A Pembroke woman who was her grandson’s guardian is facing charges of endangering the welfare of a child after the teenager died in June of 2022.
The grandchild, Michael-Lanna Susko, was 15 and a transgender teen who identified as a boy at the time he died.
Kathryn Susko, 73, has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, according to Michael Crabtree, chief deputy for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. She is expected to make her initial court appearance on the misdemeanor charges in Calais on Nov. 7, Crabtree said.
The charges against Kathryn Susko were first reported Monday by The Maine Monitor.
Crabtree declined to go into specifics about why Kathryn Susko has been charged, but said the charges stem directly from the circumstances that led to the teenager’s death.
“It was a fairly extensive investigation,” Crabtree said.
The teenager, whom the Monitor reported was a student at Washington Academy and went by the name “Milo,” died at his grandmother’s home on June 28, 2022. His grandmother was summoned on the two charges more than a year later, on Oct. 9, Crabtree said.
A spokesperson for the state medical examiner’s office on Thursday declined to release information about the cause of Susko’s death, saying the agency was not sure if the case was still under investigation by the sheriff’s office.
Robert Granger, district attorney for Washington County, did not respond Thursday to a request for comment about the case.
Anne Hopkins, a facilitator of the Traveling Rainbow project, told the Maine Monitor that Milo was a familiar face in Washington County’s transgender community.
“He was one of the students who were really bright and shining and really excited to see me,” Hopkins told the nonprofit news outlet “I would like some justice, to understand how this child died, to understand what happened.”
Trevor Hold, a neighbor of Susko’s on Old County Road, told the Bangor Daily News that the grandmother and the teenager had a volatile relationship, and had been having difficulty with each other for years.
Hold, who referred to the teenager as Michael-Lanna, said he knew nothing about the child’s transgender status before he died. He said that when Milo died, local residents at first thought the death may have been a homicide or a suicide.
Before the teen died, Maine Department of Health and Human Services was aware of the issues at Susko’s house and assigned caseworkers to try to manage the situation, said Hold, who with his wife Tova Hold has fostered children for the agency at their house. He said that approximately six months before the teenager died, Milo spent a day and a night at their house, at the request of DHHS, but then went right back across the street to his grandmother.
Jackie Farwell, spokesperson for DHHS, declined to comment about Susko’s case, citing confidentiality laws.
Hold described the teenager “as sweet as pie” and said that the only negative interactions Milo had with anyone around town were with his grandmother.
“They weren’t good for each other. That was painfully obvious,” Hold said. “The writing was on the wall long before [the teenager died].”
Hold was critical of DHHS, a long-criticized agency that has come under fire again recently after the Maine Monitor reported last month that eight adults under the agency’s guardianship have died from undetermined causes over the past three years.
He said that the agency should have made a greater effort to place the teenager in another home, at least long enough to thoroughly assess whether living with the grandmother was suitable.
“Everyone in the neighborhood knew for years this was not a healthy environment for them to be in,” Hold said. “The saddest part is that the state was involved in the entire process. This absolutely 100 percent falls in DHHS’ lap.”