COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The family of a 23-month-old girl allegedly beaten to death at the hands of her mother's boyfriend says her tragic death could have been prevented.
The victim Ki'ja Bassett died Monday, March 24 at Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta.
Damien Belle, 19, is charged with murder.
According to Columbus investigators, violence between Bassett's mother and Belle was not uncommon.
Some of the child's relatives said they had no idea the abuse was going on. Experts suggests abuse may not always be apparent.
"If they're walking a straight line and it's not typical for them to fall over to the side and they're falling (that may be a sign). It could also be in their vision. If you're talking to (your child) and they can't look you in the eyes and their vision looks like it's off (that could also be a sign of abuse," Russell County Child Advocacy Center executive director Lynn Hammock said. "Also, if they're crying a lot. I've always said this, with children we get a little upset with them because they cry but that's the only way they know how to verbalize and let us know that some thing is wrong."
Hammock has worked with abused children for nearly three decades. She says it takes a village to not only raise a child but spot abuse.
"If you're talking to the baby and the baby is not responding then there may be a problem if the child has been shaken," hammock added.
Because infants and most toddlers can not verbalize abuse, the way they cry could be a signal.
"Pay attention to the constant crying again, that's the only way they know how to let you know that something is not right. We know about colicky babies but there's a difference between a scream and what's considered colicky," hammock said.
Hammock says there are many factors that could cause a person to abuse a child.
"They are under a lot of stress. There could be some other loss in the family. They're struggling to put food on the table and a child comes in and pops off the problem is that they've been holding it in for so long that they lose it and they can't stop," hammock said.
Hammock recommends parents be very careful who they let watch over their child.
"Don't take somebody's word for who somebody is. Even with family members, make sure you know who is coming in and out of their home. Because, you don't know who has access to your child," Hammock said.