Ground, said during the news conference on Monday.

“We can help and we can connect you to those resources. We can help you navigate through the system.”

Josh Marcus contributed to this report.

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