PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — “If that phone would have rang, I would have been there,” Theresa Milton said.
She got a phone call too late.
“My oldest daughter called me and said, 'You know that is Monica’s body they found.' And I dropped the phone and my stomach balled up in knots,” she said.
Monica Cannady, 35, was the mother of three of Milton’s grandchildren.
Investigators say Cannady and her three children were sleeping outside in a field at the site of the old Lakeside Housing Project. Her 10-year-old daughter woke up and found her mom, her 9-year-old brother Kyle Cannady and 3-year-old brother Malik Cannady had frozen to death in the night.
She left the field and went to a nearby house for help.
“They were loved. Very loved by their family,” Milton said.
“The mom told them to lay down in the field. And they all did. The girl that survived woke up. No one else did,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.
Bouchard held a press conference on Monday to call for more funding for mental health programs. He says other family members told investigators Monica Cannady in the last three weeks started acting “paranoid.”
She believed someone wanted to kill her. Relatives told investigators when they called on her to get mental health help, she took off with the children and could not be found.
“The mom was having a mental health crisis. She believed someone was trying to kill her,” Bouchard said.
Milton says this is surprising. She says she did not know the woman who had three children with her son to have a history of metal health problems. She saw Monica Cannady and the grandchildren not long after Thanksgiving. They seemed well cared for.
“She was a good mama. She took care of her babies. They were dressed warm, they had clothes always matching, hair done, they were clean,” Milton said.
The family was under stress, dealing with trauma and grief. Milton’s stepson Kyle Milton was murdered in Pontiac in November 2021. His accused killer’s trial is currently underway and scheduled to continue Jan. 17.
As she copes with the stress of the trial of her brother’s accused killer and the tragic deaths of his children and their mom, Lola Milton, 17, has a message for anyone struggling.
“Don’t wait until it is too late and your family is wishing you had asked for the help you need,” Lola Milton said.
Lola Milton says she is thinking about her niece who survived, eager to see her. The Oakland County sheriff says the little girl who survived did suffer severe hypothermia in the cold, but she is in stable condition in the hospital.
If you need help, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also reach out to the Common Ground Resource and Crisis Center: https://commongroundhelps.org/.