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Man charged with murder in beating death of girlfriend’s toddler

Devell M. Johnson

Devell M. Johnson

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Updated: April 16, 2012 6:39PM

A South Side man was charged Monday in the beating death of a 2-year-old girl over the weekend.

Devell M. Johnson, 23, of the 5500 block of South Emerald Avenue, was charged with one count of first-degree murder, said Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton. He is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on Tuesday.

Johnson is accused of killing his long-time girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter, Armaney Cotton, who was found with bite and scratch marks on her body at his home Saturday, police and family members said.

Police responded Saturday to a call of an unresponsive child in bed, police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli said. Armaney, of the 1800 block of East 72nd Street, was pronounced dead at 4:42 p.m. that day, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, which determined she died of multiple injuries from a beating and her death was ruled a homicide.

Armaney’s mother, Brittany Cotton, 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.

“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 voicemail 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 -- 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’s 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.”

The state’s Department of Children and Family Services is investigating, spokesman Kendall Marlowe said. The agency has not had prior contact with the family and there are no other children in the home.

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