- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Amid the normally hurried round robin of cases in Judge Jerome Frese’s Superior Court, the judge pondered a moment over the 21-year-old man standing in front of him Thursday morning.

The 21-year-old was Micahyah Greer, who was pleading guilty to an intimidation charge and the resulting probation violation of a theft charge from 2011.

The 21-year-old was also the man whose 11-month-old son was killed last fall, allegedly by the boy’s mother, who police say then also confessed to having strangled the couple’s then-14-month-old daughter with a scarf six months earlier. The incident, which doctors said at the time could have happened accidentally the way the mother described it, has left Alaiyah Crockett on a ventilator in a children’s nursing home.

It was Greer’s daughter and his hopes of remaining in her life that Frese was considering, eventually deciding to sentence Greer to three years of probation rather than more jail time, the South Bend Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/1BI1It0).

“He is a young man,” Frese said, musing that someone “in the newspaper” might criticize his decision as “the stupidest thing I ever heard.” He told Greer he couldn’t imagine being in his position, as a father losing one child and seeing another in a vegetative state. Frese lectured Greer about taking advantage of the opportunity to improve his life.

“So you have the opportunity to get that job, to see your daughter, and give that daughter the father she should have,” the judge said. “Make your daughter proud, you hear me?”

Greer assured the judge that he would. And he told a reporter after he left the courtroom that his plans include starting two jobs he recently landed - one full-time factory job and a part-time job at McDonald’s, both in Elkhart - and to prepare the way for his daughter to come back to live with him.

As the young man took off his coat, a pink-and-black winter hat fell out. He wears it because it is Alaiyah’s. His children’s names are tattooed on his arms.

There wasn’t a day, before disaster hit, that he didn’t see his children, he said. He says he named them. He cut the umbilical cord when Alaiyah was born.

Now, when he visits her in the Shelbyville, Indiana, facility, he said, he can see and hear through the monitors her heartbeat quicken when he talks with her, especially when he calls her by her nickname, Lala, or says “I love you.”

Greer said he tries to visit once a week and calls more often. Visiting requires a bus trip to Indianapolis, where a friend drives him the rest of the way. When he begins earning money at his new jobs, he’s hoping to soon be able to afford a car to drive there more directly.

The Department of Child Services case plan for his daughter lists more than a dozen physical issues. Greer has learned how to provide physical therapy needs, clean a feeding tube or change her tracheotomy tube.

The DCS case plan states reunification is the goal, possibly by April. Greer said his ultimate plan is to find a home for him and his daughter that is accessible for her disabilities. He is not sure yet how her needs would be paid for.

Although doctors have told him only 20 percent of her brain function is left, Greer said he’s read many cases of people who lost brain function as children who regain some brain improvement even years later.

When Alaiyah was first injured in February 2014, Greer said, a doctor and DCS employee pressured him to remove her from life support, saying she would not survive the week and that her situation was hopeless.

He describes visits to the facility now where he sometimes finds himself chastising the staff for neglecting her physical therapy, because her leg muscles are rigid, for example. “I feel like no one’s ever going to give my child the care I’d give my child,” he said.

He is adamant that no one involved in the original case ever told him that the babies’ mother, Nyesha Crockett, told authorities Alaiyah had strangled herself with a scarf - which turned out to be his big, square scarf. Greer said he was told only that his daughter had suffered an inexplicable seizure.

When their son, 11-month-old Micahyah, turned up unconscious on the night of Aug. 30, Greer said homicide detectives met him in the hospital emergency room and took him straight to be interviewed for seven- and five-hour stints. That’s when he first learned of the scarf.

Because he was being aggressively questioned for so long, Greer said he also was not allowed to say goodbye to his son before the boy was removed from life support on Aug. 31.

Greer strongly believes DCS and police, to whom Crockett did tell the scarf story, should have been more suspicious. He questions how a 14-month-old could pull and tie a scarf that strongly around her neck.

In fact, according to documents the South Bend Tribune requested last fall and received in December, at least one DCS caseworker was upset that the Special Victims Unit did not investigate further and that DCS decided not to substantiate the case for possible abuse. According to one email, the caseworker had “a gut feeling” there was more to Alaiyah’s injury.

The family raised money to bury Micahyah in Highland Cemetery and to buy an adjacent plot for his sister, should she not survive. Greer said a DCS case manager told him a supervisor had agreed the agency would buy a tombstone for the boy, but he hasn’t heard anything more about that. A DCS spokesman said he was not able to confirm the details of any offer of a headstone by early Thursday night.

Greer said he never saw any signs that Crockett was angry or jealous, despite the fact they had broken up. He said the two had parented well together and, in fact, had spent the day with Micahyah most of that day in August the boy was taken to the hospital. His cellphone had run out of charge, so text messages police reported Crockett had sent Greer threatening to hurt the boy if he didn’t return to his mother’s home did not fall into his phone until he reached the hospital, he said, his phone newly charged.

The young father said he would either see the children at his mother’s house when Crockett brought them to South Bend, or at her mother’s house in Elkhart, where she was living. He insists he never saw any sign of mental illness on her part.

“She was always sweet and caring,” Greer said of Crockett. “That’s why I was so shocked.”

The intimidation charge that sent him to court Thursday stemmed from an incident several weeks before little Micahyah died, which Greer said stemmed from a comment a friend made about his daughter and her brain injuries.

“I snapped,” he said. “I was yelling and wouldn’t stop. He just called the police.”

After his son died, he went to an even darker place, sleeping most of the time and avoiding people. Greer said he is slowly pulling out of that, resuming a bit of his characteristic optimism and regaining control of his life. He wants to seek out counseling, he’s beginning online classes to finish the last four credits for his high school degree, and he’s starting his new jobs.

Greer said his own father died when he was 7, and he wasn’t around a whole lot even before that.

“I always vowed that as long as I’m living, I’m going to be a part of (my kids’) lives,” said Greer, who does not intend to attend Crockett’s trial next month because he’s too angry to face her. “My main focus now is to do everything I can for my daughter and to put a headstone down for my son.”

___

Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com


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