Aunt of toddler allegedly beaten to death speaks about National Crime Victims' Rights week

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - National Crime Victims' Rights Week kicked off on April 6, 2014. Various services and help will be available to people who have been victimized by crime throughout this week in the Chattahoochee Valley.

Seven homicides have been reported in Columbus so far in 2014.

News Leader 9's Sara Lim met with Gwendolyn Toney, the aunt of 23-month-old Ki'Ja Bassett, who passed away on March 24, 2014. Ki'Ja was allegedly beaten to death, and authorities said bruises were found all over her body. Damien Belle, 19, is accused of beating and killing the toddler.

Toney said Ki'Ja never warmed up to Belle, and the toddler didn't want to be around him.

"And that one time he was left alone with Ki'ja, he ended up in jail," Toney said. "Ki'ja never liked him, and never warmed up to him. Never. I didn't get along with him either."

Toney said Ki'Ja's death tore her family apart.

"It tore all of us apart," Toney said. "We were hurt that Ki'Ja had to go like that. We were also confused and angry at each other for what had happened."

Toney said she raised Ki'Ja ever since the toddler was only four days old.

"She was my joy," Toney said. "I can't clean up any of her toys out of my house yet. She was smart, and she was so sweet."

Toney said she will be attending the annual Crime Victim Memorial on April 12 at the Columbus Government Center Plaza at 2 p.m. Following the ceremony, she will also attend the Homicide Brick Memorial at the RiverWalk where the wreath will be placed. Toney hopes to share Ki'Ja's story to help prevent other children from becoming victims of crime.

"I think it takes a whole community to look after one child," Toney said. "It breaks my heart to think that some people turn their head when they see some children get abused. You know what's going on. If something doesn't sound or seem right, report it. Save a child. No other child should have to go through what Ki'Ja went through."

National Crime Victims' Rights Week will take place from April 6 to April 12. On April 7, a State Victim Visitors Day in Forsyth, Ga. will be held. Attendees will be able to ask questions and gain information on services and rights available to victims of crime.

"I want her name to go one so that no other kids will have to go through this," Toney said. "I wish she was still here with me. Living with the pain of losing a loved one is also hard. If you see other victims of crime say something. Do something for them."

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