Couple was under investigation before attack that killed son
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Only a wall separates Antonia Moten's apartment from Tyreke and Donamiche Brewer's in Harriet Tubman Homes.
The porch they share now bears a memorial to the little boy lost, and the little brother who barely survives.
"All that screaming and hollering and stuff I was hearing over there," she says, "I just wish there was a way that I could have did something because those are innocent children!"
She shares such grief and guilt with their grandmother, Andrea Jones.
"My daughter's no murderer," Jones tells Eyewitness News off-camera, "she never could have hurt her little boys, but she may have been too scared to stop him (Kenneth Dewayne Coleman)."
Coleman is the boyfriend of Tyreke and Donamiche's mother, Patricia Brewer. Coleman and Brewer are charged with the murder of Tyreke, 4, the attempted murder of Donamiche, 3, and two counts of aggravated child abuse after police say the couple brought the little boys to Children's Hospital at Erlanger Monday afternoon.
Tyreke already was dead when doctors examined his body, police say.
"My daughter would not have done anything like this," Jones says.
Moten has her doubts.
"I was standing her while she (Jones) was talking to you," Moten says. I think she's holding back."
"We had an open investigation into allegations at the time of the death of the child," says Molly Sudderth, communications director for Tennessee's Department of Children's Services.
"I'm not allowed to go into the specifics of the investigation, but it is a recent investigation."
Upon Tyreke's death DCS took custody of Donamiche, Sudderth says. He remains in critical condition in Children's Hospital at Erlanger, but will go in to foster care once he has recovered enough to be released. A family member may petition for custody, Sudderth says.
Tennessee law promises confidentiality to protect those who report suspicions of abuse.
The Director of Avondale Head Start, where Tyreke Brewer attended pre-school, cited such protections when refusing comment as to whether DCS investigators had questioned his teachers, or what staffers might have seen heard or reported.
But in the arrest report, Chattanooga Police state that Coleman first denied that he had disciplined his girlfriend's little boys.
"During the follow-up interview, Kenneth Coleman initially told investigators that Tyreke had fallen down the stairs at the residence earlier in the day. Coleman reported that his girlfriend (Brewer) observed (Tyreke) falling but caught his fall..." the report states.
"Fall? C'mon," Moten exclaims. "That baby's been going up and down them steps! Ain't' nothing going down them steps!"
The report states Coleman later admitted Brewer wasn't there when the boys got hurt. But investigators also say Brewer told them she had seen Coleman "excessively disciplining" her sons "on more than one prior occasion."
Had Brewer told DCS investigators that, if asked, that would appear to have been grounds to take Tyreke and Donamiche into state custody.
"Again, I can't comment on the specifics of an investigation," Sudderth says.
"But DCS would remove a child if there's immediate concerns of the safety of the child."
Such concerns, Sudderth says, would include obvious signs of abuse or neglect, "or if our caseworkers were made aware of that by the child or one of his caregivers."
Again however, Tennessee law prohibits DCS from confirming what Patricia Brewer might have revealed, Sudderth says.
That frustrates Antonia Moten all the more.
I believe she's scared, but I'm like this right here--if it's my child,Ii ain't gonna be scared, Moten says.
"I birthed that child into the world. I took care of that child and I was there when the child was sick! I'm supposed to be the protector!"
FUND CREATED FOR SON WHO SURVIVED
A fund has been set up for 3-year-old Donamiche Brewer at the TVA Credit Union. Those wishing to contribute monetarily can do so by going in and donating to the fund listed in his name.
He is still in ICU and listed in critical condition.