Christmas just isn't the same without Daijah.
The baby girl's great aunt had already bought toys and presents for the 9-month-old and had been planning to decorate her modest County Road home with lights and and a brightly-colored tree.
Lakeitha Howard was looking forward to having Daijah come to her house to celebrate the holiday and was anxious to see the child's expression when she discovered a room full of toys.
But now, she says, what's the point.
"I did her Christmas shopping and got her a sing-a-long, some toys, a care bear and a walker," the 36-year-old great aunt said. "This was going to be her first Christmas and I was so excited."
But instead of excitement, Howard is left with depression. She's been reading material to help her deal with her grief and
she also spends a lot of time with her Bible. She said it makes her feel better at times, but nothing will bring back Daijah.
Daijah White was pronounced dead at 5:55 p.m. Oct. 16 at Upson Regional Medical Center. An autopsy conducted the following day stated the baby died of "blunt force trauma to the head."
The father, Otheron Marcell Walker, 27, is charged with felony murder and malice murder in connection with the baby's death. The mother, Janice A White, 24, is charged with cruelty to children because she allegedly did nothing to protect the child.
Howard told The Thomaston Times the events of Oct. 16 have all but torn the family apart, but aside from that, the woman says she's lost faith in the system.
Howard said she will never forget the day Daijah died.
"I looked at the clock. Janice had gone to work," Howard said. "I went to the store to get some soup and if I had gone by there, I would have brought her on home, but I came home instead and I wasn't here five minutes before I got a call and they said Daijah was en route to the hospital and wasn't responding.
"I went to the hospital, not thinking that she was going to be dead. Marcell was in the waiting room. Dr. (Kathy) Davis asked us if we would stay in that room because they were working with Daijah, but I still felt like she was going to be all right. Marcel didn't want to stay in that room. I guess it must've been five minutes later. I didn't think it was so serious.
"It was about five minutes later and the doctor came in and asked 'has anyone ever suspected this child was being abused?' Janice's sister (Afreita) said 'Why?' and the doctor said ' because we have a dead baby' and I just flipped. I never thought it would be to that extent. I couldn't say anything at first and when I cried out, I cried 'I told those people!' She asked me if I had reported to DFACS and I told her yes."
Howard called the Department of Family and Children's Services in July to report suspected abuse regarding Daijah. She tried to get social workers to the baby's Farview Apartment home and told authorities the baby had "a large bruise on her face.
"Nobody listened to me," Howard said. "I told the lady at DFACS everything and now I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed by DFACS and I'm angry at the police."
Howard said she is angry at DFACS because it took case workers six days to visit and see the mother and the two children. (Daijah has an older brother, Demarcus.)
"I told that lady (Reeves) everything I knew and it was in the best interest of the children," Howard said. "If she had just surprised (the mother), just popped in, she would have found something because there was something there all the time. "
Problems, Howard said, were constant throughout the baby's life.
There were visits to Upson Regional Medical Center's emergency room, once for Daijah and once for Demarcus.
"DJ (Demarcus) got burned and she (Janice) took him to the hospital," Howard recalled. "She was cooking and he, DJ reached over and pulled the pot down on him I don't think he could have reached it, but it could have been the case."
Then there was the time Daijah was treated after a fall onto the pavement just outside the apartment.
"I went to visit and Daijah had this real bad bruise on her face," Howard said. "Daijah had begun to try to sit up and later on I found out she had sat Daijah on the trunk of her car in a safety seat without buckling her in. Daijah tried to sit up and she fell onto the ground."
She says she tried to get help, but nobody listened.
No one understood how bad things really were.
"Daijah was always coming up with these bruises," she said. "It seems as though she had a different bruise every week. By the time one would heal, another one was there. She was just constantly being bruised, bruised, bruised."
Howard said she was concerned not only because she suspected there may be physical abuse, but also because Walker, the father, would not allow people to comfort the baby when she cried.
"Just after she was born, if the baby would cry, Marcell would say let her cry or she'll be spoiled," Howard said. "They wouldn't pick her up because of him not wanting them to pick her up. He told me not to pick her up one day and I told him, 'Look man, you can say what you want to, but anytime a baby this young cries, something is wrong and I'm going to see what it is so you can just get out of my way'," she said.
"It seemed like they (Walker and White) lived for the weekend," Howard said. "It seems that for the weekend ... they bought, a pack of cigarettes and beer. The fighting normally occurred during the weekend when they would drink."
And now, she's left with questions.
"Why did it take DFACS so long to see the children?" she lamented. "Why wouldn't they listen to me? I tried to help that baby. God knows I tried."
Howard said she repeatedly called social workers in hopes they could do what it took to see the baby.
"I kept making contact with them (DFACS) until after they contacted Janice," Howard said. "I kept calling DFACS, hoping they would just go on and do what they needed to do.
"After, the initial contact was made, I just backed off because I didn't want them to feel that I was harassing them," she said. "By the time the case manager made the initial contact, the bruise was already about two weeks old.
"I knew something was going to happen, but I never thought it would be one of the children," she said. "I thought it was either going to be Janice or Marcel. I find myself getting really angry sometimes. I feel like I've got a long way to go to overcome this. When I go into stores like Belks and Wal-Mart, I find myself in the children's section and looking and sometimes I cry."
With tears in her eyes, Howard said, "I'm sad because I didn't keep on at DFACS, but I knew that if I contacted them and if they went back and didn't find anything, I was going to be cut off from Daijah and I didn't want that to ever happen."