(WRCB) -- Chattanooga Police say a 4-year-old boy already was dead when his mother and her boyfriend carried him and his 3-year-old brother, bruised and bleeding, into the emergency room of Children's Hospital Monday afternoon.

The mother, Patricia Brewer, 23 and the boyfriend, Kenneth Dewayne Coleman, 21, are charged with felony murder for the death of her son Tyreke, 4, attempted murder for the beating of her son Donamiche, 3, and two counts of felony child abuse.

Brewer was arrested late Tuesday afternoon. Coleman was taken into custody that morning. His bond is $2 million.

"Based on our interviews with them, it appears the boys had been whipped with a belt," Chattanooga Police Sgt. Jerri Weary tells Eyewitness News.

"I was just hurt," family friend and neighbor Shirley Fennell says. "Cause I'm always seeing them coming out the door and going to school."

"If you've got to hurt on them, you shouldn't be around them," friend and neighbor Antonia Moten says. "Children are God's gift to us!"

Fennell and Moten, grandmothers themselves, questioned how much Brewer might have known about her sons' ordeal when they talked to Channel 3 Tuesday afternoon.

"She was working two jobs, she loves those boys," Fennell says.

Coleman shared Brewer's apartment in the Harriet Tubman projects. He was supposed to be her sons' babysitter, police and neighbors say.

"He (Coleman) never wanted them (Tyreke and Donamiche) outside," says their playmate, Maurice Varnell, 9. "He'd just grab 'em up and keep him in the house. Like he was afraid they wanted to tell somebody somethin'."

Varnell and Moten say they've never seen Coleman hit the little boys. But they've seen both brothers with cut lips, and bumps, often.

"We are looking into whether the boys have any other history of abuse in the home," Sgt. Weary says.

Moten says she can understand a caregiver's frustration. But she vents over the boys' ordeal.

"They should throw the book at him (Coleman)," she says through tears. "Put him in the electric chair! Torture him, beat him, let him see how it feels."

Sgt. Weary would pause several times, her words catching, as she relayed information to reporters late Tuesday morning.

"It's hard to go in and look at two little boys, as severely beaten as they were, one of them dead," she says.

Several investigators are parents themselves, now tasked with finding out how the boys were beaten. And why.

"And you know," Sgt. Weary says, "does why even matter?"