(Jamaica Observer) HIGHGATE, St Mary — Shock! That was how residents of Dean Pen in this parish greeted the beating death of 22-month-old Eshauna Gardner, allegedly by her grand-uncle.
The grand-uncle, who was allegedly chopped and injured while trying to escape the fury of irate residents, was picked up by the police in an abandoned building after he agreed to hand over himself.
He was taken to have his wounds dressed after which he was arrested and placed in police custody. The blood-soaked suspect, it was alleged, chopped two of his fellow community members during his mad rush to get away. It was not clear last night what was the condition of the injured Dean Pen residents who were admitted to hospital.
Baby Eshauna died late Wednesday night from a beating she allegedly received from her 49-year-old grand-uncle, in whose care she was left. A grieving Ian Gardner, father of the child, said yesterday he was in shock as the suspect was very close to the child and treated her as his own daughter. “Him treat the baby very good.
Nobody at all would expect it,” Gardner told the Jamaica Observer in a telephone interview. Eshauna, said Gardner, was his only daughter and her death was very devastating.
“Mi love mi baby to the maximum. A the only girl,” he said.
He added that the child’s mother, who has a six-month-old baby, was finding it hard to cope. “She stress out,” he said Gardner, who is from the parish of St Catherine, said he did not live with his child, but when he went to visit the grand-uncle who has been accused of her death, noted that he always treated the child well.
“A big talking. Whole heap a people a mourn,” Gardner added. According to Gardner, the suspect went to the home of his niece — the dead child’s mother — where he told them that he would take Eshauna for a walk.
This was not unusual, he explained, as the suspect often stayed with the child. That was, however, the child’s final walk with her grand-uncle. Residents reported that they heard the child screaming at the home of the suspect in Dean Pen and summoned the police about 6:00 pm Wednesday.
When the police arrived, the suspect reportedly told them the child fell in fire and got burnt. However, when the child was taken to the hospital doctors said injuries were from a beating.
The child died about 11:00 pm. The suspect, said the police, was not at his home when they went back to the premises. According to Superintendent Dean Johnson, head of the St Mary police, the suspect was arrested about 11:15 yesterday morning after the police called his cellphone and he agreed to surrender.
Superintendent Johnson said the suspect, who had several injuries as a result of confrontations with residents who tried to apprehend him on Thursday, was taken for medical treatment. The police superintendent said he believed the injuries may have prompted Barrett to surrender. Supt Johnson said investigations into the matter are still ongoing.
“All the issues will be examined in detail and in due time charges will be laid, if any,” he said. The Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), which said it was saddened by the beating and death of the child, said acts of physical abuse were not only gruesome, but also totally unacceptable.
The OCR said that under the Child Care and Protection Act, someone convicted of cruelty to children faces the penalty of a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.
“We hope this will serve as a deterrent to anyone who considers hurting a child as an acceptable practice,” said children’s registrar, Greig Smith.