PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard released a timeline Wednesday detailing multiple attempts made by deputies to help Monica Latrice Cannady, 35, of Pontiac just two days before she and two of her children were found dead in a field in Pontiac.
“I wanted a deeper dive that would potentially find ways to prevent such a tragedy in the future,” Bouchard said. “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.”
Initial reports show the sheriff's office received calls about a woman and her children who were not adequately dressed for the cold weather conditions and were seen walking around Pontiac.
"Deputies were first notified that Cannady, 35, and her children, ages 10, 9 and 3, had stopped at a location on Mill Street in downtown Pontiac around 1 p.m. Friday seeking help. Deputies immediately deployed a drone to search for the family upon receiving the call," Bouchard said in a press release Wednesday.
The examination revealed multiple contacts and repeated attempts to assist the woman and children were made on Friday.
Approximately 10 minutes after the initial call, a deputy found Cannady, her 3-year-old and 9-year-old sons and her 10-year-old daughter near Water Street and Mill Street. Cannady was asked if she needed assistance and where she was traveling. During this encounter, Cannady said she was OK and was not in need of help and walked away, the deputy said.
A second deputy found Cannady inside McLaren Oakland Hospital in downtown Pontiac minutes later and asked if she and her children were in need of assistance. She declined the help and left the hospital with her three children.
As they walked down Woodward Avenue, the deputy followed them and repeatedly tried to get Cannady to go to a nearby police substation or get in the patrol car to be taken to a safe, warm place. Bouchard said Cannady was informed multiple times by the deputy that she was not in trouble and neither her name or identification would be requested.
At the time of the encounter, Cannady wore a coat and her children were wearing sweatshirts and were wrapped in white bed sheets. All attempts for assistance made by the deputy were refused, but the deputy maintained contact and followed Cannady to a nearby school where he continued to offer assistance.
In addition, the deputy, Bouchard said, offered to take Cannady and her children to the substation and provide coats for her children. She continued to decline assistance.
"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," Bouchard said.
According to family, about two hours after encountering the second deputy, Cannady and the children went to her mother’s apartment where the children were put down for a nap. Thirty minutes later, Cannady, her family said, woke the children up and left the apartment after arguing with her mother who was concerned about her mental state and need for professional help.
During the three weeks leading up to the incident, her family said Cannady had been experiencing mental health concerns.
Deputies met with Cannady’s aunt on Friday at approximately 4:30 p.m. as she sought advice on how to commit Cannady to a mental health treatment facility.
After meeting Cannady's aunt, deputies attempted to conduct a welfare check at Cannady’s apartment, but no one answered the door nor was there any indication anyone inside the apartment.
No calls or contact with the sheriff's office were made until Sunday when Cannady's 10-year-old daughter knocked on the door of a nearby home and reported her mother and siblings were deceased in a nearby field.
"After her death, Investigators learned Cannady was the woman other Deputies had previously encountered with the children and that Cannady believed some unknown person (or persons) was trying to kill her and the police were involved in the conspiracy. The children were told to run if they saw the police," Bouchard said.
"About the same time Deputies met with the aunt, the Sheriff’s Office dispatch was notified that a woman walking with several children was observed near Franklin and Rapid in Pontiac. The caller noted the children were not properly dressed for the cold temperatures. The call was received at 4:43 p.m. 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."
Bouchard said that deputy's performance is now under investigation.
"At approximately 5:20 p.m. Friday, two Deputies were ordered by a Command Officer back to the area of Rapid and Franklin to search for Cannady and her children. After almost 20 minutes and a complete perimeter search, the mother and children were not found. At 7:33 p.m., three Deputies were again sent to the area again and searched for the family until 8:06 p.m. but could not locate them," Bouchard said.
Investigators learned Wednesday the 10-year-old knocked on the door of a home on Branch Street at approximately 4 p.m. Saturday, but told the person inside the home she was at the wrong house and left.
The investigation concluded after the family had spent the previous night in a vacant field with the temperatures well below freezing. The deaths were ruled accidental and the Oakland County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death for each as hypothermia.
The daughter was taken to the hospital where she remains in stable but improving condition. She will be placed with family members after she is discharged.
“It is clear, as a society we need to find ways to better connect communication and the dots between families, mental health resources, social services, and law-enforcement to ensure people don’t fall through the cracks in the future like this tragic situation,” Bouchard said. “I renew my call for state and federal funding to embed social service and mental health practitioners into our agency that can be immediately brought into play in situations like this. Every day we respond to circumstances that those resources in combination could potentially be a real lifesaver. Our prayers go to the family and friends.”