Morlet Reid is a broken woman.
The death of her 22-month-old daughter Eshauna Gardner on Wednesday, allegedly from a beating administered by a family member, was, she said, the latest in a series of misfortunes to have hit her family.
Just last year, her home was destroyed by a fire, Reid told the Jamaica Observer. After that, the father of three of her seven children was involved in a dispute that resulted in a man being killed. He has been on the run since.
Months later, misfortune struck again when one of her three sons got his arm broken by a man.
Then, when Eshauna was a year old, a coconut fell onto the baby's head, cracking her skull, Reid said.
That mishap, Reid explained, meant that extreme care had to be taken with Eshauna, as even excessive crying could result in her having to be taken to her doctor.
It's all a bit much for Reid, a clothes vendor, who admits that she is even more devastated now by talk in and around her community that she should be held responsible for her baby's death.
"People a talk all kind a things; dem say a me kill mi baby; dem say a man mi gone wid," she told the Jamaica Observer Friday evening, long after her uncle, Clive Barrett, also known as Billy, was arrested in connection with Eshauna's death.
Since the death of the child, people have been questioning how she could have been left with a man who had returned from prison just over a year ago after serving over 20 years in relation to the death of a man.
But Reid said there was no way she could have expected her uncle, who often quarrelled with her if something was wrong with Eshauna, to have hurt his grandniece.
"Him all cuss me over the baby. I can remember that baby drop off a bed and him cuss mi the most way, me and mi baby father. So we no expect this," Reid said. "That man show the baby dem nothing but love."
But the blank stare on her face as she spoke revealed that she, too, had questions that she wanted to be answered.
Reid said persons should take time to listen before judging her.
"If me did know say him a go do that mi wouldn't mek him come fi my baby," she explained. "Him show that baby nothing but love, so it surprising to me that this really go down."
Still in disbelief, Reid repeated "Him normally come fi her. Him never do her nothing before. Him grow nuff other pickney before him go prison, so we never expect this."
She recalled going to look at her child on Wednesday and seeing burns on the body. She said she called her uncle, who by then was on the run from angry residents who accused him of killing Eshauna.
"Him say him was roasting breadfruit," Reid told the Sunday Observer, but said she was not sure how the child got burnt.
"Him say she get burn and then him beat her on top of it," Reid said her uncle told her in a phone conversation on Wednesday following the incident.
That, she said, got her really angry.
She explained that she was very protective of her children, especially Eshauna, who had already suffered an injury.
"Mi have seven a dem. Mi prefer a man kill me than kill one a my seven pickney. Mi believe if that did come inna him mind, look fi me an' kill me an' leave my likkle pickney because she no live no life yet," an emotional Reid added.
"Mi lose one and it is as if mi lose all of them," she told the Sunday Observer and expressed fear of losing her children to the State based on the comments now being made by people in her community.
"Mi no want dem tek away my children. It better yuh kill me than tek dem weh. A my pickney dem mi live for," she said.
On Friday, Eshuana's death in Dean Pen, Highgate, St Mary revived memories of attacks on other children in neighbouring communities over the years.
In September this year, a 15-year-old girl was reportedly raped by her father in the nearby community of Highgate before he chopped her several times. He had only returned from prison last year.
Residents also recalled that only last year March Jeffrey Perry, a man convicted for the January 2005 machete killing of three children in Killancholly, St Mary, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Perry had slashed the throats and stabbed four-year-old Shadice Williams; Dwayne Davidson, 15; and 13-year-old Suann Gordon as they slept at their home.
The killings not only shocked Jamaica, but left the residents of the district in disbelief.
REID... mi prefer a man kill me than kill one a my seven pickney (PHOTO: RENAE DIXON)
Twenty-two-month-old Eshauna Gardner who died last Wednesday allegedly after being beaten by a relative.