By Scott North, Herald Writer
Nilah Devaney came to the newspaper’s offices, accompanied by Diane Henry, Mylo’s mother, and Donna Cooper, his grandmother. They were clearly family, all built close to the ground, barely coming up to my chest. They all had the same dark hair and the same flashing, chocolate-colored eyes.
Donna said little. She listened carefully while I explained my interest in the case. She watched me as I began talking with her girls. When she did speak, both of her daughters honored her words with respectful silence that almost seemed like punctuation.
There was a look on Diane’s face that I’d seen before. It was a mother’s grief. She missed her son.
Nilah turned over a thick stack of carefully collated documents. She was all business.
My notepad began to fill with the details of Mylo’s life, death and funeral. Good boy, I wrote. Loved. Stopped raining when his casket was walked to the grave.
I also catalogued the family’s hurt. If his death wasn’t enough, another pain was the way people in Snohomish County had reacted to it.
Three events stood out in particular, the women told me.
At the time Mylo died The Herald was experimenting on its Web site with community forums. We allowed readers to post anonymous comments on just about anything that struck their fancy.
Mylo’s case attracted attention, at least initially, because he had been nude in public.
Somebody started a thread talking about “the naked guy” who had fought the cops. Some found that funny. Some pointed out that the young man was then clinging to life in a coma, and it wasn’t funny at all.
Others said it was Mylo’s own fault.
Mylo’s friends and relatives read the posts as they appeared. When they objected, the posts got nastier and continued even after Mylo died.
With nobody policing the crowd, the Internet discussion devolved into the incoherent Babel that often passes for communication in much of the digital world.
Then, the women told me, there was the city’s unwillingness to talk about what happened.
Nilah provided paperwork documenting an exchange between the Tulalip Tribes and the city of Everett. Tribal leaders had raised questions about Mylo’s death, particularly the amount of force used. The tribes sought a meeting with the police chief and the mayor. Their request was turned down. The city’s reply letter said the tribes had raised “serious allegations” and they should direct their questions to detectives.
Together, we paged through Nilah’s files and a photo album she put together for her sister.
Donna watched me closely.
There was Mylo as an infant in July 1983, Diane holding him swaddled on a traditional American Indian cradleboard. There he was at 9 or 10, turning heads at a wedding with dance moves borrowed from Michael Jackson.
There were snapshots with teammates from the sports he excelled at: basketball, football, track. The camera caught him smiling, high school homework tucked under his arm. He looked sharp in the tuxes he rented to attend proms.
I was told that Diane’s marriage to Mylo’s father, Lorenzo Harvey, a member of the Yakama Indian Nation, had ended years before. Mylo was one of three children, the one in the middle. His older sister, Nicole, had died in a car crash about three years before Mylo’s death. Only his brother James remained, suffering terribly over Mylo’s death. He had been with Mylo that night.
I learned that Mylo had attended Marysville schools. His family said he was one of only two students in his class at Marysville Alternative School to pass the WASL. He earned his GED at Everett Community College and was enrolled as a student at Columbia College at the time of his death.
A year earlier, I had checked court records when we wrote about Mylo’s death.
He had no criminal history, none of the legal paper trail that hints at a life sliding out of control. Police reports I would get later showed officers had done a similar inquiry. Using their better resources, they’d found an unresolved allegation that Mylo had once brought marijuana to work, something he vehemently denied.
My notes show Mylo’s family was the first to tell me about that.
They never denied — not even once — that on the night he’d died, Mylo made a bad choice.
Diane is a substance abuse counselor for the tribes. She told me she raised Mylo to stay away from drugs, and went through his room monthly looking for contraband.
Three days before his death, Mylo had moved into an apartment on Everett’s Casino Road. It is a neighborhood that has long struggled with crime, much of it related to drug trafficking. Mylo was enjoying the time on his own. But the plan was for his mother and brother to eventually join him.
Nilah passed along notes from her own investigation. She had store receipts and a timeline that suggested Mylo had spent part of his last day buying kitchen supplies and lining the cabinet shelves with fresh paper towels.
“The last thing on his mind, I know, was to screw everything up and be a druggie,” Diane said.
My notes show that much of the family’s pain centered around how Mylo’s death had been investigated.
He’d lingered for four days after collapsing.
The autopsy report his family shared with me showed his brain had been irreparably damaged from lack of oxygen, a result of his heart and lungs suddenly stopping. The report also showed Mylo, the athlete, was in great physical shape, with a young man’s kidneys, liver, eyes and skin. Even his heart and lungs seemed fine.
Medical records documented that while Mylo was on life support at the hospital, his family was asked to consider donating his organs for use in transplants.
That was impossible. As the family explained to the doctors, traditional American Indian beliefs place importance on making sure a loved one’s body is buried in one place.
That’s why it was a special horror, Nilah said, to learn later that Mylo’s brain and a part of his throat had been removed during the medical examiner’s autopsy and kept as specimens.
The family didn’t know this until after they buried Mylo on the hill. To set things right, they needed a second funeral nearly a year later.
When Mylo’s family asked for explanation, the medical examiner’s office told them it believed it was doing everyone a favor, retaining potential evidence for use in a lawsuit. There was no lawsuit at that point – nor would one be filed for nearly two more years.
Nilah wondered what people were thinking.
So did Mylo’s grandmother.
After sitting quietly for much of our meeting, listening to my questions and watching me go about my work, Donna Cooper had something to say.
She was thinking, she said, about the police officers who had struggled with her grandson that night.
“Will they get some kind of sense of, ‘My God, did I do that? Did I actually take that man’s life?’”
I could guess. But there was only one way to find out.