Lee Jennings says he had no idea his 20-month-old daughter Imani was allegedly being abused at the hands of her mother, Cherron Patterson and her 15-year-old boyfriend Anthony Weakfall, Jr.
Police say that Weakfall beat the child to death on Friday. The teen is charged with the murder, while Patterson is accused of assault and endangering the welfare of a child from an earlier incident. Police say both beat the child on numerous occasions.
"I know my daughter is now in a better place and she's no longer suffering." Jennings told Action News, "As long as I keep telling myself that, everything will be all right."
At a vigil Sunday, neighbors and relatives, including Patterson's own mother, revealed they knew or suspected the child was being slapped and left alone in an empty apartment.
Paternal grandmother Rhonda Wright-Jamison says, "I'm not trying to be hateful, but they killed my grandbaby. She wasn't in a car accident, she didn't die of SIDS, somebody beat her to death."
The Jennings family can't understand why Imani was often left alone in an apartment when Cherron's high school, Fowler offers day care and services to teen mothers. Brian Nolan who is the director of High Schools in Syracuse, says teachers are equally puzzled, "They had no indication that there was any trouble or problem . Both students were academically doing very well."
Jennings says he knows nothing about Weakfall. He says for months before the murder, Cherron was denying him visitation rights to Imani. "I always thought Cherron was a good mother to my child." But Jennings adds, "She was a mentally disturbed child. I knew she could have a breaking point. It came out."
Lee Jennings say he was trying to gain custody of Imani, instead he's planning the toddler's funeral. It will be held Wednesday at 11:00 at the Tucker Missionary Baptist Church in Syracuse.