Last month, Donna Jones dropped off her 3-year-old son for a long visit with the boy's god-mother and a relative in a North Baltimore home. She tried to get him back last week, but said her phone calls went unanswered.
The boy, James Simon, was found dead on Friday.
At first, it appeared the child was a victim of fire -- investigators said he was alone in a basement playing with lighter fluid. But an autopsy showed no signs of smoke in his lungs -- but he had bruises on his head. Monday, the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Now, James' mother, aunt and grandmother can only wait for detectives to complete their work as they remember the playful, quiet child who was scared of fire and ate cookies by the handful.
"I know justice will be done," said the child's aunt, Gloria Luckett. "When you ask someone to trust your child and someone takes advantage of him -- that's why we're so upset."
"It really hurt my heart that my son had passed away like that," Ms. Jones, 27, said. She has four other children and lives in O'Donnell Heights. She said that when she learned James had been beaten, she "just couldn't take it."
Ms. Jones said she dropped James off at the Govans house about two weeks ago. She said she was supposed to pick up the child on Friday at the Mondawmin Mall.
About 3:45 p.m., firefighters found James' body in the basement of the fire-damaged rowhouse in the 900 block of St. Dunstans Road.
Yesterday, a police spokesman, Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., said detectives are looking at many scenarios. No motive has been established and no arrests have been made.
"Certainly, detectives are investigating the possibility that this fire may have been purposely set with the intent of covering up the fact the child was murdered," Agent Weinhold said.
The spokesman also said that detectives "are trying to get in touch with the individuals" who were home when the fire broke out "with the hopes of conducting more extensive interviews with them."
Ms. Jones said her son had stayed at the house before, and once came home with bruises. She accepted an explanation that her son had fallen.
Now she doesn't. "The biggest question," Ms. Jones tearfully asked, "is why?"
The funeral is scheduled for Friday at Mount Sinai Baptist Church at 922 E. Preston St. A burial will follow at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, which is donating space.
"We've done it many, many times," said the president, John Armiger. "I guess it stems from the needless death of a child. It touches everyone."