Family members and friends gathered on Saturday, March 29 at Progressive Funeral Home on St. Mary's Rd. to say their final goodbyes to a 23-month-old toddler.
Damian Belle, 19, is accused of violently beating and killing his girlfriend's daughter, Ki'Ja Bassett.
News Leader Nine spoke with Ki'Ja's grandmother, 41-year-old Athena Carr, who drove for more than 10 hours from Washington D.C. to attend her only granddaughter's funeral.
"No words can express how I feel," Carr said. "You're not supposed to bury your grandchild. Your grandchild is supposed to bury you."
Carr said this is a tragedy that should have never happened, if only someone helped Ki'Ja in time.
"I think this type of tragedy could have been avoided," Carr said. "Someone should have said something for Ki'Ja. Someone could have stopped this tragedy. She was just a one-year-old baby. Someone could have picked-up the phone, and did something."
Belle allegedly punched Ki'Ja in the face, and dropped on her head just days before she passed away on March 24. The toddler was airlifted to Egleston Children's Hospital on March 21. Police say Belle, and Belle's father, drove Ki'Ja to the fire station on North Oakley Dr. where CPR and other life saving measures were performed on the toddler.
Carr was born and raised in Columbus. She went to Washington D.C. because her husband is in the military. Carr said she received a call from Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta, Ga. While she had always wanted to visit Columbus again, now Carr says her only wish is to go back to Washington D.C.
"Home looks and feels different," Carr said. "I used to get happy whenever I thought about Columbus. But I want to leave here as soon as possible. This is not home anymore. Like I said, Ki'Ja was supposed to bury me. Not the other way around."
Carr said she is not talking with her daughter, 20-year-old Jaquavia Bassett, at the moment. She said Jaquavia is supporting her boyfriend, Belle, who is charged with Child Cruelty and Murder.
"I guess love makes you do crazy things," Carr said. "I don't know if this is my pride or if we are both angry at each other, but I have no words to say to her right now."
Belle is being held on a $5,000 bond for the cruelty charge, but was not give any bond for the murder charge. Belle was in court on March 28, 2014 and he pleaded not guilty. He is being held at the Muscogee County Jail.
Belle is not Ki'Ja's biological father. Belle is expected to show up in Columbus Recorder's Court on April 3, 2014 for the battery charge against him for allegedly beating Jaquavia Bassett.
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