Canton Infant Abuse Case Splinters Family
Grandparents in process of adopting Hunter Sewejkis, who suffered permanent injuries at the hands of his father.
As 10-month-old Hunter Sewejkis recovers from near-fatal injuries from child abuse under the care of his grandparents, relationships between his mother, Leanne Garlick, and her family are left fractured.
The 29-year-old Canton mother lost parental rights to Hunter on April 25 after a judge determined she did not do enough to protect her son from his father, 26-year-old Anthony Sewejkis, who was convicted in the abuse.
Garlick now is estranged from her family and legally is not allowed to see Hunter or her parents, who are now in the process of adopting her son.
Mother loses parental rights to Hunter
April 23 was the last day Garlick spent with Hunter, on a supervised visit at her parents’ home in Belleville.
“I made him a promise that day,” she said. “And told him if it is the last time I saw him, I would make sure his father got what he deserves.”
Anthony Sewejkis was found guilty May 10 of first-degree child abuse and faces May 25 sentencing, where he could face up to 15 years in prison.
Sal Alongi, Garlick's father, said he wishes she had spent more time with Hunter between his hospitalization and her losing parental rights her son.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of trauma she went through, too, and stress and I suppose everybody reacts a little differently to stress, trauma and tragedy,” he said. “I just can’t understand for the life of me how a mother can turn away from her own child.”
Garlick, however, said she was only allowed to visit when her father was present, and it often was difficult to schedule visits.
“I visited as often as my schedule and his allowed it,” she said. “The entire first month I practically lived at the hospital. I never left.”
After a month, she said, bills at home began to accumulate and she fell behind with rent and had to return to work, limiting her time with Hunter.
Alongi said the decision to cut ties with his daughter was difficult.
"It’s unfortunate," he said. "Leanne’s my daughter and I still love my daughter. I have so many mixed emotions through all of this."
Despite the broken family bonds, Garlick said she thinks Hunter will be in better hands with his grandparents than with an outside foster home.
“I think if they truly believe they can give him the best,” she said, “I would rather he be with family.”
Alongi said the situation has taken a toll on the family.
"This is a hard situation for my family," he said. "It’s been a real heartache for everybody."
Estranged husband pulled into legal battle
Sewejkis' actions on Dec. 7 have affected not only the lives of Hunter, Garlick and her family, but also that of Eric Garlick, Leanne Garlick's estranged husband, and the couple's son.
Eric and Leanne Garlick are still legally married, and that makes Eric Garlick Hunter's father in the eyes of Michigan law.
Since the incident, he has lost custody of 7-year-old Francesco (“Franky”) Garlick on grounds that, like Leanne Garlick, he did not do enough to project Hunter.
Both Eric and Leanne Garlick retain parental rights to Franky and the child remains in Eric Garlick's care until a July 16 custody hearing, where he could gain custody back.
He blamed Child Protective Services for thrusting him into the legal battle surrounding the abuse case, even though he says he did nothing wrong.
“I had nothing to do with this, whatsoever,” Eric Garlick said. “I just got dragged into this whole mess.”
He said he was not aware of Leanne Garlick's pregnancy with Hunter until after the delivery and had only seen the infant when dropping Franky off for visits with his mother.
Eric and Leanne Garlick have a divorce hearing scheduled in June. He said the two maintain a civil relationship and that he feels Leanne Garlick is a good mother and said she is active in Franky's life.
Alongi declined to discuss Leanne Garlick's parenting of Franky, but said he feels Franky is in good hands with Eric Garlick, who he described as a good father.