GROVELAND TWP., Mich. (WXYZ) — A man from the Holly area is accused of child abuse and torture in connection with the death of 3-year-old Trinity Chandler in Groveland Township on Saturday. Prosecutors say her mother's boyfriend, who was already wanted for other crimes, could face even more charges in the next few weeks.
Child protective services did a welfare check on Trinity the day before she died, but did not remove her despite seeing injuries.
“To me, it looked like healing from two black eyes. It was two,” said Ashley Brown, the mother to one of Trinity's friends.
Brown is speaking out to expose facts she says she reported to state police and CPS, including these pictures she gave of multiple bruises on Trinity's face. These are injuries the child allegedly suffered at the hands of Samuel Lester Smart, the boyfriend of Trinity's mother.
“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 said.
She says documented abuse goes back to August and October, but somehow Trinity remained with her mother, who would leave her with Smart.
“Nothing was done," Brown said. "She wasn’t taken. We hoped she would be, but we knew she wasn’t.”
During a virtual arraignment on Tuesday, 29-year-old Smart showed no emotion and gave only short answers as he was charged with child abuse and torture, which carries a maximum life sentence. Even more alarming, a detective says they've found video evidence that proves what took place.
Michigan State Police say Smart is the prime suspect in the child's death. Sources confirm the young girl suffered bruises and internal bleeding after being left alone with Smart at Groveland Manor Mobile Home Park.
“There have been multiple CPS investigations and reports between Mr. Smart and 3-year-old Trinity Chandler," said Det. Sgt. Walden with MSP. "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.”
CPS released this statement: “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...”
An autopsy is forthcoming and more charges are expected to be announced soon after. Smart's bond was denied. He remains at Oakland County Jail until his next court appearance.