The apartment complex off U.S. Route 1 in Edgecomb where first responders were called Christmas Day and found Makinzlee Handrahan unresponsive. Staff photo by Rachel Ohm.

It was October 2022 when daycare workers reported a scratch and bruises on 3-year-old Makinzlee Handrahan.

A Department of Health and Human Services investigation confirmed those injuries and more: purple bruising on her legs, a scab on her chin and a slight swelling under her right eye, according to an affidavit unsealed Tuesday. Makinzlee’s mother, Faith Lewis, and her boyfriend, Tyler Witham-Jordan, told investigators that the child had fallen on the stairs. When officials pointed out other bruises on her ribs, Lewis said she had fallen down the stairs other times, too.

A DHHS spokesperson declined to answer questions about the case Tuesday, citing state and federal confidentiality laws. According to Makinzlee’s father, Henry Handrahan, the case was closed after two different doctors examined Makinzlee and found no evidence of abuse.

Two months later the girl was dead.

Witham-Jordan was going through opioid withdrawal on Christmas Eve when he severely beat Makinzlee with a hairbrush, dragged her into her bedroom and left her there all night with the window open, as temperatures dropped to 15 degrees, Maine State Police Detective James Moore said in the affidavit. By the time the couple placed the 911 call the next morning, Makinzlee’s body was already stiff, cold to the touch and so bruised that one first responder said she looked like a Dalmatian.

Witham-Jordan made his initial appearance in Lincoln County Superior Court Tuesday, four days after police arrested him and charged him with the depraved indifference murder of a child. The brief hearing offered few new details about case, which has largely remained a mystery since Makinzlee’s death nearly 10 months ago.


But the affidavit unsealed Tuesday finally reveals what the state believes happened to the girl. Besides the grisly killing, the document details possible abuse in the family’s Edgecomb home weeks before Makinzlee’s death – and suggests DHHS officials suspected Witham-Jordan was behind it.


The desperate shouts made it difficult to parse some parts of the 911 call, according to the affidavit.

Tyler Witham-Jordan Two Bridges Regional Jail

“Oh my god,” cried the female caller, later identified as Lewis. “I think my daughter is dead.”

Then another voice, this one belonging to Witham-Jordan: “I’m (expletive). I’m finished.”

A dispatcher tried to walk the couple through CPR over the phone while first responders raced to the home. By the time they arrived, it was clear that Makinzlee was dead and “had been down for a while.” Paramedics noted blood around her mouth and bruises to her face, torso and legs. Clumps of her hair appeared to be missing.


Contradicting accounts of how the family spent Christmas Eve make it difficult to untangle the specific timeline of the killing. But phone and Facebook messenger records obtained by the police offer some clues.

Witham-Jordan, Lewis and their four kids drove to Brunswick that morning so that he could buy suboxone, a drug that eases withdrawal symptoms. Police say several messages Witham-Jordan sent in the early hours of Christmas Eve suggest he was already suffering from opioid withdrawal. Those same messages say that his real target that morning was heroin. But minutes after he met his dealer in a Dunkin’ bathroom, he realized the drugs he’d bought were fake.

The couple’s accounts of the afternoon differ. Lewis told officers she wasn’t feeling well and spent most of the afternoon in bed. By the time she got up around 4:30 p.m., Makinzlee had already put herself to bed. Witham-Jordan, however, said Lewis never slept; instead, they had together put Makinzlee down for her nap at 1 p.m. A friend who visited that afternoon confirmed that the Makinzlee was already in her room by the early afternoon, according to the affidavit.

Lewis said she never saw her daughter again until she found her body the next morning. At 2:30 a.m., she sent texts to Witham-Jordan noting how strange it was that she had been asleep for so long.

“I’m worried about Kinz,” the message read. “Every time I check the camera she’s the same way. Are we sure she’s good?” She asked Witham-Jordan to check on the girl, but did not get out of bed herself.

