Family says 8-year-old Mesa girl in child abuse case has died

Family members say an eight-year-old girl who suffered serious injuries in a child abuse investigation has died.

Chaimara Washington and Brandon Cooper have been arrested and are facing child abuse charges for injuring Washington's three children.

Marlai Smith's grandmother is heartbroken, wondering what went wrong in her daughter's household.

"She used to run in and say, 'Hey Granny.' I'll never hear that again," said Lauwana Washington.

Washington is devastated after losing her granddaughter Marlai. Remembering her as a smart, loving and happy child, she tells FOX 10's Justin Lum she saw Marlai, her seven-year-old sister Jadeah and four-year-old brother Kaiden a couple of weeks ago.

"There was nothing wrong with these kids, there was nothing wrong with them. She was fine, every time I see Chaimara she was fine."

But court documents say otherwise. Mesa police to Chaimara Washington's apartment on Sept. 19.

Marlai was unconscious. Police say she had bruises on her body and cuts on her head. 

Medics rushed her to Banner Desert Hospital where doctors determined she had a brain bleed and was unlikely to survive.

Investigators say they learned Washington used a leather belt to discipline her three kids. She also allegedly made them exercise for long periods of time.

According to court documents, Washington punished Marlai by making her jump over a book moments before she hit her head on a door handle and fell against a wall. 

Child abuse suspects from Mesa

Chaimara Shanae Washington and Brandon Cooper

Family members say the allegations are out of character for the mother.

"She was always a hardworking mother. She always provided for her children, always good jobs, never been in trouble. This is a shocker to us," said Ashley Rogers, a cousin.

Loved ones don't know Brandon Cooper well. Police say the ex-boyfriend of Washington threw glass cups at Marlai and hit her brother.

Washington is also accused of using a broken broom handle to hit Marlai. 

Documents reveal the mother tried to revive her daughter after the head injury.

Marlai's grandmother is left with major questions.

"I just want to know why. What happened? I just want her to open up and tell whoever she needs to tell whatever."

It's a very traumatizing day for Malai's younger siblings as well. They're left wondering what happened to her.

If you'd like to help her family, visit their GoFundMe.

FOX 10 has reached out to Mesa police on additional charges now that Marlai has died.


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