PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR) - It’s a loss Chaquita Brown and her family just can’t wrap their minds around.
Brown’s three-year-old daughter is dead and police say the woman’s boyfriend is responsible.
Tuesday afternoon dozens gathered in Petersburg to celebrate the life of little Teliajah Brown. The three-year-old, her two sisters and their mom were temporarily living in Danville with Brown’s boyfriend Shonta Barnhill-Sherrod when she passed away.
Danville Police say on April 3, emergency workers responded to the 100 block of Levelton Street for a three year old in respiratory distress. Workers were never able to revive the little girl.
Now, Danville Police say 23-year-old Barnhill-Sherrod is facing first degree murder in her death. He was recently indicted on that charge.
“She was just a joy, a pleasure to have in my life. I can’t believe something like this happened to my baby. I couldn’t believe it. They’ve been left alone with him before and nothing happened. I’m just trying to figure out what ran through his mind to make him do what he did to my baby,” said Brown.
An autopsy report reveals Teliajah died from blunt force trauma. Her mom and relatives say they have their ideas about what happened.
“He brutally murdered my baby. He said he laid a wrestling move on her. No. She’s too little for that. They say he stomped my baby to death when she didn’t do what he told her to do,” explained Brown.
The victim’s great-aunt, Sheila Brown, says she was going to help Chaquita and her children move back to their native Petersburg this summer. She says she just can’t make sense of it all.
“I heard what happened. I had to leave work. I just felt like I was dreaming. It didn’t even feel real. I just can’t understand. Why would he do something like this? I can see if you were defending yourself, then maybe you could be justified in taking someone’s life. But, how do you defend yourself against a three year old? She couldn’t defend herself,” said Brown.
The family says they want to speak out to all mothers out there. They want to send a message.
“Just make sure you know who your kids are with. Let my niece’s mistake be a lesson. Please be careful who you bring around your children. If you see signs, that means the kids are scared and it’s their way of saying something’s not right. If you are going to date somebody, you date him. He doesn’t need to date your kids. You can’t just trust anybody. Listen to your baby,” said Brown.
Danville police say Barnhill-Sherrod is still being held in the city jail without bond.
Tuesday afternoon a few dozen family members and loved ones gathered at the Johnson Funeral Home in Petersburg to remember the little girl.
Dressed in a while flowered dress with a jeweled tiara on her head, several princess balloons hovered over little Teliajah’s pink casket. Her family says she’s an angel now. Grieving family members were encouraged by ministers during the service. One stressed to the family “earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”
Brown says during the difficult days ahead she’ll lean on family members and her faith to get through this time.
Additionally, she says community members in Petersburg are reaching out to Chaquita’s family, to help with funeral expenses, since there was no insurance. They say they’re grateful for the generosity shown to their family.
Now, they say they’ll focus on the fight to get justice for little Teliajah.
“I want him to get the chair. He needs to get the same treatment he gave my baby. He doesn’t need to live. He took an innocent child’s life, no you don’t need to be here on earth,” said Brown.