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My Reason

On April 18, 2015, five-year-old Gary Blanton III was murdered by his aunt, Cynthia Khaleel, while under the watch of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (currently known as the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families). Gary, who was a member of the Hoh Tribe, was in the temporary custody of his aunt following the death of both of his parents.

Just days before his death, on April 16, 2015, Gary told a teacher at the school he attended that his mom (which is what he referred to Khaleel as) “punched him” in the middle of his forehead. On the following day, April 17, 2015, Gary was admitted to the hospital.

A report from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) regarding April 17, 2015 stated, “Earlier that morning, Khaleel said she heard a loud ‘bang’ and screaming coming from the bedroom shared by Gary and his brother. She found Gary on the floor between his bed and a dresser, with a crib partially tipped over and resting on the dresser. Khaleel reported she believed Gary had fallen while getting into his brother’s crib. She observed no injuries although the child was crying and saying his ear hurt. She put Gary back to bed, gave him some ice and Motrin, and propped him on a pillow. At about 6:00 am, while in the process of getting the children ready for the day, she attempted to wake Gary. He did not move and his pupils were of different sizes. Khaleel called 911 and upon arrival the first responders called for a Medivac helicopter for emergency transport.”

Sadly, on April 18, 2015, Gary was removed from life support and he passed away.  Two months later, on July 16, 2015, Spokane detectives determined that Gary’s death was not accidental and arrested Khaleel on second-degree murder charges.  An autopsy determined Gary’s injuries included “bilateral skull fractures, abdominal trauma, and multiple skin contusions involving the head, torso and extremities.” The Medical Examiner determined that Gary “had sustained multiple traumas, including an abdominal injury that was the result of a deep penetrating force” and that the “complexity and severity of the head injuries suggested a very severe blow that would have caused immediate concussion,” making it unlikely that he communicated with his aunt that his ear hurt or took medication on April 17, 2015, as Khaleel stated.

In June 2018, a jury found Khaleel not guilty of second degree murder in the 2015 death of her nephew, Gary Blanton III.  Tragically, no justice was found for Gary but we continue to share his story and seek changes to ensure that the safety of children is a priority in foster care.

To read more about how the DSHS Case Worker assigned to Gary’s case was accused of critical errors such as falsifying the reports of health and safety visits in the tragic case of Gary Blanton III, please click here.

Gary Blanton III

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Gary and his loving older sister Vida

Vida, the sister of Gary Blanton III, sharing Gary’s story and advocating for the safety of foster care children at the 2023 Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t Gathering at the State Capitol Building in Olympia, Washington

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