3-year-old girl dies of abuse day after CPS welfare check

Samual Lester Smart, 29, of Holly, Michigan. [Image credit: Oakland County Sheriff's Department]

Saturday morning, a 3-year-old girl identified as Trinity Chandler received emergency medical treatment from the Goveland Township Fire Department, but later died of her injuries at a nearby hospital.


Investigators believe that she had been tortured and abused by 29-year-old Samual Smart, the man that Trinity's mother had been dating for about a year and a half and who also resided with them.


"She'd been with him a year and a half. You should be able to trust the one you're with," Christine Cunningham, Trinity's maternal grandmother was quoted as saying by The Detroit News.


While Cunningham told The Detroit News that she did not suspect abuse and asserted that she would have intervened if she had seen cause, others have come forward and asserted that Child Protective Services had failed Trinity.


"They failed her. They failed her big time," Ronda Osterberg, Trinity's great-aunt told Click on Detroit. "There were two black eyes, there was a bruise on her cheek - CPS closed the case."


Another woman, Ashley Brown, identified as a mother of one of Trinity's friends, told WXYZ that she had reported abuse to CPS and even sent photographs which showed bruising on Trinity's face. "To me, it looked like healing from two black eyes. It was two."


She had first reported the abuse months before.  "October is when I made a report with MSP, a couple months prior I saw her with marks under her eyes. It was obvious abuse. They could have taken her somewhere safe until the investigation was over," Brown was quoted as saying. "Nothing was done. She wasn't taken. We hoped she would be, but we knew she wasn't."


Detective Sgt. Walden of the Michigan State Police confirmed that there had been multiple reports filed saying, "There have been multiple CPS investigations and reports between Mr. Smart and 3-year-old Trinity Chandler. There is an active and open child abuse investigation by troopers at the Metro North Post, and CPS actually showed up to do a welfare check with Trinity on Friday. They observed injuries, but didn't feel they had enough to remove her from that place at that time. Mr. Smart is the prime suspect in her death."


Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a statement saying, "This is a terrible tragedy and MDHHS offers its condolences to the family and friends of this child. Our Children's Services Agency is committed to its job of protecting children and families. By law, MDHHS cannot comment as this is an ongoing investigation involving law enforcement."


Michigan State Police are still investigating the matter and asked for patience from the public during this time. "We realize that anytime there is a death in the community, especially a child, rumors and gossip start working its way through both traditional and social media. Please have patience as we continue our investigation."


Results of an autopsy are pending, and law enforcement has made it clear that Smart will likely face additional charges once those results are released.


At this time, he is being held in the Oakland County Jail without bond on a charge of torture and first-degree child abuse.  Both charges face the possibility of a sentence of life.  He was arraigned in 52-2 District Court in Clarkson on Tuesday.


Smart is due back in court on January 4, 2021.


A GoFundMe account has been established in order to assist with Trinity's funeral expenses.