FBI 'aware' of 3-year-old girl's death on Spirit Lake Reservation

The family of 3-year-old Ariana McKay says the little girl swallowed an entire bottle of adult Tylenol.

3-year-old Ariana McKay.
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SPIRIT LAKE RESERVATION, N.D. — A family on the Spirit Lake Reservation is fighting for answers. Was the death of 3-year-old Ariana McKay a tragic accident, or was it a crime?

"I just want justice for my granddaughter. That's all I want," said Owen McKay, the little girl's grandfather.

Doctors at a Twin Cities hospital kept Ariana on life support so her grandparents could say goodbye.

"It cut me deep when I saw her hooked up to those machines. I broke down. I cried," Owen McKay said.

Both grandparents held Ariana's hand as she took her final breath.


"It's hard, sitting there watching your granddaughter die in your hands," Owen McKay said.

Her grandparents say Ariana was airlifted to a Twin Cities hospital last week after drinking an entire bottle of adult liquid Tylenol.

"It should have never happened. I am really frustrated and mad," Owen McKay SAID.

Ariana spent most of her short life living with her grandparents, along with the couple's nine kids. But last year, Ramsey County social services took their kids away, including Ariana, claiming the couple was abusive.

Owen and Denise McKay later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child neglect.

In the meantime, Ariana began living with other relatives. Owen and Denise McKay said they notified Spirit Lake Child Protective Services that Ariana was in danger in that home. However, they claim CPS never acted.

"All of this could have been prevented," Owen McKay said.

The FBI told WDAY News it is "aware" of the death but would not provide any other details.


The grandparents want to know if Ariana's death was an accident or something more and why people at the home waited until the next day to bring the girl to the hospital.

"No typical 3-year-old could open a child-proof bottle cap," Owen McKay said.

Regardless of whether it was an accident, the family says someone needs to be held accountable.

"It seems like nobody was there with her when she got into it," Denise McKay said.

"I really hope to God that Ariana gets justice for this. It really hurts we had to watch her get removed from life support," she said.

Attempts to reach Spirit Lake Child Protective Services were unsuccessful.

A GoFundMe site has been setup to help Ariana's family with funeral expenses.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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