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Grandma Charged in 3-Year-Old’s Death

Child-welfare workers thought Michael McMullen and his three siblings weren’t safe with their mother, so they sent them to live with their grandmother. They failed to note that conditions there were even worse.

At the house in Lee County, sheriff’s deputies say, the children slept in cages. They were beaten and perhaps even drugged. On Oct. 19, Michael was wrapped up in blankets and tied so tightly that he couldn’t breathe. He died.

DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo is calling this a “horrific murder.” It’s the 25th time since the spring that a child has died after DCF investigated allegations of abuse, the Miami Herald reports (paywall alert).

Now, both Florida Department of Children and Families and its contractor, Lutheran Services of Florida, are being asked why they didn’t protect Michael from his grandmother, Gale Watkins. A review of Michael’s death shows that both DCF and Lutheran Services had observed a number of critical signs but failed to act.

Watkins and two others have been charged in the case: the boyfriend of Michael’s mother, 21-year-old Douglas Garrigus, and 45-year-old Donella Trainor, a family friend who detectives say developed the straitjacket-like method of punishment that killed the little boy.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.