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Lawyer: Family not taking legal action in toddler death

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The family of a 3-year-old girl who died after a table fell on her at a Head Start site in Dearborn Heights has no plans to seek legal action, an attorney said Monday.

Lilliana Kerr.

The Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency CEO “especially said he’s going to do right by the family,” said Gregory Rohl, attorney for the family of Lilliana Kerr, during a news conference Monday at Walter’s Speakeasy in Dearborn Heights. “I’m taking him at his word.”

The toddler died at a hospital after a lunch table folded into a wall collapsed and fell on her as she played in a gym at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, officials said.

The death Friday of Lilliana was ruled accidental, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Rohl described the tables as older and “somewhat dilapidated.” He could not provide an age for the tables or the building where the Head Start program is held.

Attorney Greg Rohl holds a press conference Monday with Sandi Jacokes, of Westland, a close family friend of the Kerrs, about the accidental death of Lilliana Kerr.

Rohl said he is awaiting inspection records.

The Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, which runs the Head Start program in Wayne County, held grief counseling sessions Monday for families and staff, said Mia Cupp, spokeswoman for the agency. The Dearborn Heights site has been temporarily closed.

“The outpouring from the community has been overwhelming,” Cupp said. “Social workers from across the county showed up today and spent time working with the families and children. We have plans in place for when the children arrive back at school to make the grieving process a daily part of activities.”

Cupp said the goal is to reopen Monday.

“We’re actively working to restore services as soon as possible,” she said.

Family and friends, meanwhile, were struggling in the wake of the death of Lilliana’s, who was described as “a great little girl.”

“Just so full of life. Her smile ...,” said family friend Sandi Jacokes through tears. “It’s been so hard for her,” Jacokes said of the girl’s mother. “I wish I could hug her and take her pain away.”

Lilliana’s mother was too upset to attend the news conference Monday, Rohl said.

Jacokes said her friend is a single mother and cosmetology student who enrolled Lilliana and her twin sister in the Head Start program so she could attend classes, Jacokes said.

As of Monday afternoon, the twin sister and a 9-year-old brother still had not learned what happened to their sister, Rohl said. The sister was in the building at the time of the incident, but not in the gym, he said.

A spaghetti fundraiser is set to begin 11 a.m. Friday at Walter’s Speakeasy and donations will be accepted until 2 a.m. Saturday. According to Rohl’s office, said the goal is to raise $25,000 to cover funeral expenses, counseling and living expenses as the family recovers. One family donated a casket.

“We just ask for some help right now,” Jacokes said.

As of Monday afternoon, contributors donated more than $18,000 through a Gofundme account including a $5,000 donation from the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

Visitation for Lilliana will be 2-9 p.m. Wednesday and funeral services at noon Thursday at Howe-Peterson Funeral Home, 9800 S. Telegraph in Taylor.