Mother, family stunned by 2-year-old girl’s beating death
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter April 14, 2012 11:16PM
The parents of 2-year-old Armaney Cotton, Brittany Cotton and her former boyfriend Anton Milan, talk about their child's death while she was in someone else's care. Sun-Times photo
Updated: May 17, 2012 8:09AM
She had a cold, but otherwise 2½-year-old Armaney Cotton was fine when her mother dropped her off at a boyfriend’s house before going to work.
Her mom was horrified later Saturday when she rushed to a Chicago hospital after receiving a phone message and found her only child had been beaten to death.
“She was bruised up and scratched up, she had bite marks on her. She was already gone,” 19-year-old Brittany Cotton said Sunday as she fought back tears outside the family’s South Shore apartment.
An autopsy Sunday determined Armaney died of multiple injuries from a beating, with her death being ruled a homicide, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Brittany and other relatives said the little girl suffered nearly 20 bruises and scratches on her face, arms and chest, as well as at least two bite marks.
Relatives said they were told by Chicago police that the bites appeared to be human.
Police and the state Department of Children and Family Services are both investigating after Armaney was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon at St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center.
DCFS is investigating allegations of abuse against a boyfriend of the mother, DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said. DCFS has had no previous contact with the family and there were no other children in the home, Marlowe said.
Chicago police would say only that no charges have been filed in relation to the child’s death as of Sunday afternoon.
Armaney’s mother is struggling to understand how her bright-eyed daughter, who already could count to 10 and was learning the alphabet, could meet such a violent death while in the care of a long-time friend.
“This was someone I loved and trusted to protect her, not harm her,” Brittany Cotton said. “I don’t understand why this happened to her.”
Cotton said she left her daughter in his care several times before without any problems.
She had no hint anything was wrong until she picked up a voice mail message Saturday afternoon, with her friend telling her Armaney was taken to the hospital after he was unable to wake the toddler.
Cotton was devastated when she saw the extent of the injuries suffered by her daughter — and convinced they couldn’t have been inflicted by an accidental fall.
“Babies fall all the time. They don’t get cuts and bruises and bites,” Cotton said. “She did not fall.”
Cotton, who lives with her mother, said she may have to seek donations to pay for her daughter’s funeral expenses.
Her mother, Denise Cotton, who like her daughter works as a housekeeper at a River North hotel, said she can’t believe her granddaughter is gone.
She last saw Armaney early Saturday morning when the little girl said goodbye to her before leaving with her mother.
“She came and waved at me and said ‘bye-bye,’ ” Denise Cotton said, wiping her eyes. “I never thought that was a permanent bye-bye.”
Contributing: Hunter Clauss and Adeshine Emmanuel