AMELIA ROBINSON: When a smile masks terror

His mother said something.

His teachers said something.

Still, the little boy died a horrible death in our very town.

Takoda Collins’ death is unacceptable.

It is beside the point, but the kid was a cutie.

He smiles brightly in a photo published with stories about his horrific life.

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Takoda Collins died earlier this month after what authorities say was “extreme” child abuse.
Photo: Staff Writer

That smile did not display the terror that officials say he experienced.

Court documents say Takoda withstood “extreme abuse” before he was taken to Dayton Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, on Dec. 13.

That abuse like this occurred is not an easy fact to take in our town or any other.

As my colleagues Parker Perry, Jeremy P. Kelley and John Bedellhave reported, law enforcement officials say Takoda’s dad tortured him mentally and physically over a long period of time.

They say Al-Mutahan McLean locked the naked 10-year-old in an attic and forced him to stand bent over and cross-legged for long periods of time. Takoda would be beaten if he stopped, they say.

His body was covered in cuts and bruises, and a Montgomery County Coroner’s Office report says he suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries.

The report notes “excessive acute and healing blunt force injuries (head, torso and extremities — abrasions, contusions and lacerations).”

The child reportedly ate his own feces and was either forced to drink a lot of water or was held underwater before his death.

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McLean, 30, is charged with four counts of endangering children, two counts of felonious assault, and one count of rape of a child under the age of 13.

He’s pleaded not guilty and the court will decide.

Justice cannot be found when a death is this unacceptable.

Takoda is not the first cute kid in our community to face horrors we don’t want to talk about. Horrors that we miss in a face with a bright smile.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has it, roughly one in seven kids were abused in the last year.

An estimated 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect in 2017, the agency says.

The drive to find reasons this kid or that kid slips through the cracks is not playing the blame game, but an effort to seal those cracks.

We know from released 911 calls that his mother said something.

We know from interviews and reporting that his teachers told Dayton police and Montgomery County Children Services in May of 2018.

McLean removed the little boy from his Dayton elementary school soon after, filing papers to home-school him.

That there are so many like this kid should make your blood boil.

Dayton teachers started a letter-writing campaign to Ohio’s elected officials over the holidays seeking a change in state law to better protect at-risk students removed from school by their parents.

Children pulled out of school should be checked on by officials if there is a suspicion of child abuse reported to children services.

A wreath has been left on the front door of 1934 Kensington Drive in Dayton. Takoda Collins, 10, was rushed to Dayton’s Children’s Hospital on Dec. 13 and was pronounced dead after his father Al-Mutahan McLean called police to say he found the boy unresponsive in their Kensington Drive home. McLean, 30, faces charges in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in connection to what law enforcement described in court records as “extreme” child abuse against Takoda. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

We can guess, but it’s impossible to know if Takoda would be here today if the laws were different. It is not yet clear what, if anything, was done to help him.

Children services officials have declined to release documents about their involvement with the child. They’ve cited state law and an ongoing criminal investigation when asked by reporters.

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I can say with certainty that he did not deserve the pain he suffered.

No being who draws breath does.

We should have known the smile he wears in that picture is a mask.

His mother said something.

His teachers said something.

The little boy should not have died a horrible death in our very town or any other.


 Amelia Robinson is a reporter, columnist and podcaster for the Dayton Daily News and Dayton.com. Amelia is an Oregon District resident who has been covering the Dayton community for 20 years. She covers topics including dining, nightlife, entertainment and the people, places and things that make Dayton a great place to live, work and play. She is the host of the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi award-nominated podcast “What Had Happened Was …” about the people and places of Dayton. She has been the author of the Smart Mouth column for the Dayton Daily News for 15 years. The column, which appears in Sunday’s Dayton Daily News Life & Arts section, was recognized as the best newspaper column in Ohio in 2019. Amelia appears on WHIO Radio’s “Miami Valley Morning News” every Friday and “Miami Valley Happenings with Jason Michaels” every Sunday. Amelia is also president and a founding member of the Greater Dayton Association of Black Journalists. She also serves on the boards of the Dayton Sister City Committee and Oregon Historic District Society.

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