The hotel is a hotel again. City life moved on.

The tourists who stay at the Quality Inn on New York Avenue NE probably don’t know that they’re paying $58 a night to stay in what used to be one of the city’s largest homeless shelters.

And anyone who gets Room 214 probably won’t know that’s the room where a baby girl with a wide, sweet smile slowly died.

Makenzie Anderson was 11 months old that February day when she suffered injuries to her head that made it “soft like jello,” Makenzie’s mother, charged last week with her killing, told a homicide detective, according to court documents.

Makenzie was living in Room 214 with her mother, Tyra Monae Anderson, 27, back when D.C. sent homeless people to live at the Quality Inn. Anderson told detectives she was in the hotel room looking at her mobile phone that cold Monday when her baby girl reached for something and fell off the bed, according to the affidavit asking for an arrest warrant.

The little girl cried and, later in the day, started shaking. Over the next couple of days, she became less alert and went limp. Makenzie’s 20-month-old sister and Anderson went in and out of the room, but there was no sighting of Makenzie, according to police.

When you’re staying in a hotel-turned-shelter — a place the residents had called “the Trap” — you’re constantly monitored. There are cameras everywhere, there is hallway security, and there are bed checks late at night.

This vigilance was, in part, thanks to another little girl who disappeared six years ago from what was once the city’s biggest homeless shelter, the old D.C. General Hospital.

Relisha Rudd, then 8, was last seen with Kahlil Malik Tatum, a janitor at the shelter. A month later, Tatum’s body was found — an apparent suicide. Relisha has never been seen again.

The city mobilized and searched, lamented and mourned — and legislated.

Those bed checks were created after Relisha fell through the cracks. But they wouldn’t have done anything for baby Makenzie: Of course a baby should be lying quietly in bed at 10 p.m., when the staff knocks on the door and does a head count every night.

Three days after Anderson said Makenzie fell, the mother woke up to find her baby cold and unresponsive. She wrapped her in a bright pink blanket and got a ride with the baby’s father to Children’s National Hospital. By then, it was 2:30 in the afternoon, according to the documents.

Surveillance cameras show her carrying the pink bundle, completely wrapped up, like a package, into the hospital. Doctors and nurses descended on Makenzie, trying fruitlessly to coax any sign of life from her body.

The autopsy found injuries, including skull fractures and optic nerve sheaths that were torn. That kind of eye damage was found in every single fatal child abuse case, but none in accidental  head  injuries  in  a 13-year study.

While being questioned by police, Anderson asked if she could go to a nearby store for snacks. She never returned.

Her paternal grandmother, a federal worker, went to court days after Makenzie died, asking for and receiving custody of Anderson’s two other children, who are now 2 and 5 years old.

Five months after Makenzie’s death, the city moved out the last of the homeless families who had been placed in the hotel as an overflow shelter. But the story of what happened to Makenzie hadn’t moved on until last week, when the warrant was issued for Anderson, after detectives spent 10 months building their case. She is being represented by the public defender’s office, which does not typically comment on cases.

Could Makenzie have been saved?

Is there a program that should be created? A procedure that wasn’t followed? A careless bureaucrat who didn’t check all the boxes?

We don’t know yet.

Child and Family Services will not comment on cases, said the agency’s spokeswoman, Kera Tyler.

There is a mechanism for looking into these things, the D.C. Child Fatality Review Committee. But that committee, which “could obtain the information about various agency involvement with this family to identify gaps and how to fix them,” won’t get the case for a very long time, said Marla Spindel, the executive director of D.C. KinCare Alliance, a group that supports caregivers — usually grandparents — who step in to raise children.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Council heard a proposal for a bill that would require training for all mandated reporters — the people like teachers, social workers and law enforcement officers who work closely with children and who must report suspected child abuse — so they all know exactly what to do.

When Makenzie died, I talked with residents at the Quality Inn who said they had been worried about Anderson’s children and they knew “that baby was in trouble.” If her neighbors knew, should housing officials have seen the danger as well?

The bill died, but who knows if it would have helped sound an alarm on a child apparently sleeping in a bed.

And Jamila Larson, the former social worker whose Homeless Children’s Playtime Project is a lifeline for all of D.C. children living in shelters, has long advocated for better mental health support for the families living in the shelters.

“We have to make sure baby Makenzie does not die in vain,” Larson said. “Like Relisha Rudd, we hope our city will learn as much as we can about her short life and then do everything in our collective power to prevent another tragedy.”

Relisha is still missing and we may never know her full story. Makenzie’s body told the story of her broken life and her long and painful death.

And yet, there are no clear answers or plans to prevent another death like this. All we have is a lament for another child our city has lost.

Twitter: @petulad

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