Everything we know after mother, 2 young sons freeze to death in Pontiac woods

35-year-old woman, 2 sons die of hypothermia

Monica Cannady (WDIV)

PONTIAC, Mich. – More and more details have continued to emerge after Oakland County deputies found a Pontiac mother and her two sons in a field after they froze to death over the weekend.

Here’s everything we know about this case.

Mother, 3 children identified

Officials said the mother has been identified as 35-year-old Monica Cannady, of Pontiac.

Cannady was the mother of three children: 10-year-old Lillie, 9-year-old Kyle Milton, and 3-year-old Malik Milton.

An autopsy confirmed Cannady and her sons died from hypothermia. Their deaths have been ruled accidental.

Lillie is in the hospital, but she is stable.

What police found

Deputies were called at 3:10 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 15) to the 200 block of Branch Street after Cannady’s daughter told someone her family had died, according to authorities.

“(Deputies) were told that a 10-year-old girl knocked on a door and said that her family was dead in a field,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

Officials searched the vacant fields in the area of Lakeside housing. They found Cannady and her two sons dead in a field near the edge of Crystal Lake, about a mile away from their Pontiac apartment, Bouchard said.

The field where a mother and her two sons froze to death on Jan. 15, 2023, in Pontiac. (WDIV)

Mental health crisis

Bouchard said family members recently noticed that Cannady was struggling with mental health. Her mother observed a change in behavior over the past three weeks, but wasn’t sure what had caused it, according to authorities.

On Friday, Cannady’s mother noticed that her grandchildren were cold. Family members offered to help Cannady, but she refused, Bouchard said.

“This was a mental health crisis,” Bouchard said. “The woman, the mom, was having a mental health crisis. She believed someone was trying to kill her and that everybody was in on it, (that) it was a conspiracy, so, including the police, were in on this, trying to kill her.

“The family was trying to get her help, trying to get her committed and get some help, and she refused and fled.”

Monica Cannady (WDIV)

Bouchard said with better mental health resources, this situation might have been avoided.

“I would say accidental/preventable,” Bouchard said. “If we have more conversations -- sometimes tough conversations that it takes strength to ask for help. It’s not weakness. That it’s encouraged, and we have more available mental health services to everybody, I think it’ll go a long way.”

10-year-old girl in hospital

Lillie survived and is in the hospital with hypothermia-type symptoms, police said. Her grandmother is by her side.

She is considered stable and “appears to be recovering well,” according to Bouchard.

Lillie told police that her family had gone to the field, and her mother told the children to lie down and sleep. When Lillie woke up, her mother and brothers wouldn’t respond, officials said.

“This tragedy was fundamentally evidentiary of the breakdown of our mental health system in America,” Bouchard said. “We don’t give our mental health providers and systems enough support and have enough resources at their fingertips.”

Child Protective Services is involved in the case. Upon being discharged from the hospital, Lillie will be turned over to family members.

The family has started a GoFundMe to pay for funeral expenses and to help Lillie.

Reports of woman, children underdressed in cold

Between Friday and Sunday, Oakland County deputies received multiple calls about a woman and children wandering the streets without the appropriate clothing for the cold weather, Bouchard said.

“From our side, we were not called about a person or kids in crisis,” Bouchard said. “We would get an occasional call, ‘Hey, there’s somebody in the area that doesn’t look like they’re appropriately dressed.’ Deputies would go there and look, and they weren’t there.”

Police believe the family was wandering out in the cold for parts of Friday, all of Saturday, and parts of Sunday.

“We later learned from the surviving daughter that (the mother) had told her kids anytime anybody approached, to run,” Bouchard said.

Neighbor Charles Witherspoon said he saw the police activity on Sunday and talked to another neighbor who had spoken to the family on Saturday.

“They were hungry,” Witherspoon said. “I said, ‘What did you do?’ She said, ‘I didn’t let them in,’ but her brother Arthur said he tried to give the young lady some money and she wouldn’t take it.”

Husband’s murder

Bouchard said Cannady’s husband had been murdered in November 2021.

Kyle Milton was shot and killed at a party. Officials believe that might have contributed to Cannady’s mental health crisis.

“When you’re a mom with three kids and the father of your kids has been murdered and you’ve got things going on, there needs to be more integration of those (mental health) services,” Bouchard said.

Full police briefing

You can watch Bouchard’s full Monday briefing below.

More coverage

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About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.