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article imageGrandmother of Savannah Cross speaks out about murder Special

By Justin King     Mar 1, 2014 in Crime
Phoenix - On December of 2012, a 2-year-old girl named Savannah Cross died in the custody of daycare workers. Since then, the battle over the events of that night has played out in the media and over social media networks.
Savannah was left by her mother in the care of Ryan Alan Reed and Allison Ann Clement. The pair ran their babysitting services through craigslist ads, and Savannah was in their care for weeks at a time. Both of the caregivers were charged with child abuse, but then the charges were dropped after the medical examiner failed to deliver the autopsy report on time, even though Reed told police he repeatedly hit, kicked and grabbed the girl.
The medical examiner’s report, finally released in December of 2013, said that Savannah had died as the result of
multiple traumatic injuries, acute methamphetamine and diphenhydramine exposure and dehydration.
The autopsy report also indicated that Savannah had suffered other injuries including a cigarette burn, an eye injury, bites wounds apparently caused by an adult, bruising all over her body, and the presence of several drugs in her system.
Savannah s birthday cake.
Savannah's birthday cake.
Cathy Cross
Cathy Cross, Savannah’s grandmother, described what it was like seeing the autopsy photos for the first time.
In the first photo I saw, nothing looked like Savannah except for her teeth. I couldn’t recognize her except her teeth.
Additional evidence released in November indicated that Reed allegedly sexually assaulted the child. He has been rearrested. His trial is scheduled for May 27, 2014. Clement is currently free.
Cathy spoke of watching an interview on television where a neighbor said that he had heard crying and screaming coming from the house all the time. Child Protective Services was not notified of any suspected problems. Savannah’s grandmother is actively seeking a developer to develop an app to report to CPS. “We have to give the public the tools to do this without having to become too involved.”
She has also started The Savannah Fund to help with families, such as hers, that don’t have the means to constantly travel to attend court proceedings in support of child victims. To comply with non-profit laws, there are two separate funds at the moment, one to go directly to Savannah’s family to help with travel expenses and one to go to help other families. Under non-profit laws no member of a board can receive any benefit from the activities of a charity.
She chronicles the events surrounding the case through a blog, which has proved a healthy release for her.
Cathy Cross spoke with Digital Journal and explained the events, how they affected her, and what she plans on doing to help other families who befall similar situations.
All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The interview
Can you describe the family situation for Savannah at the time of the incident?
Stephen and Ashley were not together but had planned to get married, but that fell apart. They had a written agreement witnessed by both [of their] dads for joint custody with an agreed amount of child support.
Was there ever any previous cause for alarm about her child care situation?
The only indication [Savannah’s mother] ever gave to me was that every time she would leave she would cry. She asked when that would stop. I responded to her and said “When she’s happy there. It might be an indication that she’s unhappy there or being mistreated.” Steven had mentioned to me that she was in day care too much. Ashley responded that she was in college and had a job. That wasn’t anything unusual to me. We didn’t know about the 24/7 deal.
There has been a lot of speculation about the length of time Savannah was left with in daycare. Would you like to comment on that?
I feel that mom abandoned her. I feel she emotionally and physically abandoned her. If she had been checking in on her she would have seen the abuse and the conditions she was living in. Obviously I don’t think her being left there for that length was called for. There was no reason for Savannah to not sleep in her own bed at night. It was just uncalled for. Nobody’s talking about why she was left there. I don’t have the answers for that.
Family photo of Savannah Cross.
Family photo of Savannah Cross.
Cathy Cross
There’s no reason for you to have to relive every detail of Savannah’s last days, but generally what events led to her death, as you understand it?
She was raped, sodomized, burned, slapped, poked, tortured, imprisoned in a pack-and-play, she was dehydrated, and had elevated methamphetamine and Benadryl-equivilient in her system, and had chemical burns all over her face. The night before she died, she was laying on the floor watching TV and he kicked her, and then stomped on her. He told the police he left her in the pack-and-play and heard her moaning all night long. Clement was there. Apparently they just didn’t care. The playpen was covered to keep her inside it. She was imprisoned.
Once the details of her death emerged, and the providers were arrested I would imagine there was a little bit of comfort. How did you feel when the case was dismissed?
I’ve had two nervous breakdowns since Savannah was murdered. It was overwhelming. The first happened when the details came out. The second one happened when they were both released. I completely just broke down. I’ve been in counseling.
What exactly caused the charges to be dropped?
The medical examiner… first of all the case was labeled a “complex case.” Under normal circumstances a normal case has to be started within 160 days, but for a complex case it’s 270 days. The medical examiner had yet to finish the autopsy report. We didn’t learn that until the day they were released that nothing had been sent out. In 270 days: nothing.
Do you know why the coroner’s office was taking so long? It would seem like this case would be a high priority.
They were saying lack of resource to do it. Then we learned it wasn’t lack of resources, they just didn’t do it. Then after the suspects were released, they went and asked for raises. I don’t understand why people that can’t send a slide out for testing in 270 days deserve a raise. The supervisor over all this got somewhere around a 17% raise.
Everything that should have been done in 270 days before the release was done in less than 90, after they were released.
At what point did Anonymous get involved with the case, and what was their involvement?
I reached out to an Anonymous member and said “I need help” before they were released. “I need help. Whatever you can do.” After about a month I heard back and they started putting pressure on the medical examiner’s office.
So where do you go from here? What are the next steps in getting justice for Savannah?
The medical examiner’s report was finished December 6th. They had enough evidence to charge him with sexual assault on Savannah. Within half an hour of receiving the DNA results, they went and picked Reed back up and charged him with two counts of sexual assault on a minor. Once all the results are back they will go back to grand jury to pursue other charges.
Clement was the one who was ultimately responsible, right or wrong. Clement admitted she saw it going on. Medical examiner report or not, they admitted the crime. So whenever the lab results come back, it will be up to the grand jury.
The case has generated a lot of attention. How can people help? Tell us about the Savannah Fund.
When this happened it was just through the grace of God and generous strangers that allowed me to go to Savannah's funeral. We live within our means; we don’t have money for travel. The victims advocate’s office would pay for us to travel if we were testifying. But then we couldn’t be in the courtroom except when we were testifying. We want to be there for the whole thing.
I thought that we needed to start a fund to help people like us. There are so many divorced parents or military parents that don’t have money for travel for something like this. I thought if we could help people like us… it would be great… so that’s the Savannah Fund.
To do the foundation properly we need about $500,000 in funding, but we aren’t worrying about that yet. If people want to help us get to the trial, we would appreciate any help that could be offered because now we have two trials to attend, and possibly a third.
More about savannah cross, Murder, Child abuse, Anonymous, opsafekids
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