ANDERSON — Mike Harris hasn’t slept in nearly eight weeks.
Each night he lays awake remembering the night last December when he took his 1-year-old grandson Harlan Haines to the hospital after the little one broke his leg.
Jenny Harris, Mike Harris’ daughter and Haines’ mother, said a Christmas tree had fallen on his leg, but Mike Harris suspected something more intentional.
A case was opened with Child Protective Services, and Mike Harris believed officials would find out what happened. Still, as Mike Harris said goodbye to his grandson and daughter he told her, “Things like this don’t stop on their own.”
Two months later, on Feb. 24, Haines died under questionable circumstances after a car accident. Medical personnel discovered bruising not consistent with an automobile accident and paper towels lodged in the boy’s throat, according to the child’s father, Jackie Haines. Investigators also found evidence that something had been inserted into his rectum.
Could Mike Harris have done more?
The question is all consuming.
“I don’t sleep, maybe I won’t ever sleep again,” he said. “All I can do, for whoever did this, is I don’t want them to ever be out on the streets to hurt another baby.”
He continued: “I don’t care who did it — I just want to find some justice and make sure they can never hurt anyone ever again.”
And that’s exactly what a small group of community activists hoped to find as well by hosting a Chalk Walk for Justice on Saturday at Dickmann Town Center.
Jamie Johnson, a children and parental rights advocate with Family Rights Protection Foundation, helped to organize the walk along with local group Baby Harlan Cries for Justice.
For Johnson, Haines’ death is a rallying cry that should bring the community together, both to demand the guilty party pay for hurting a defenseless child and to make changes with CPS. Johnson believes if the service had been more diligent after the first broken bone, Haines would still be alive today.
“That’s why I’m here, because (Harlan) isn’t,” she said. “Somebody has got to do it, so why not me?”
After painting chalk at Dickmann Town Center, the group protested outside the courthouse to urge prosecutors to press charges against either Jenny Harris or her boyfriend, Dylan T. Tate, who was with Haines before his death.
Either way, Mike Harris said he just hopes his little baby grandson isn’t forgotten.
“My grandson won’t ever play baseball, he won’t ever know his first kiss,” he said. “I look for comfort, or an answer in all this, and I just try to remember him today, and every day.”