On the day before she died, Jewel Re’nee Howard sat on the porch, in her grandmother’s lap, having her hair twisted into ponytails made pretty with pink and purple beads. She played outside the home with neighborhood children, ate noodles, talked and giggled, as she had so many days before, about her dream of becoming a princess.
Less than 15 hours later, Jewel was dead — her liver torn and mangled, ribs crushed, her tiny body bruised and bleeding internally.
“Every night when I try to go to sleep, I ask myself, how could this have happened to my baby?’’ says her paternal grandmother, Tiffany Howard, who often cared for her.
A month ago, the head of the state agency designed to protect Florida’s children resigned amid a widening scandal over the deaths of four small children within six weeks, all with a history of involvement with child-abuse investigators.
The reality of mounting child deaths in Florida is far grimmer.