LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Donella Trainor, 45, was found guilty of child abuse in Michigan in the 1990s. Her daughter was taken away from her. Now, she faces charges of manslaughter, in Michael McMullen's death.
Rickie Trainor, her brother, said Donella's history of child abuse is all a misunderstanding. In that case, Donella left her daughter alone to play in the bathtub, the daughter burned herself with hot water. He said there was no intentional physical abuse, and the court was too harsh in taking her daughter away. So, he cannot believe what he's now hearing about his little sister.
"I swear I can still feel his heartbeat. He's just not responding," said Rickie.
Donella Trainor called 911 on October 19th, after her "godson," Michael McMullen stopped breathing.
"He's sweaty from head to toe. It's like he overheated," said Donella on the 911 recording.
Deputies say the 45-year-old wrapped the boy in six layers of blankets, because she wanted the upset boy to calm down.
According to Trainor's arrest report, the wrap left him bound in a manner where he could not move or break free.
Trainor is now charged with manslaughter.
"I don't think she would intentionally try to hurt anybody, any child," said Rickie.
Rickie Trainor is in Arizona. He said he hasn't seen Donella in months, but said he was shocked to hear about the charges.
He said Donella has always been a kind and warm mother to her own two children.
"I've never seen any issue that she was abrasive, that she would hit her kids or harm her kids," said Rickie.
Donella told deputies she has done the wrapping method before, on Michael and her grandchildren.
"I mean...if she did do it, I wasn't aware of it," said Rickie.
McMullen's grandmother, Gail Watkins, and his stepfather, Douglas Garrigus, are also charged with manslaughter.
Although the arrest report called Donella a family friend, Rickie said he has never heard her talk about the family before.
We spoke to DCF, who said there is a history of violence in the home. DCF said their stepfather was not allowed to be around the children. Had officials known Donella and Garrigus were living in the home, the children would have been removed. The children could only have supervised visits with their stepfather, and mother, Samantha McMullen.
A friend of Samantha's said she was the best mother any child could ask for.
"Sammy is just numb. Best way to explain it, she's just numb," said the friend, who did not wish to be named.
She said Samantha is heartbroken over the death of her son.
The boy and his three siblings were in their grandmother's care.
Because a DCF report said, "The children disclosed that there was on-going family violence to which the mother took no measures to protect the children ..."
"Gail, Sammy and Doug...wonderful people. If they were to come home tomorrow...I'd let them babysit my kid," said the friend.
The friend said Sammy was trying to get her kids back.
"They are good people. Someone needed to stand up and say that," said the friend.