Pontiac, MI – A Oakland County sheriff’s deputy resigned from the force amid allegations he didn’t search hard enough for a woman and her children after the woman repeatedly refused to accept help from other deputies who offered to get the family out of the cold.
Monica Cannady, 35, was found dead in a field off of Branch Street at approximately 3:10 p.m. on Jan. 15, WDIV reported.
The bodies of her sons, three-year-old Malik Milton and nine-year-old Kyle Milton, were found lying beside her.
Cannady’s 10-year-old daughter, Lilly, survived the ordeal after waking up next to the bodies of her dead mother and brothers and running to a nearby house for help, The Independent reported.
Lilly was rushed to a local hospital for treatment of hypothermia-like symptoms and has since been released, according to WDIV.
Her family said she is physically doing well.
The Oakland County Medical Examiner determined Cannady and her sons died from hypothermia, WJBK reported.
Their deaths were ruled as accidental.
According to a timeline released by Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard on Jan. 18, Cannady repeatedly turned down deputies’ offers to help her and her children in the days leading up to their deaths, WDIV reported.
“I wanted a deeper dive that would potentially find ways to prevent such a tragedy in the future,” Sheriff Bouchard said of the investigation. “I ordered a complete review of all calls, radio traffic, a canvas of the neighborhood and any potential interactions with Monica Latrice Cannady and her children.”
The first encounter occurred at approximately 1:10: p.m. on Jan. 13, after deputies received a report that a woman and her three children were over on Mill Street looking for help, WJBK reported.
Deputies launched a drone to search for the family and located her within 10 minutes of the call being placed.
But when a deputy made contact with her, she repeatedly refused his assistance and ultimately walked away, WJBK reported.
Another deputy encountered the woman and her children about five minutes later at McLaren Oakland Hospital.
The deputy spent about 20 minutes trying to convince her to let him assist her, but she again refused, according to investigators, WDIV reported.
“The Deputy spent approximately 20 minutes with Cannady until 1:30 p.m. on Friday,” the sheriff’s office said, according to The Independent. “In those 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 deputies said they did not have authority to intervene any further as a result.
“We see situations tragically like that every day, where people don’t have the right clothing. But it may not rise to the point of us, literally laying hands on someone to change that situation,” Sheriff Bouchard told the Detroit Free Press.
Investigators noted the temperatures were in the thirties at the time.
Cannady’s children were wearing sweatshirts and had white bedsheets wrapped around them, but Cannady repeatedly turned down deputies’ attempts to supply them with coats, The Independent reported.
Deputies noted that Cannady was wearing a coat, according to WJBK.
The family then headed over to Cannady’s mother’s apartment, where the three children went down for a nap, according to investigators.
Within a half hour, Cannady and her mother got into an argument about Cannady’s mental state and she took off from the residence with the children in tow, the sheriff’s office said.
Her family later told investigators Cannady had been struggling with mental health problems for about three weeks prior to her death, WJBK reported.
Detectives said Cannady’s aunt reached out to the sheriff’s office at about 4:30 p.m. that day to find out what steps would need to be taken for her niece to be committed to a mental health treatment facility, according to WDIV.
They didn’t realize at the time that the woman deputies tried to help earlier in the day was the same woman her aunt was calling about, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Meanwhile, the OCSO received a call at approximately the same time regarding a woman and several children who were walking in the area of Rapid Street and Franklin Road without adequate attire for the weather, the agency said.
The department said a deputy responded to the area, but that he didn’t thoroughly search for Cannady or her kids, WDIV reported.
“A deputy responded to the call for an area check but did not completely search the area as he was expected to and did not find or make contact with the family,” the agency said in a press release. “His performance is now under investigation by the sheriff’s office Special Investigations Unit.”
The unidentified deputy resigned from the force on Jan. 22, WJBK reported.
No further details were immediately released.
Another five deputies also responded to search for the family in connection with two other reports, according to The Independent.
After the family’s bodies were found, investigators discovered Cannady had shown up at a house on Branch Street at approximately 4 p.m. on Jan. 14, but that she left after someone answered the door, WJBK reported.
Cannady said she was at the wrong house, according to detectives.
Police also searched Cannady’s apartment during a welfare check the night before their deaths, but the residence was empty, The Independent reported.
Investigators have since learned Cannady believed someone was trying to kill her and told her children the police were involved in the conspiracy, WJBK reported.
Lilly told detectives her mother told her and her brothers that they should run “anytime anybody approached,” Sheriff Bouchard told The Independent.
The little girl said her mother instructed them to lie down in the field and to go to sleep, and that they needed to hide if they saw anyone coming, according to investigators.
The father of Cannady’s children was murdered in 2021 and the trial for his alleged killer was recently held, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Cannady’s family described her as a wonderful mother who always put her children first, and said they have no idea what led to her apparent mental health crisis, The Independent reported.
“She was a loving, caring mother and she wasn’t troubled or had dealt with mental health issues [in the past],” one family member told the news outlet. “A single mother just raising her kids, doing what she needed to do.”
“Whatever transpired in the last few weeks was her first onset. This tragedy was clearly out of character for her and just came out of the blue,” the family member added. “She loved her kids and that was just the bottom line, that was just who she was. She was the epitome of a [great] mom.”
A fundraising page established to help Lilly in the wake of her loss has raised more than $29,000 so far.
Sheriff Bouchard said more needs to be done to provide services for people who are struggling with mental health issues, the Detroit Free Press reported.
He said that cuts to state-operated facilities have resulted in less people having access to care and more run-ins with law enforcement.
“I said at the time, all we’re doing is taking away a wide continuum of treatment options, and we’re going to dump individuals facing mental health challenges into the street and the criminal justice system,” the sheriff told the Detroit Free Press.
“Had we known she was in a mental health crisis, that would have flipped a different switch and would have caused us to contact either Child Protective Services or a mental health person to try to intervene versus what we were told: ‘I don’t need your help, I don’t want your help.’ But at that point, we didn’t have a reason to go further,” he added.