Over and over, family members and day-care providers reported that Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson was being beaten by his mother’s violent boyfriend. Three times, social workers responded by providing family assessment, instead of opening an investigation.

Key’Ontay did not make it to his 5th birthday.

In February 2012, 3-year-old Key’Ontay told his day-care provider that his mother’s boyfriend, William Warr, beat him with a belt, juvenile court records show.

The day care also found an injury to the back of Key’Ontay’s head and reported the abuse to Hennepin County, according to records. The county responded by opening a family assessment case, despite state law that says any case of malicious punishment of a child should be investigated.
Key’Ontay’s mother, Sha’Reese Miller, denied to social workers that anyone hit him with a belt. The county closed the case.

In March 2012, the county investigated after getting a report that Warr strangled Key’Ontay’s mother in front of the child. The county found Warr responsible for child maltreatment. Later that month, Key’Ontay’s aunt reported to child protection that Warr punched the boy in the nose, according to records and interviews with the family. Records do not show how the county responded to that report.
Miller filed an order for protection against Warr at the request of the county. In October 2012, Warr pleaded guilty to felony domestic assault for beating and threatening Miller.

The county opened another family assessment case in December 2012 after getting a report that Warr shoved Key’Ontay, giving him a cut above his right eye that needed five stitches. A caseworker noted that Key’Ontay’s mother “has allowed [Warr] to continue to live in her home and physically abuse her two older children” despite the order for protection.

Key’Ontay and his family moved to Burnsville in May 2013, and the next month child protection got a report from his aunt that Warr gave the boy a black eye. Dakota County opened a family assessment case, and three days later a child-protection worker went to the home. The worker left after Key’Ontay’s mother said she hadn’t seen Warr in over a year, and saw no injuries on the children, records show.

Four days later police were called to the home on a report that 4-year-old Key’Ontay was not breathing. He was found cold to the touch with bruises all over his body and fractured ribs. He died of blunt force injuries to his abdomen. Warr faces several first-degree murder charges. Miller has been charged with manslaughter.

Mary Miller, Key’Ontay’s grandmother, and other family members say they made 25 to 30 reports that Warr was abusing Key’Ontay.

“They should have removed those kids and investigated those reports properly,” Miller said. “If they had done their jobs right, there’s a chance my grandson would be alive today.”

BRANDON STAHL