In an interview on Friday, a woman who used to work with the Citrus mom accused of murdering her two-year-old toddler, said she reported the abuse to officials last year.
Citrus County Sheriff's Office detectives arrested Chelsea Huggett, 21, who is eight months pregnant, on Thursday for allegedly shaking 2-year-old Aliyah Branum, and hitting her head numerous times against a wall.
At the time of her death, the child had bruises all over her body, including her face, head, arms, legs, back and shoulders, deputies said.
The woman, who has asked to not be named, said her first call to DCF was on August 2, 2012, when she told the agency about something she saw happen inside a VA office waiting room.
She said Hugget covered Aliyah's mouth and nose to stop her from crying, then began hitting the 2-year-old in the back. When Hugget went in for her appointment, the woman said she changed Aliyah's diapers, and saw bruises all over the little girl's legs and back.
She said she also noticed a diaper rash so severe, it was bleeding.
The woman said her next call to DCF was August 10th.
She said Hugget let Aliyah sit in a dirty diaper for several hours, and that she saw the diaper rash again getting worse.
DCF does confirm they opened a case on Hugget in August, but they won't say anything except they found no signs of child abuse at that time.
Huggett made her first appearance Friday. She is being held without bond and given a public defender.
Sheriff: 'She brutally murdered her daughter'
Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said in a press conference on Thursday that Aliyah died of shaken baby syndrome, and blunt force trauma.
"She brutally murdered her daughter," said Dawsy. "She could have seeked help on numerous occasions and she failed to do that."
According to the arrest report, Hugget originally told investigators Aliyah was accidentally poisoned with bug spray.
Doctors found bruises on her head, her eye swollen shut and blood coming out of her ears.
The medical examiner also determined she had a skull fracture and hemorrhaging on the left side of her swollen brain.
"The mother shook the child several times...she slammed the child's head against the wall and head-butted her, the child lost consciousness. She did not take any actions to save this child," said Dawsy.
Citrus deputies found Aliyah in distress when they were called to a home on April 26th. She was taken to Citrus Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead.
Initially, Huggett denied any involvement in the child's death, however through interviews, detectives were able to put together a solid timeline of events and narrow down suspects.
Huggett, who has Aliyah's name tattooed on her chest, made a memorial Facebook page for her daughter following her death but deputies said it was all just a front.
Huggett was arrested after an additional interview Friday in which she confessed to killing her baby and told investigators that she did it because she wouldn't stop whining, deputies said.
"She didn't want to take her child to the hospital because they would see that she has been beaten or shaken," said Dawsy.
The last time DCF officials had any contact with the family was in recent days alongside investigators from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department, as they tried to find out what led up to Aliyah’s death.
"She could have seeked help on numerous occassions but she failed to do that," said Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsey.
DCF investigated the family twice in recent months. The first time was in August, 2012 and that investigation lasted through December.
Then, in January, DCF investigated the family again for “living conditions” and a mark on the back of the child’s neck.
Both times, DCF officials say, they did not find any indications of abuse.
But with the murder confession from Aliyah’s mother, both cases are now under review.
A DCF spokeswoman released an official statement to Bay News 9 on Thursday night saying, "When a child dies, you have to ask yourself if you could have done more. You owe it to that child. By all appearances the help was there. I’ve not seen anything at this point to suggest we could have done differently for a better outcome. But I’d like to wait for the review.”
"This is a woman that could have cried out for help,” said Sheriff Dawsey. “She could have cried out for help. There is enough social services out there. She brutally murdered her daughter."
Sheriff Dawsy said during Huggett’s confession, she admitted that she failed to seek medical treatment.
"She admitted that she knew if she brought (her) to the hospital, they would see all of the bruises and she would be arrested,” Dawsey said.
Deputies say she admitted shaking the toddler several times in recent days. When asked why, detectives say she told them that the baby “would whine all of the time and constantly wanted to climb on her and sit on her lap.”
Huggett also admitted to shaking the baby on the morning Aliyah died "because she would not shut the (expletive) up... that she covered the victim's mouth with her hand to muffle her cries."
Detectives also say Huggett admitted to "...slamming the victim's head into the bedroom wall and heat butting her...that she did not mean to kill the victim; she just could not take her whining all of the time."
DCF said it will release its records next week. DCF said they will find Huggett's unborn baby a good home.
DCF wants to remind the public to call 1-800-96-ABUSE if they suspect abuse or if a parent feels overwhelmed.
Huggett is facing charges of murder in the first degree and aggravated child abuse and has no bond. No one else is facing charges at this time. She has no prior arrests with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.
Huggett is expected to be in court again on June 3rd.