Failed to Death: Michael Ryan Harris

5:02 PM, Nov 11, 2012   |    comments
Michael Ryan Harris
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Roseanna Key heard her son crying - screaming - from behind the door.  

Age: 21 mos.
Born: April 14, 2009
Died: Feb 2, 2011
Location: Brighton
Suspect in death: Donald Scarlett, mother's boyfriend

But between the blows, as she listened to her boyfriend allegedly beat 22-month-old Michael Harris until she heard "the breath go out" of the toddler and his cries fall silent, Key never opened the door. She did not check on her son all night and left him alone with her boyfriend, Donald Scarlett, the next morning when she went to work.

The next time she saw her son, doctors warned that the little boy likely would not survive the injuries to his kidney, the lacerations to both his spleen and pancreas or the fracture to his skull.

They were right.

Michael died from his injuries on Feb. 2, 2011.

Michael had been waiting for someone to step in and help most of his life.

The day Michael was born, he and his mother tested positive for marijuana, according to a state and county review of Michael's death. Key admitted that she had made a mistake and the case was closed. One month after Michael's first birthday, on May 27, 2010, Adams County caseworkers were called back to Key's home, which was found to be so cluttered it was difficult to walk through. Multiple choking hazards and drug paraphernalia were in the reach of Key's three young children.

Key admitted to smoking marijuana and said that her parents and roommate - who often cared for the children - also smoked marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the review. The children were removed from the home. Michael's oldest brother went to live with his father while the two younger children were placed in foster care.

Four months later, Key's two youngest sons were returned to her, after she completed therapy, parenting classes and substance abuse classes. But before her children were returned, Key also began a relationship with Scarlett, who would watch the boys while she was at work.

After Michael's death, Key told investigators that she and Scarlett would fight about Michael's crying. Once, Scarlett accused Key of "babying" Michael.

The morning Scarlett called 9-1-1 to report that Michael wasn't breathing, doctors found bruises behind and in his ear, on his forehead and on his chest. Scarlett said the marks were made when Michael wedged himself between two pieces of furniture.

Scarlett pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death on Sept. 7. His trial is scheduled to begin next year.

Adams County caseworkers did not close one assessment in Michael's case for five months, one of two policy violations they made before he died.

Read the Fatality Review

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