Last week I walked around a cemetery in Adams County to pay a visit to the grave marker of Michael Harris.
It wasn’t too hard to find.
Someone left some small plastic toys on his gravestone. I wonder who’s still thinking about him.
Not many people cared for Michael when he was alive.
His mother and grandparents were meth users, according to court documents. Michael’s mom smoked pot while pregnant and he was born with marijuana in his system.
Michael’s biological father knew of his existence, but didn’t ever meet the little guy.
Prosecutors say Michael’s case is one of the worst they’ve seen when it comes to child abuse.
Judge Chris Melonakis unleashed on caseworkers and accused them of blatantly ignoring abuse and neglect in his home.
It’s important to point out caseworkers are not the ones who killed Michael, even though Judge Melonakis says they are also directly responsible.
The man who was convicted of killing Michael is serving a 42 year prison term. Michael’s mom is serving 16 years for knowing about the abuse, but doing nothing to stop it.
Many of the caseworker documents and investigative documents are not accessible by the public because of confidentiality laws, so it’s impossible for us to hold them accountable.
While there is oversight in place, as I reporter I’ve learned over the years you can’t count on the government to watch itself.
Agencies need public and media scrutiny, especially when a child dies while under the radar of government employees who should be protecting them.
I’m not sure if the judge’s call for a grand jury investigation will prompt a serious investigation into the Adams County child welfare office.
Perhaps an investigation will find caseworkers did everything they could, as their supervisor tells us.
At Michael’s grave site, there were several other children I recognized from our Failed to Death series who were grouped together in the kids’ area of the cemetery.
I couldn’t help but notice there was plenty of space for more.