Donald Scarlett guilty of killing toddler but system deserves blame, too, judge says

Judge Chris Melonakis screen capture 205x205.jpg
Big photos, videos below.
Unfortunately, instances of child abuse resulting in death happen far too frequently -- especially considering that "once" qualifies as "far too frequently." As a result, the sentencing of Donald Scarlett to more than four decades behind bars for the killing of 22-month-old Michael Harris was expected to be fairly routine. But no: The case took on more symbolic importance when Chris Melonakis, the judge in the case, not only ripped into Scarlett, but also decried the child welfare system in general for not preventing the tragedy.

Michael Harris's sad end was chronicled as part of October's "Failed to Death," one of the best and most passionate reports to appear in the Denver Post over the past year or so.

michael harris.jpg
Michael Harris.
According to the Colorado Department of Human Services report on the incident (read it in its entirety below), the human services department in Adams County had an open case on Michael dated to May 2010. Why? Roseanna Key, the boy's mother, was said to smoke marijuana and her parents, who cared for the toddler and his three-year-old brother, used meth, drank alcohol and kept "a dirty home" rife with "domestic violence" at which the kids were "often neglected."

As such, the two children were placed in foster care for six months while Key engaged in "therapy, parenting classes, [a] psycho-sexual education group, [and] substance abuse treatment," as well as securing independent housing and employment. The kids were returned to her in December 2010, shortly after she'd begun her relationship with Scarlett.

roseanna key mug shot.jpg
Roseanna Key's mug shot.
Mere months later, on February 1, 2011, the department was contacted by the Brighton Police Department after Scarlett, Key's boyfriend, phoned 911 to report that Michael was not breathing. The boy was rushed to a hospital, where doctors discovered the boy had "a skull fracture, bruising in his left ear and behind the ear, bruising on his forehead, a large knot on his forehead, bruising or scrapes around the neck, and bruising on his chest and hand."

Other wounds: "a kidney injury, lacerated spleen, lacerated pancreas, occipital skull fracture, shot bowel and swelling on the skull." Understandably, and horrifically, he subsequently died.

What were the circumstances of the fatal beating? The Post reports that Key stood outside a door listening to Michael crying and screaming as Scarlett beat him until all noises ceased. She didn't check on him that night, and left him with Scarlett as caretaker when she went to work the next day.

Continue for more about the death of Michael Harris, including photos, a document and multiple videos.


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9 comments
11er
11er

MAY this little one get his angel wings early.. i can't  even comment about the adults because i really don't know enough CUSS words. We see this type of thing so much in the world of today. DRUGS can't be blamed. Just the EVILNESS that mankind has somehow chosen to lead their lives. Our government is no different....

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Sometimes there isn't a winner ......

Katie Reisbeck
Katie Reisbeck

So they can then be put into foster care which Adams county just settled a sexual abuse case from kids in foster care. Easy for the judge to just sit on his bench and preach about the neglect but the whole system is flawed and it shows ignorance that he would give a sociopath who would beat a child a chip on his shoulder because he is not only to blame. Pft

SeizeTheDay
SeizeTheDay

Anyone who has ever been involved with or know people who have been involved with The Colorado Department of Human Services should not be shocked at all that children die under their supervision.  You are talking about people who go to school for a few years and get  a degree and then are given carte blanche over families who are dealing with serious issues like abuse, addiction and mental illness...being social workers with little to no experience with such issues outside of what they're taught in a classroom.  They remove children but do no follow-up counseling or plans to reunite the family, they make case plans for sibling and parent visitation that they do not enforce, they do not remove restraining orders that were suppose to be lifted once a plan is in place which means parents have to go in and do it themselves years later...the list goes on and on.  CDHS is so omnipotent that when a family attempts to hire an attorney to fight for their kids or rights, no lawyer will go against them.  They are inept bullies who spend months and months on cases where they cite in their report as not being abuse or neglect while children starve to death in closets or are raped and murdered by a woman's boyfriend.  They should absolutely be held accountable for failing to do their jobs and stop hiding behind the guise of doing everything they do to protect children...because they don't.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Katie Reisbeck Interesting view, Katie. Thanks for posting.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Erika Vanderpuil Sad on every level, Erika. Thanks for the post.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@SeizeTheDay Strong words, SeizeTheDay. We're going to highlight them as an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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