Two different child abuse cases in Hamilton County end with two children dead all within in one week, and both cases involve suspects who aren't the biological parents of the 3-year-old children, according to authorities.
Three-year-old Dakota Arndt and 3-year-old Tatiana Emerson are the latest victims of child abuse, police said. In the case of Tatiana, Chattanooga police charged Rhasean Lowry, 34, with criminal homicide Tuesday after he was first charged with aggravated child abuse. According to police reports, little Tatiana and her 5-year-old brother were at the Econo Lodge on Bonny Oaks Drive when the toddler was severely injured and taken to the hospital. Chattanooga police said Lowry was taking care of his girlfriend's two children on August 26.
"Ninety percent of the time it's somebody the child knows, trusts, probably loves, as well as possibly even the parents," said Shelley McGraw, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center. She said it's up to parents to protect their children.
Officers said Lowry took the toddler to the hospital after he said she fell down the hotel stairwell, and Tatiana died last Wednesday from her severe head injuries. But authorities said the story didn't add up, and Lowry was arrested August 26. Reports noted that doctors said it was consistent with blunt force trauma from being hit multiple times, and police said her death was a "direct result from aggravated child abuse." Tatiana's 5-year-old brother is in state custody of child protective services.
Tatiana's godmother Shalon Hurst told NewsChannel9's Briona Arradondo her family is grieving over the loss.
"I was in shock when I heard about it at first. I didn't know what to do," said Hurst. "And then, when I had got the phone call that she had passed away, I just broke down."
As for Dakota, he suffered brain swelling and bruising, according to the affidavit. Sheriff's Deputies said it was at the hands of Justin Dale Bradley, 23, at a Soddy Daisy home August 27. Bradley claimed the boy had drowned, but that story didn't make sense to doctors who treated the 3-year-old, authorities said.
"Often times in severe physical abuse, there will be bruises to the body or to the head that are unusual for a child to get simply in play," said McGraw.
It's tough to grasp for Tatiana's godmother who spent years raising with the toddler.
"To have a child long and then you get a phone call saying that they're dead, that's heart breaking," said Hurst.
McGraw said her office saw more than 580 cases of reported abuse last year. With the school year beginning, advocates said more teachers may report signs of physical abuse.
If a family member or friend has already reported abuse and nothing was done, McGraw said to keep reporting it when it is noticed. They said new information or incident of abuse can come to light and help advance a case.By Briona Arradondo