The affidavit meticulously lists several more pieces of evidence and leads the police followed: forensic testing that found Witham-Jordan’s DNA on a broken hairbrush and blood-specked diaper investigators found in a bathroom waste bin; phone data that suggests he turned off the feature of Makinzlee’s baby monitor that alerts parents when temperatures drop below 60 degrees; testimony from the girl who shared a room with Makinzlee, who said she woke up freezing in the middle of the night and found the window open and blasting.


This web of clues leaves several questions unanswered. When do police believe Witham-Jordan killed Makinzlee? Where were Lewis and the other kids, and why didn’t they hear anything? Why was her window open?

Yet the affidavit concluded that a sleepless Witham-Jordan, in the midst of withdrawal, was trying to untangle Makinzlee’s hair when he grew violent. He beat her so severely that the hairbrush broke, and the girl suffered injuries to the head and abdomen, both of which were serious enough to kill her.


Makinzlee’s death is the latest in a series of homicides in Maine that have been preceded by some involved with the state’s child protection agency.

The Office of Child and Family Services and its caseworkers are responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect and, when appropriate, securing a court order to remove children from homes that are deemed unsafe.

Going back to 2018, the agency has struggled with high staff turnover, burnout and inadequate training and has been subjected to sustained scrutiny by both the Child Welfare Ombudsman, an independent watchdog, and lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee.


The agency has made significant investments in recent years to boost training and recruit and retain staff, but has still been hampered by high-profile deaths, including four in a span of a month in the summer of 2021.

The state, under Gov. Janet Mills and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, has been more transparent about child welfare involvement in homicide cases, but those details don’t come out until after the conclusion of a criminal cases.

Though DHHS would not comment on its October 2022 investigation into Makinzlee, the affidavit unsealed Tuesday suggests signs of abuse may have been apparent to those around her.

When investigators asked about Witham-Jordan in October, Lewis said he rarely spent time alone with her kids. But messages between the couple show that he often cared for the children while Lewis was at work.

On Oct. 22, 2022, two days before the DHHS opened its case, Witham-Jordan sent a message to Lewis complaining that Makinzlee “was being extremely mean to me – hitting, screaming, kicking.”

He sent a similar message on Nov. 11, when he described her as “absolutely out of control.”


The following evening, Lewis discovered that Makinzlee had been injured.

“Do you now what the bruising by Kinz vagina is? It’s really big.” When she hadn’t gotten a response two and a half hours later, she wrote again: “Goodnight I guess.”

On Christmas, both Lewis and Witham-Jordan told police that Makinzlee’s bruises hadn’t been there the day before.

The medical examiner who performed Makinzlee’s autopsy told investigators that it was possible she received all her injuries in one beating. But he also found evidence of an older injury, a bruise with scabbing on the inside of her left ankle.

Two days after Christmas, Lewis filed for a protection from abuse order against Witham-Jordan, whom she described as “verbally, mentally and physically abusive.”

“I am scared for my life and my children,” the request said.


Two weeks later, a Wiscasset District Court judge dismissed it at her request, according to the Boothbay Register newspaper. Lewis did not explain the reversal in court.


At Tuesday’s hearing, attorneys James Howaniec and Jesse Archer complained the prosecution has left their client in the dark during the more than nearly 10 months since Makinzlee’s death, and they pushed for more access to the state’s evidence against him.

“We don’t even think there’s probable cause here,” Howaniec said. “They’re fitting square pegs into round holes.”

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Ackerman pushed back against the defense’s request that the state hand over all the evidence against Witham-Jordan.

“We are not on Mr. Howaniec or Mr. Archer’s timeline,” she said. “Investigations take time.”

Justice Daniel Billings said he would not order the prosecution to hand over more discovery materials Tuesday. The parties will argue that question when they meet in the coming weeks for a hearing on Witham-Jordan’s bail and release conditions. That date has not been set.

For now, Witham-Jordan remains in Two Bridges Jail. If he posts his $250,000 cash bail, which Howaniec said is unlikely, he will be barred from being around children under age 16 and from possessing drugs or alcohol.

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