A 28-year-old single mother of three said Friday she never imagined leaving her 1-year-old daughter with an older relative would end in the girl’s death.
As she walked up to a West Side home Tuesday, she felt something was horribly wrong, Montaj Williams said.
In the home, “I asked my (relative) what happened to my baby and she didn’t answer,” Williams said. “When her boyfriend laid back on the bed and wouldn’t look at me, I knew something was horribly wrong.”
Williams had dropped off her daughter, Malaysia Woodard, on Jan. 3 with the relative, who is in her 50s. Williams has to wake up at 4 a.m. daily to travel to work and accepted the help of the woman, who agreed to care for the girl for a while, she said.
Wearing navy blue jogging pants and a white T-shirt, Malaysia Woodard was left with milk and several changes of clothes.
“I’m a single mother, but I’m a good single mother. I made the mistake of confiding in a relative. I would never leave her in danger, none of my kids,” Williams said in a telephone interview Friday.
Not long after 9 p.m. Tuesday, Chicago police and paramedics responded to a call of an unresponsive child in the 1300 block of North Lorel Avenue. Malaysia, of the 6100 block of South Kedzie Avenue, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
On Thursday, the medical examiner’s office ruled Malaysia died in a homicide due to injuries from child abuse.
In the days before the girl’s death, Williams had spoken to the relative, who cautioned Malaysia had come down with a cold.
“I offered to come get her and call into work, but my cousin said no, ‘She’s good, I got her. I just grabbed her some orange juice. She’s good,’ ” Williams said, adding she made a doctor’s appointment on Jan. 18 for the girl.
Williams said what happened leading up to Malaysia’s death was a mystery, as the two people who were caring for her have not said anything to Williams.
“My relative has reached out to my father’s family, and it’s so many different stories. I have not talked to her, she won’t contact me,” Williams said.
“To be honest, I’m not ruling anyone out,” Williams said.
While Williams waited for justice Friday, she was busy trying to plan Malaysia’s burial. Her godmother, Charmaine Williams, has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs.
Friday, Williams was sitting with her two sons, ages 9 and 5, as she spoke about her daughter’s death, who she said “was friendly, always smiling and joyous.”
“I’m getting a lot of support from my mother’s side of the family. It’s hard being a single mother. I go to school online and work,” Williams said. “It’s hard, but I’m not giving up, but I feel nothing but pain.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services said they are investigating the case for allegations of abuse and neglect, and the agency had no prior contact with the child. The investigation was pending.
Police had no one in custody Friday in the case.
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