Saturday, April 28, 2012
The Aiyana Gauvin Story
I know I have done my last few blogs a little differently than the past ones. I also realize that they have involved the murder and torture of children, some of the more gruesome cases there are. It is not so much about telling the stories because of obsession with these types of cases per se, it is more making sure these children who were unmercifully tormented by their killers and that these children, in these cases, need to be remembered. They need remembered because they were truly innocent victims who had a whole life ahead of them; they were victims that were never able to grow to adulthood, marry or have children; but they also need to be remembered when it comes to looking at the behaviors of those who were in a position to help but did not so that these types of murders can hopefully be stopped. This is yet another case of child torture...in Indiana.
Aiyana Gauvin was a beautiful 4 year old little girl who lived with her father, Christian, and stepmother, Michelle. Aiyana died on March 16, 2005, officially from "blunt force trauma to the head." Michelle pled guilty to confinement, neglect and murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Christian received a sentence of 50 years for child neglect. It was unclear how much Christian participated in the death and torture of Aiyana or if he simply turned a blind eye and allowed his wife to kill his child. There were also issues on just how long the abuse had gone on.
Christian's lawyer stated it began, by Michelle, just a few days before her death. Pathology reports showed bruises on Aiyana's body in different forms but it was difficult to determine for sure when they had been inflicted. Michelle's daughter testified in Christian's trial that Aiyana had been held, tied up in the kitchen, at times at Christian's demands for punishment and there were times that she was confined to a 4X4 pan to stay in and not in her bed.
Christian had obtained custody of Aiyana in December 2003, when Cassandra began having issues involving drugs and child protective services removed her from Cassandra's care. She was first in the care of her mother's parents but as Cassandra failed to get her life in order it appeared to authorities that Christian Gauvin was and placed Aiyana in his home. In February 2004 Christian and Michelle were married. Michelle had two children. It has been reported that all contact between Aiyana and her maternal grandparents were stopped due to Michelle, if not also Christians, insistence. Initially Aiyana was sharing a room with one of Michelle's children but a small room was added onto the attached garage for Aiyana. Wow... good job right? Well no... the room had no heat and no ventilation and simple plywood floors.
Christian and Michelle claim that by the spring of 2004 Aiyana was "mouthy" and began arguing with her stepmother. Really? A three year old is "mouthy"... who ever heard of such a think? Please note the sarcasm! For punishment for this she was smacked across the face, her hands tied together, tied to a chair, and tied to her bed at night. They claimed the latter was done to prevent her from wandering the house at night and breaking toys and such belonging to the other children. At this point Aiyana was having accidents in her bed at night. Christian and Michelle decided that it was intentional. I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that she was tied to her bed with her door closed on the other side of house at night... again, note the sarcasm. From that point they refused to let her sleep in her bed and she began sleeping in the pan that Michelle's daughter later testified to. The day before she died Christian claims he came home to find Aiyana tied to a booster seat, with her mouth taped shut and home alone. The night before she died she was tied up, tape on mouth again and put in her "pan."
The next morning Christian went to work but less than an hour after he was at work a 911 call was made about a possibly dead child at the home. When police arrived they found Aiyana's body, cold, laying on the dishwasher covered in bruises and cuts. They also discovered pictures in the home of Aiyana tied up in different manners and injuries and observed her "bedroom." An autopsy not only observed the injuries but determined she had been malnourished and dehydrated at the time of her death.
In June of 2005, while awaiting trial Michelle apparently attempted suicide while in jail. It has been reported and testified that a correction officer interviewed her at that time and she stated she wanted the truth out and that she had "killed that little bitch" and that she "deserved it."
While it is beyond people to imagine that someone could torture this child, or that her father could participate or at the very least ignore this being done to his child, nearly just as unimaginable is the fact that the authorities had been made aware and did nothing.
Aiyana's mother, Cassandra, and her parents had been fighting with the courts as well as child protective services in this case. One of the largest mis-justice in this case involved a police officer. Officer Glen Keller was dispatched to the Gauvin home in June 2004 for a well being check on the child. Cassandra's mother had received information that Aiyana was seen in a grocery store with many scars on her face and hands. Keller went to the home, wrote a report of his visit stating that he witnessed Aiyana and that she was fine. He maintained this claim in October 2005 when he testified under oath to this visit. Two days after committing perjury Keller admitted he never entered the home and never saw Aiyana. His investigation went no further than the front door and talking to Christian and Michelle. Ultimately he was sentenced to six months in jail and 12 months probation.
Then comes in child protective services (CPS). Apparently the report that Keller investigated had not gone through them or reported to them but was simply as it said, a well check. However, in February 2005, a month prior to Aiyana's death, Cassandra did contact them claiming that Aiyana was being abused by her step-mother. CPS determined that the allegation did not meet the legal grounds they required for an investigation and failed to do anything. After Aiyana's death a "fatality review" determined that it should have been investigated. Really???? You think??? It is easy to say after it was too late to save the child! Cassandra and her family filed a lawsuit involving many entities, including CPS,in their failure to act in saving Aiyana. In June 2011 CPS (i.e. state of Indiana) agreed to a settlement of $75,000 for their part. I have not heard of any settlements among the other defendants as of yet.
There were reports that when Christian gained custody of Aiyana it was ordered that contact was to be regular, but apparently not specified, between Aiyana, her mother, her grandparents and her siblings (she had two 1/2 siblings from her mother). As I recall through reports Cassandra and her parents had often attempted to have contact which was stopped between Christian and Michelle. I have been unable to determine if there were ever any legal actions filed involving this. It has been said that Cassandra had made the report in February 2005 to CPS based on information she received from one of her other children's fathers who had observed Aiyana in the Gauvin home.
I live near this area, although in another county. In fact, a special prosecutor was brought in for the sentencing against Officer Keller and that prosecutor was from the town in which I live. I live in a small town north of Lafayette, where this occurred. It is such a small town that our local news is considered to be Lafayette. The community was in an immediate uproar when it came to this case! The outrage was obviously warranted! If anyone can say that there was any benefit to this story it is that changes were made. Sadly, in the year of 2005 Aiyana's death was one of many involving children in Indiana. While for many years there had been talk and discussions about CPS and how they were overwhelmed in case loads and children who had "fallen through the cracks." Not that ANY of the previous children's deaths were not tragic the circumstances involved in Aiyana's death were considered to be extremely heinous and appeared to be the kick the ass the state needed. One significant change that may or may not have save Aiyana, is that when any report, like that made by Aiyana's grandmother, against a child, to the police in June 2004 are to be forward to CPS. There was also large employment surge as the staff nearly doubled, at least in Tippecanoe county (i.e. Lafayette). The state made standard which required no social worker was to have more than 12 cases or 17 children at one time so they can focus on those they do have.
This case is one in which the saying "it takes a village" should have been taken seriously! The village failed this child!!