"She was so happy. So full of life," said Michelle Brown, a family member of Dezirae Sheldon. "She is beautiful -- very, very beautiful."
But just days after Dezirae Sheldon's second birthday, that young life was tragically cut short. Police say the Poultney toddler died from blunt force trauma to her head. On Saturday her stepfather, 31-year-old Dennis Duby, was arrested and is being charged with second degree murder.
For family and friends -- like Dezirae's Aunt Lisa Eastman -- the loss has been devastating. "We just wish we could hold her and kiss her and show her that she is loved, because the last act of any kind that she ever saw was in vain. And that's all we keep playing in our mind is what she must have seen," Eastman said.
Eastman says Dezirae had a troubled upbringing from the beginning. She says her sister Sandra -- the girls mother -- has a rocky past of child abuse. "And it's important that no other family or no other children go through this," Brown said.
And this family that is dealing with the tragic loss says it could have been prevented. Last March Eastman started a petition -- Justice for Dezirae -- after a previous incident that left the baby with a broken leg. The girl's mother was charged with the crime. The aunt says that Vermont Department for Children and Families failed Dezirae and the many signs along the way should have kept the girl away from her mother and stepfather. "She was two years old. She died three days after her second birthday. She will never see her third birthday. She will never be able to go to school. She'll never be able to fall in love and get her heart broken by some stupid little boy. She'll never be able to get married and have her own kids. She'll never be able to do anything," Eastman said.
DCF officials were not available for comment Sunday. A rally for the toddler is planned for Monday at noon in front of the DCF building in downtown Rutland.
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