SPECIAL REPORT: Infants killed by abuse - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

SPECIAL REPORT: Infants killed by abuse

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In 2012, Roanoke County Police found 13-month-old Veralee Craft not breathing. She was a victim of a beating and shaking.

Two days later the child died.

"It was awful," Veralee's aunt, Jennifer Hicks says. "The day before they officially took her off I remember just holding her hand that one last time."

Her aunt Jennifer Hicks says she cared for Veralee like she was her own.

Hicks says the doctors revealed Veralee had suffered from blunt force trauma, but the abuse went farther than just that day. Veralee was still healing from two broken legs and an arm fracture.

"She didn't look like the Vera that I knew," Hicks says. "She was just all swollen up and bruises all over her."

Veralee's mother's boyfriend, 27-year-old Preston King, is now in jail charged in relation to the child's death.

Veralee isn't the only who has suffered this type of abuse. In Roanoke, police found 2-year-old Aveion Lewis' body in a landfill. In Montgomery County, 14-month-old Evan Tucker Lytton-Mcfalls was murdered by blunt force trauma. In Danville, 2-month-old Alphonoza O'brien Fuller III was killed with his mother charged with the crime.

"People need to start noticing it more because it's happening every day," Hicks. "It just needs to stop. These kids may be too scared or can't speak up for themselves and someone has to."

We checked the facts to highlight some of the common themes these cases and other.

The most recent numbers from Virginia's Social Services Department shows 78% of children killed by abuse or neglect are 3 years old and younger. Most of those caretakers are 29 years and below and what many people may not realize is that 62% are those deaths are at the hands of the mother of father.

Bedford Police Chief James Day says those numbers line up with trends that law enforcement are seeing locally.

"A lot of the cases we see are very small children like this and they are just helpless and can't really protect themselves ," Bedford Police Chief James Day.

Therapist Dr. Polly Roberts and social worker Melissa Hayes-Smith say it's critical for parents to be the protectors of their child

"Before I got into this job, I had no idea how much abuse there was," Family Service of Roanoke Valley therapist, Dr. Polly Roberts says.

They tell us a little about the warning signs we should be looking for in children.

"We always would be looking for things like emotional distress, like the baby not being able to calm down. Or if there is anything that's impacting their sleep, their ability to digest food. You would be looking for physical things like that," Family Service of Roanoke Valley social worker Melissa Hayes-Smith says.

"In hindsight, they look and say 'oh my gosh how could I miss it?' and sometimes it's because people give others the benefit of the doubt and until that lens is switched, they may not see it," Dr. Roberts says.

They say seeing the warning signs may help prevent another child like Avien, Evan, Alphonza or Veralee from being killed by abuse.

Prayers for Veralee Marie

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