NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - A Newport News community held a candlelight vigil for 4-year-old Madyson Van Cleave Hook. Police say she was murdered by her mother's boyfriend.
23-year-old Carl Cottee Jr. was babysitting Madyson alone on Friday when emergency dispatchers received a call that the little girl was not breathing. Cottee is now facing murder, child neglect and cruelty charges.
Hook's family members tell 10 On your Side they had suspicions she was being abused. Just a few weeks ago Madyson's grandmother says the little girl complained of being locked in a dresser and left alone.
Neighbors, family members and friends created a memorial in front of the apartment building Madyson shared with her mother Kayla Hook and Cottee. It is also where investigators say the young girl was killed.
Madyson's grandmother Tracy Jaskowak was told Madyson's death was an accident.
"I was told that Carl Michael gave her a bath, then she got dizzy, and she passed out," Jaskowak said. "Then he called 911."
More ghastly details of Madyson's last moments soon surfaced. Police say she died from blunt force trauma to the head. Family members tell WAVY.com Madyson had several bruises and multiple skull fractures.
"It's horrible I just can't imagine her going through that pain," Jaskowak said. "I can hear her saying, 'I love my Nan Nan.'"
Just two weeks ago, Jaskowak says she called Child Protective Services to investigate if Madyson was being abused. Nothing came of that investigation, and now Madyson's family is left with lingering questions and heartache.
They found some comfort in the arms of neighbors and friends on Sunday as they gathered to remember the last moments they had with Madyson.
"I remember she was in her room playing with her dollhouse and she said, 'My Pop Pop is going to buy me a pool,'" Madyson's grandmother Michelle Pitts said.
Dozens attended the candle light vigil held in Madyson's honor. Family and friends held pink candles, Madyson's favorite color, and clung to one another. Madyson's dad Shane Van Cleave says he vows to keep telling his first born's story. He will keep talking about how little Madyson loved boy bands, dancing, and how with a simple smile she made everyone happy.
"She was a presence and she made everybody smile no matter how bad of a mood they were in," Van Cleave says. "She was just a brighter day."
Madyson's family says her death shows the importance of speaking up and speaking out about child abuse.
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